Ogden Ready to Defend US Publinx Title

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USGABREMERTON, Wash. -- Clay Ogden fully accepts the fact that few in golf would know his name if not for Michelle Wie.
 
In fact, Ogden is more recognized for his win over Wie in the quarterfinals of last year's U.S. Amateur Public Links Championship than his stirring rally to win the actual title a day later.
 
'She's probably the best thing ever to happen to me in my golf career,' Ogden said as he prepared to defend his title. The 2006 Public Links is being played at Gold Mountain Golf Club -- about an hour west of Seattle by ferry -- beginning Monday.
 
In last year's championship, Ogden barely made it out of stroke play, earning the 63rd of 64 spots. But in match play, the senior-to-be at BYU found his putting stroke to the dismay of his opponents.
 
Ogden won close matches in the first two rounds, then beat Andrew Black 3 and 2 to set up a date with Wie in the quarterfinals.
 
Playing in front of the biggest crowd he'd ever seen, Ogden birdied four of the first five holes and never let Wie into the match. He cruised to a 5-and-4 victory. Wie was the first female to play in a men's championship conducted by the United States Golf Association.
 
'For some weird reason I don't get that nervous in front of people or in front of crowds,' Ogden said. 'I was just a little country boy who never had an opportunity to do that before, so I thought it would be fun more than nerve-racking.'
 
Ogden continued his stellar play and earned an invitation to the Masters by beating Garrett Jones in the semifinals and rallying to defeat Martin Ureta of Chile 1-up in the final. At the Masters, Ogden played practice rounds with the likes of Mike Weir and Chris DiMarco, and played the first two rounds with Trevor Immelman and former champion Ben Crenshaw.
 
'It's unbelievable the respect they give former champions there,' said Ogden, who shot 83 in the first round and 76 in the second and didn't come close to making the cut.
 
For officials at Gold Mountain, there was disappointment when Wie announced she was turning pro. Last year at Shaker Run Golf Club in Lebanon, Ohio, Wie's presence turned the amateur championship into a big media event. With every victory during match play, the crush of attention on Wie, then 15, grew exponentially.
 
Ogden couldn't help but marvel at the scene. During the first two rounds of stroke play, Ogden and Wie teed off at the same time, but started on opposite sides of the course. Ogden remembered trying to traverse crowds of 3,000 or 4,000 following Wie as he tried to make the turn.
 
'I turned to my dad and said I thought it'd be kind of funny if I got matched against her,' Ogden said. 'When it happened, I just kind of chuckled about it.'
 
Even without Wie this year, Ogden won't entirely be the center of attention. Among the 156 participants is 15-year-old Tadd Fujikawa, who last month became the youngest qualifier in U.S. Open history. Jones and Ureta also are back, and will be joined by Florida sophomore Billy Horschel, who was the low amateur at the U.S. Open.
 
'All we want now is as large a gallery as we can get,' said Scott Alexander, director of golf at Gold Mountain.