Geoff Ogilvy has won twice so far on the PGA Tour in 2009 – the only man to do so. He also won the Australian PGA Championship at the end of 2008. He has won three times in a very short period.
His performance this weekend at Dove Mountain was the sight to behold on a week in which all eyes were glued to the wrong place. It was certainly great that Tiger Woods is back and playing golf. Having the best athlete in the world back on Tour is a positive. Still, Woods is human and will take some time before he is fully able to play at a level at which he is accustomed.
In the meantime, this is a great opportunity for golf fans to really appreciate the kind of player that Geoff Ogilvy has become. Evolving from a player known more for his anger and errant driver, Ogilvy is now a fantastic iron player with a very cool demeanor.
Those two characteristics work extremely well in a match play scenario. He is now a two-time winner of the Accenture Match Play and has a better winning percentage in the event than the aforementioned Woods. In other words, Ogilvy has won half of his four starts in an event that does not lend itself to that kind of success.
At a record of 17-2, Ogilvy has disposed of a wealth of global golf talent in this event. He has made three very deep runs in the championship. This week, he took out the rising phenom Rory McIlroy. He beat a red hot golfer and friend in Paul Casey. The margins he won by were not particularly dominant until the final, but he had a fantastic sense of timing. Making critical putts when he needed to do so, Ogilvy found a way to strike the crucial match play balance of playing within yourself and within the match.
Critics might say that match play is “fickle,” but really that’s a convenient excuse. At best, it is a cliche term meant to describe the idea of the “one game scenario” that is so feared in other professional sports. The hallmark of a great match player is one that can keep their head in every shot of the round. They don’t take holes off to relax or lose sight of the end game, even when the natural ups and downs of the round happen. After all, match play comes down to playing good enough to beat your opponent – not breaking the course record, or making a certain number. Ogilvy is mentally tough enough to know this and is physically gifted enough to be able to call on it under the bright desert sunlight.
At 31, Ogilvy is hitting the prime age normally attributed to golfers. He is hitting that stride brilliantly by winning twice last season in two significant tournaments and already twice this season. The confidence in himself grows with every round. Ogilvy is now fourth in the world and within striking distance of Phil Mickelson in third. Sergio Garcia is not all that far away either. Given the longer-term period that the Official World Golf Ranking covers, it makes sense that Ogilvy is not second. One would also be able to argue that Padraig Harrington should be second since he won the last two tournaments that really matter most.
Perhaps this is too much loaded praise for Geoff Ogilvy. I would hate to be accused of Geoff Worship in the way that so many accuse the golf media of worshipping one Tiger Woods. Ogilvy is not Woods, and neither are a deity. Still, Ogilvy is undergoing a remarkable maturity before our very eyes and it is something that should be appreciated. It is not a maturity that should be shielded by the overhyped comeback of a player already proven himself as the best ever. Ogilvy deserves his due credit.