Former U.S. Open champion happy taking break from golf
June 11, 2019
By Helen Ross, PGATOUR.COM
- Geoff Ogilvy will serve as an assistant captain for the Presidents Cup in December. (Michael Dodge/Getty Images)
The timing just seemed right.
Geoff Ogilvy had made his home in the United States for 20 years. He loved it here – he even became an enthusiastic NFL fan -- but he always wanted his family to have the experience of living in his native Australia, too.
If he and his wife Juli, who was born in Texas, waited too long, their children, who are 12, 11 and 9 years old, would have started forming deeper friendships and leaving would have just been too difficult. Plus, he was missing too much of their lives playing every week on the PGA TOUR.
“Monday mornings going away were getting really difficult,” Ogilvy says.
To make matters worse, when he was on the road, the 41-year-old Aussie wasn’t playing well. The man who was once ranked as high as No. 3 in the world and won the 2006 U.S. Open, as well as three World Golf Championships, only made four cuts in 18 starts last year and finished 207th in the FedExCup.
It was time.
“I was a bit jaded,” Ogilvy admits. “I probably would have been taking plenty of time off anyway just to kind of recharge the batteries.
“We do this for a really long time and it's one of those games that the harder you try, the worse you do, and you get in that kind of vicious circle of banging your head against the wall a little bit.”
So, over the New Year’s holiday, Ogilvy and his wife and their children got on a plane and made the day-long, give or take a few hours, trip to Australia. They moved into a house “almost next door” to famed Royal Melbourne, where Ogilvy will serve as an assistant captain for the Presidents Cup in December.
Ogilvy’s parents and his sister and her three children live nearby. The cousins are very close, even with the distance growing up “there’s something about family,” Ogilvy says with a smile. He’s enjoyed reconnecting with friends he grew up with, too.
“I can … kind of get back in the mix and play some golf with them and hang out with them,” Ogilvy says. “They're all married with kids and stuff now, too. So, it's a really fun kind of deal for me.”
While he admits to getting the itch occasionally – like when he was a spectator at the Masters after coming to accept an award from the Golf Writers Association of America – Ogilvy hasn’t missed the pro game. He played twice on the PGA TOUR of Australasia in February, finishing 35th in one and doing what he called “kind of like the trunk slammer,” in the other, but aside from those events, his only golf has been the social kind.
And Ogilvy is fine with that for now.
“It ended up being a 12-month job,” he says. “At some you just, you run out of fuel … you need to go to the gas station, put some fuel in the tank. So really the only way you can do that as to take time away.
“I would have been doing that anyway. I mean, I would've played a few this year if I'd still been here, but at the moment I'm not really, as I said, I don't want to put the clubs in the Club Glove regularly.”
Ogilvy expects to piece together a schedule at some point, maybe as soon as this fall. The eight-time PGA TOUR winner has status as a past champion, and he might enjoy playing one or two in Europe, too. But he doesn’t want to have his life on TOUR to become like groundhog day. He wants to keep things fresh.
When he was 7 years old, Ogilvy’s father gave him a cut-down club. He was a scratch golfer by the time he was 16 and says golf has been “all-consuming” ever since. He still loves to play, and does so several times a week, but he doesn’t miss the travel or the time away from home.
“You kind of struggle with your game a little bit and your self-esteem starts sitting with your scoring average a little bit -- not self-esteem, but your mood,” Ogilvy explains. “It’s really affected by your score. And if you don't score very well for a month then you're in a bad mood when you go home, and that's not fair for the kids.
“The head would just go, how do I play better? How do I play better? How do I play better? And you're in this kind of vicious circle. … So (I wanted) to disconnect from that, to kind of refresh and get that kind of youthful enthusiasm back.”
Ogilvy looks at players like Phil Mickelson, who often takes extended breaks and is still playing well just days removed from his 49th birthday, and Tiger Woods, who is clearly energized and happy to be back playing after recovering from four back surgeries, as examples.
“Enthusiasm is the magic word,” he says. “I’d like to get that back.”
In the meantime, Ogilvy is getting serious about golf course architecture, which has been a long-time interest of his. He partnered with Michael Clayton to form Ogilvy Clayton Golf Course Design in 2010. The company has since added two more partners in Michael Cocking and Ashley Mead and is now known as Ogilvy, Clayton, Cocking and Mead (OCCM).
“They're truly world class in what they do and they're teaching me about it,” Ogilvy says. “They can put on the ground what I saw in my head and they see in their head what I saw.”
The firm has completed one project and is working on another at Fort Worth’s famed Shady Oaks Country Club, which was Ben Hogan’s home course. They turned a loosely-organized par-3 layout in the middle of the property that was also used for hitting shag balls into a nine-hole short course, testing bunker styles and grasses along the way.
That project has been finished for more than a year, and OCCM will start renovating the main course in August – fixing greens that are too sloped for modern green speeds and redoing bunkers, among other things. Ogilvy says much of their business is either restoring a course that has let itself go or redoing one to make it better, although they are doing new builds, as well.
“Restoration is really fun,” says Ogilvy, who favors classic designers like Alister Mackenzie, Harry Colt, Seth Raynor, C.B. McDonald and Donald Ross. “Getting the old photos and the old drawings and the old pictures and bringing it back, kind of what Gil (Hanse)'s been doing a lot of places. …
“I really enjoy it because I've always enjoyed a round of golf more on a course that interests me. I feel like you've got an opportunity to help people enjoy their golf more. They don't have to know why they enjoy it more -- it's just providing a platform for them to have a better day.”
Ogilvy is also looking forward to his work with the Presidents Cup. He was a member of the International Team in 2007, ’09 and ’11 – calling the biennial match play events “my favorite three tournaments I’ve ever played” -- and says serving as a Captain’s Assistant to Nick Price in 2017 was almost more fun than playing.
“The Australian people are going to really be excited, I think, because it's just a great spectacle and event and they get Tiger Woods and Justin Thomas and Jordan Spieth and all that playing down in Melbourne,” he says. “That's an opportunity. That's a rare, it’s a rare situation.”
Ogilvy also feels that the Presidents Cup will help rekindle the spark he’s looking for in his own game – if he hasn’t already found it.
“What I was missing was being in contention, being in the mix,” Ogilvy says. “That to me is the point -- that feeling, you get walking from nine to 10 at the Masters when you (are) three back with nine to play on Sunday, that's a proper feeling. Like, it doesn't get any better than that.
“And that's what I want. I hadn't had that for a while, and I was missing that. So, events like the Presidents Cup, that's everywhere, that evidence, and then you feel that from the first tee. So, I'm sure that if the tank isn't completely refilled by then, I think that'll help. That'll help.”