Rankin shares her insider's perspective on Ogilvy

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Geoff Ogilvy's family -- and Judy Rankin's family -- has expanded lately with the addition of son Jasper and daughter Phoebe.
March 10, 2009
Judy Rankin, Special to PGATOUR.COM

Editor's note: World Golf Hall of Famer Judy Rankin has a unique perspective on Geoff Ogilvy, who defends his title at the World Golf Championships-CA Championship this week. Not only can she see better than most what a talented player he is, Ogilvy is also related to Rankin, by virtue of Ogilvy's marriage to the sister of Rankin's daughter-in-law.

The first time I heard his name, I didn't remember it. In fact, the first four times.

It was 2001 and I was one of the on-course reporters at the World Golf Championships- Accenture Match Play Championship in Australia -- the one Steve Stricker won.

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Player Spotlight: Ogilvy
FedExCup points leader Geoff Ogilvy, the defending champion of the World Golf Championships-CA Championship, is the focus of this week's PGATOUR.COM player spotlight. For more on Ogilvy, click here.

One of the first days I was out there -- I don't remember if it was a practice round or the first round -- this fella started talking to me at the ropes. He was kind of tall and thin and had on a typical outback-looking hat. We visited a little and he said to me, "My son is coming to play the PGA TOUR and I want you to watch for him. His name is such and such.''

I told him I would and wished him good luck.

The same thing happened about four times that week. Same man. Same "I want you to watch . . . '' And, of course, I did forget his son's name until a few years later when I realized he was dating my daughter-in-law Jennifer's sister, Juli.

Then it dawned on me. That kid in Australia was Geoff Ogilvy, who was about to become part of my extended family. And the tall, thin man? His father Michael.

It's just comical how small the world is. One day his father was telling me how good this kid was. And now? Well, we've spent a Christmas together.

Everyone knows we're related now, but I have to believe that leading up to their wedding, Geoff must have gotten pretty sick of "Oh, you're going to be in Judy Rankin's family" or trying to explain the relationship. He's probably glad it's old hat now and not something people bring up all the time.

The longer we know Geoff, the more we like him. His career has become a little extra added excitement for all of us. We thought we were finished sweating winners in golf tournaments. Now we're pulling for one of the hottest players on the PGA TOUR who's currently the FedExCup points leader and the No. 4 player in the world.

And, yes, when Geoff's in a tournament, we'll watch when we might not have planned be watching. Although I'm a fan of golf on TV -- I was before I got involved in it -- we don't watch every tournament. But the whole family watches when Geoff's in contention and in this era of cell phones there are always a few phone calls back and forth.

For those people who know Geoff, it's great fun to watch him and root for him. I think a lot of people -- and I speak now more as a television person -- don't have an emotional involvement with Geoff because he is pretty laid back and pretty even tempered on the golf course. These days, it's really hard to tell if he's made birdie or bogey. Those people are just now starting to watch him closely.

He's not a guy who garnered a lot of attention just by being there. He is a guy who garnered a lot of attention from real golf aficionados knowing how good he has appeared to be. And he's getting some new-found attention because he's playing so well.

He won the season opener in Hawaii -- the Mercedes-Benz Championship -- and he just won his second Accenture Match Play Championship. Add the Australian PGA and he's won three times globally in the last three months.

I think as people watch him more, they'll like Geoff a lot. He's very interesting. Through travel and playing golf around the world, I think he's now a very well-educated person, although he doesn't have degrees behind his name. That makes him automatically more interesting. He can talk on many -- I might even say any -- subjects intelligently with anybody and he's pretty opinionated, but he doesn't wear anybody out. I think he has very strong opinions, but I've never seen him jump in and beat people up. He'll tell you what he thinks if you ask him but other than that, he's pretty quiet.

Why has he played so well now?

I think the same things that he's always been good at, he's still good at. Up until last October, family-wise, he has had his hands so full both with the intensity of having two children (Phoebe and Jasper) under the age of 2 but also the fun of it. I've seen him in situations where he didn't want to work hard at golf and he didn't want to go play because he wanted to take the opportunity to be with them. I guess that's what you work so hard for -- to get those opportunities that maybe you wouldn't have if you didn't play as well, if you didn't do this for a living. I think he's taken advantage of his stature in the game and the money he's made to enjoy these really early years with his kids.

It is my personal opinion that when Geoff plays a little bit more, he plays better. Once in a awhile, I take issue with his schedule, but that's a pretty personal thing. People have to play where they feel they're going to do well, where they feel they're ready to play. But I think the record proves as Geoff plays more, he plays better. For instance, he played a lot at the end of the year in Australia and in the Far East, so when he came to Maui, he was ready. He was not rusty.

He's not the longest hitter out there, but he's plenty long. He's almost a throwback in the sense he's a really excellent long iron player. I know a lot of these guys are good, but this guy is an exceptional long iron player.

Geoff hits the ball very high and in this day when everyone's making their moves to the hybrids, he is one player who, I'd say, may not need to. He's a high-ball hitter by nature and I think he has a pretty golf swing to watch. He has a little bit of a graceful golf swing. Even though he works hard when he works, you don't get any sense that it's extremely mechanical. He's clearly blessed because it looks like it's second nature to him to swing the club the way he does. His golf swing is a little bit of combination of old and new because as beautifully as he does everything and , to my eye, how easy his swing is on his body, he's got an old-school high finish. Vijay Singh's got it, but you don't find that many players who have that 25-years-ago high finish.

The other thing I have to say -- and it wouldn't take a rocket scientist to point this out -- he's an amazing putter. He is definitely one of those people that when he gets on a roll, he might make everything.

I know people are going to be watching him at the Masters and I don't see why he wouldn't play well at Augusta National. He's a very good driver of the ball and he can hit it high into the green and if he's in one of those hot moments with his putter -- which seem to be fairly frequent -- I think he will do well there.

When I'm working, I haven't had the chance to be out with his groups a bunch, but I did walk with him the first round of the U.S. Open last year. He played Torrey Pines really well and he was close to being there on Sunday. He finished tied for ninth. But back then Jasper was six months old and Phoebe was 1½ and life was pretty busy. He didn't play again until the British Open and even he's said that wasn't the way to do things and not the way he'll plan his schedule again.

Sometimes people still bring up his bad temper, but, to the best of my knowledge that is really old news. I think that was a much younger Geoff. Now, rather than a temper, my sense is, he once in a while gets down on himself a little too quick. People who are really good tend to have some degree of perfectionism and there's a perfectionist in most everyone. He knows he's capable of a lot and he expects a lot of himself. Geoff's the kind of a guy who wants to do more than put the right score on the board. From what I see, he takes enjoyment in doing it extremely well.

The press loves Geoff because he's such a good interview. Television, though, is going to have to embrace him because of his excellence of play. He comes across as a nice guy, but not the guy who is going to light up the room, so television is just now enjoying the excellence of what he's capable of doing.

When you start comparing players who make you turn on the TV and who drive ratings, Geoff isn't the guy. He's right now in the place where people know who you're talking about when you say Geoff Ogilvy -- he's a U.S. Open winner, he's killed them in the Accenture Match Play Championship over time and he has really made a serious name for himself. And it is just now that people are starting to immediately recognize the name. I find that interesting.

That U.S. Open he won at Winged Foot ... that was the measure of real composure. I know he chipped it in at 17 on Sunday, but he hit a perfect drive at 18 -- not an easy driving hole. And the ball was in a divot. Right in the middle of a big old divot. Not a simple divot. And it was as good a display as I can think of composure under pressure. He played the shot as well as he could, but he couldn't put the ball on the green. He kept himself composed and got a shot up and down that was really hard. I don't care what anyone says.

For that five minutes of time, that's as hard as the game gets under pressure. And no one else that day did it under pressure and he did. Very often the measure of the player is not how you go it when everything is going well, but how do you go when it's not going well. And that, I thought, was extraordinary.

I think he should be given more credit for that U.S. Open win. To begin with, it takes an awful lot of be one of the last few standing playing those last three or four holes. And to have stood up to what happened to him at the 18th hole and to make 4 -- I don't know that he's gotten enough credit. There's almost too much conversation that he backed into that Open win because of what happened to Phil Mickelson, Colin Montgomerie and Jim Furyk. But that's in my humble opinion.

And one last thing about Geoff and the family -- we've all been working hard to make him a Texas Tech fan. The whole family is. Jennifer and Tuey live in Lubbock and so does Janet Justice, who is Jennifer and Juli's mother. He finally came to Lubbock last fall to see a game and it was fun.

That week, I went somewhere with my 7-year-old granddaughter Kendall -- Tuey and Jennifer's daughter. She really appears to have an interest in golf and a little ability hitting a golf ball. I asked her if Geoff had ever seen her hit a golf ball.

She said, "No, but he'd be amazed."

When I told Geoff, he laughed. "I'm sure I would be."

If Kendall really does like golf, she has no chance but to play and play a lot. With the influence of me, Geoff and her father, who loves golf and is also a high school golf coach ... well, she's destined to play. And I'd love to see her work with Geoff. I think he would be a great teacher.

And one more thing. Geoff has a passion for guitars. And a collection of them. Who knows, my six-year-old grandson Tripp may follow him in that direction.