Q&A: Geoff Ogilvy
His career back on track, the Aussie returns to Kapalua five years after last Hyundai Tournament of Champions triumph
January 05, 2015
By Brian Wacker, PGATOUR.COM
Of the 34 players in the field at this week’s Hyundai Tournament of Champions, Geoff Ogilvy is among the more surprising names on the tee sheet. Not for a lack of talent -- he has eight career wins on the PGA TOUR, including the 2006 U.S. Open -- but rather for the direction (downward, specifically) the Aussie’s game was headed as recently as last summer.
It’s winners only at Kapalua, and Ogilvy hadn’t tasted victory in four years. In 2014, he failed to qualify for the Masters Tournament for a second straight year, missed the cut at the U.S. Open, didn’t get into The Open Championship for the first time in a decade and saw his world ranking plummet to 216th, sandwiched between Marco Crespi and Hiroyuki Fujita.
Ogilvy’s fortunes changed, however, with a victory in August at the Barracuda Championship in Reno, Nevada. A month later, he finished second at the Deutsche Bank Championship before eventually qualifying for the season-ending TOUR Championship by Coca-Cola.
All of it has taken him back to Kapalua, where he won in 2009 and ‘10, which is the last time he was a top-10 player in the world. On his way to his regular practice session at Whisper Rock near his home in Arizona, Ogilvy stopped to talk about what winning again has meant for his career, where the Plantation Course ranks among his favorite venues and more.
PGATOUR.COM: You were struggling last year, took about a month off in the middle of the season and came back two weeks later and won. Where did that come from?
GEOFF OGILVY: "I’d been struggling for a while -- not for lack of effort, but in golf it comes and goes. I knew my game was getting better but at the U.S. Open at Pinehurst I made some dumb scoring errors on Friday on the back nine, missed the cut and was disillusioned. Then two weeks later at the Quicken Loans National, I hit the ball as well as I have in years for 54 holes and missed everything with the putter. I was so over it. I wasn’t in The Open Championship. I was done. I might take the rest of the year off. That’s where my head was at. I thought I’d come back at the Frys.com Open and just get ready for this year.
"Well, I was watching The Open, didn’t touch a club for a month and got to Canada and didn’t miss a beat. But the trip home from Montreal to San Diego took something like 12 hours because of flight delays, so I didn’t get home until midnight on Sunday. I woke up Monday morning and the kids come bowling in the room at 6 a.m. and I thought to myself, ‘I don’t want to go play golf this week.’ Even though I was playing well, there was zero chance I was playing Reno. Well, people convinced me that I should and by Monday night I was going. Then went there and everything worked out really well in a format that I always did nicely in."
PGATOUR.COM: Did it surprise you?
OGILVY: "Yes and no. I knew I was playing better, but I was surprised I played so well at Reno. I’ve been doing this long enough to know there are 20 stories every year of a guy who turns it around with one good week. It happens all the time. For me, it feels like I’m improving every week, even to this point. It’s easy to handle when you’re playing well and difficult to when you’re not."
The rollercoaster career of Geoff Ogilvy
PGATOUR.COM: How important was it to you from a career standpoint?
OGILVY: "The win and getting to the TOUR Championship are both very important because they allowed me to set my schedule again. When you’re in your early 20s like Rickie (Fowler) or Jordan (Spieth) or even Rory (McIlroy), you can play 25 times a year and be excited to be on the first tee every week. I used to be that guy. The longer you go through it, the harder it gets if you play too much.
"One of the mistakes I made in early 2014 was I chased it too hard and played too many tournaments. You should never be in the cream of the season and not want to play anymore. It’s also important to show yourself that you remember how to do it. Sometimes you get used to playing average. It’s just a human condition. The benefit to playing well and winning and contending readjusts your head where it should be at."
PGATOUR.COM: What was the lowest or most frustrating point for you the last few years?
OGILVY: "Frustrating would be I struggled at the start of 2013 and was drifting out of the top 50 in the world and didn’t have an invite to the Masters. Then I finished second at Honda and that got me into Doral and I played well through Houston. But I was so tired. I chased it too hard. Then when I missed the cut in Houston and it turns out I’m not getting into the Masters. That was pretty low. It was the first Masters I’d missed in years. That’s my favorite tournament, if not The Open Championship.
"Now I don’t want to say low point because these are first-world problems, but it started turning about then. It’s like a big ship, you turn the wheel and it takes two minutes before the ship starts moving. The problem with golf is when you turn it back the other way it spins out of control."
PGATOUR.COM: Why did you move to San Diego in the first place, aside from the obvious of San Diego being San Diego?
OGILVY: "It really was just the obvious. People in Arizona go somewhere for the summer, the mountains or the ocean. We’d been going to San Diego for a few years and San Diego being San Diego, we decided to stay. We sort of gradually ended up living there for two years. The whole time I knew it wasn’t perfect for golf and it wasn’t until a year or so into it that I thought to myself, ‘This is great but it’s a better airport in Phoenix and there isn’t a better place to do what we do than Whisper Rock. What am I doing? This is nonsense.' Hopefully after golf I’ll live wherever I want."
PGATOUR.COM: What has the move back to Arizona done for your game?
OGILVY: "It just got simpler. In Scottsdale I’ve got a nice rhythm to life. There’s less non-golf stuff I could get into. I take my daughter to school, then go to the course. There’s TOUR golf everywhere. I never had a problem with motivation but when you’re surrounded by TOUR golf you’re inspired by it. It gets things going in your head. You lie in bed and think more about it. I was more immersed in it and golf became a higher priority. Just having a course with good players and a great atmosphere -- everyone loves a game at Whisper Rock -- it can’t do anything but help. I couldn’t go to the ocean and go surfing; you wake up and go to the course, that’s what you do. It’s complete immersion."
PGATOUR.COM: You’ve won at Kapalua twice. What makes the Plantation Course so unique?
OGILVY: "It’s an incredibly extreme piece of land. It’s nonsense they thought they could have golf there in the first place and it’s a testament to (Bill) Coore and (Ben) Crenshaw because they’ve got a really good course. It wasn’t built for TOUR players, it was built for guests. But it turns out that it’s great fun for everyone.
"It’s a perfect first week of the year for us, too. It has plenty of space off the tee, you can make plenty of birdies if you play well and you’re watching whales breach off the coast. It’s an incredible place. I don’t know why I’ve done well there but it suits what I do well. I do well with a wedge and it’s a real wedge-based course. The greens putt like Melbourne greens with big sweeping putts, 30-foot putts that break 12 feet. Those suit my eye well. I just like being there. People can say what they want about the schedule, but the TOUR season starts at Kapalua. It’s such a good feeling there and a great reward."
|By the numbers: Ogilvy's last two starts at the Hyundai Tournament of Champions (2009, 2010)
|Rounds in 60s||8|
|Relation to par||46 under|
|Birdies per round||6.6|
|Bogeys per round||1.1|
|Earnings per round
PGATOUR.COM: What’s the most critical part of the golf course if you had to pinpoint a few holes?
OGILVY: "The middle section of the course is where you have to take it to pieces -- the ninth is a reachable par 5, No. 10 is a short shot in. If you can get to the fifth tee even par you should be well under par by the time you get to 16. You can go nuts in the middle nine or 10 holes. It just gives everyone a chance.
"People think it’s a bomber paradise, but I don’t think it is. Everyone can get to the par 5s and there are short par 4s. There’s something for everyone there. It does take getting used to, though. When I first got there I found it really hard. But after probably my third time there I started playing well there."
PGATOUR.COM: Where does it rank among courses you play on TOUR?
OGILVY: "It’s one of the elite eight or nine courses on TOUR. It holds its own and more, and considering the land it’s built on it’s arguably the best on TOUR. It’s probably the best use of land anywhere. To get a playable course that any standard of golfer can play on that land in that place is incredible. Anyone else would have messed it up."
PGATOUR.COM: What do you look for in a course?
OGILVY: "There are two important things: Aesthetics -- it has to be natural looking with good contrasts and good-looking to the eye; and strategically interesting -- there have to be reasons why you play holes certain ways. There are probably 25 better short par 4s than the 10th at Riviera, but it is infinitely interesting to play. You can go for the green, play it short. There’s no right or wrong way. It’s amazing how few courses we play that have strategic interest. The top courses in the world all have that characteristic."
PGATOUR.COM: What do you dislike most about a course?
OGILVY: "If I could change one thing on TOUR, it would be where we cut the grass and how we treat the rough. Too often fairway bunkers are buried in the rough. Bunkers at St. Andrews are the size of picnic tables but if you get within 50 yards of them you freak out because the ball can roll in. Here around greenside bunkers and fairway bunkers is all rough. The ball shouldn’t roll into the rough a foot off the back of the green. It’s more interesting watching people chip off shorter grass.
"Pinehurst was extreme, but it was a good model to look at. Water the fairways and greens but when it comes to rough, let’s make it rough. It’s less penalty for the average golfer because they can hit out of it and more of a penalty for us because we don’t know what the ball is going to do. It’s also environmentally sound and saves manpower. I could go on all day.
"What sold this to me was I was in a bar at Pinehurst the Monday before the U.S. Open and a couple of snowbirds who come down regularly said they play all the courses at Pinehurst. I said, ‘You don’t want to play No. 2. It’s the toughest.’ They said, ‘It’s funny you say that because that’s easiest for us and hardest for you pros.’ We don’t need 12-yard wide fairways and crazy, chip-out rough. Pinehurst is as much as you want to handle forever. These guys found it easy, but we found it tough. I’m not the outlier here, either. There’s a massive amount of players on TOUR who want to do what I want to do. Balls should run off into the junk. The 20 most memorable shots of all-time are recovery shots -- Tiger out of the bunker in Canada, Phil on 13 at the Masters, Bubba out of the trees at Augusta National. It’s not about easy or hard, it’s just boring. Give a kid a golf ball and a club and he’s going to try to do something crazy, not hit from the middle of the fairway."
Geoff Ogilvy’s trophy room