Ogilvy caught firmly on the radar

 

Once upon a time, Geoff Ogilvy was the Mr Anonymous on tour. If he went out to dinner with Adam Scott, his fellow Aussie was hassled non-stop for autographs and he was left alone with his thoughts. Sure, there were times when he'd be approached. But, invariably, it was a case of mistaken identity. The autograph hunters would start off the request with, "hey, Joe", confusing him with fellow tour player Joe Ogilvie.

That's all changed. Since his victory in the US Open at Winged Foot last year, Ogilvy - who has a reputation as one of the more cerebral players on tour, preferring to read tomes such as Stephen Hawking's A Brief History of Time rather than a racy novel - has become a wanted man, even if there is a suspicion that he hasn't got the full respect deserving of his maiden major win which is remembered as much for the failings of others as his ability to get the job done.

Sure, Phil Mickelson blew it at Winged Foot. So too Colin Montgomerie. And Padraig Harrington and Jim Furyk. But, coming down the stretch a year ago, Ogilvy took the breaks and closed out the deal. Who knows if he'd manage to chip in from heavy greenside rough on the 17th if asked to do so again? Or if he could manage to get up-and-down for par on the 18th?

The fact is, he did it the first time of asking, and that's all that mattered.

A year on, Ogilvy heads into the 107th US Open with many believing he has the ability to successfully defend. It's a hard ask. No player has won back-to-back US Open titles since Curtis Strange in 1989. So, can he do it?

"I'm not playing my best but it is definitely coming back. I'm on the right track," said Ogilvy.

Certainly, he is in better shape than just over a week ago when he experienced the punitive Oakmont course for the first time. Playing a practice round with Scott, Ogilvy lost two balls and ran up a score that equated to an 83. "After that practice round, I didn't think there would be one score in the 60s and I thought there would be a lot of scores in the 90s.

"But it is a lot more playable now, the greens have slowed up and the grass around the greens is a lot shorter," he remarked.

While Ogilvy crept with some stealth to victory at Winged Foot, that element of surprise is gone. He'll be a watched man.

But though that victory may have come as a surprise to many observers, it didn't to the player himself. "There's fewer players in the field (in majors) who truly believe they can win one of these. You go to a regular tour event and there are 120 guys that really believe they can win that week. Here, there might be 20 guys who are going to bed on a Wednesday night who really believe that they can truly win."

The secret to success, as Ogilvy would have it, is for a player to hang around until the business part of the deal is completed on the Sunday.

"No one ever really runs away with a major - save one guy who has done it a few times in the last 10 years. Sometimes it is easier to hang around par and watch people go behind you than it is to make birdies and pass people."

For much of the past year, Ogilvy - who celebrated his 30th birthday on Monday, which means no male golfer in his 20s holds a major title - has been introduced on the first tee as the US Open champion. He's come to like that introduction.

"Hopefully that doesn't stop after this week."