Commentary

Ogilvy thrives on facing best of the best

Originally Published: March 1, 2009
By Bob Harig | ESPN.com

MARANA, Ariz. -- If Geoff Ogilvy keeps this up, perhaps he'll no longer get goodies meant for Joe Ogilvie. They are from different hemispheres and don't even spell their surnames the same way, but you would be surprised how often the two get mixed up.

Seems kind of silly, especially now, after another victory for the Aussie on Sunday at the Accenture Match Play Championship, where Ogilvy dispatched friend and Arizona neighbor Paul Casey with relative ease.

American and PGA Tour player Joe Ogilvie would be the first to admit he is not in Ogilvy's class. And it is becoming more and more apparent that few are after Ogilvy won for the second time this year, making a strong claim to be the second-best player in the world behind Tiger Woods.

It's just that Ogilvy, 31, has a way of winning these big tournaments and still being overshadowed.

This week the big story in golf was Woods' re-emergence after nine months away from the game. After Woods was eliminated Thursday, the tournament's bubble was burst, and with all that air went a lot of spectators and attention.

Nonetheless, Ogilvy worked his way through the same bracket where Woods resided, dispatching Kevin Sutherland (ranked 56th in the world), Shingo Katayama (41st), Camilo Villegas (10th), Rory McIlroy (17th), Stewart Cink (22nd) and Casey (23rd) to claim his second Accenture Match Play Championship and third World Golf Championship event.

His Sunday performance was particularly impressive as he made 10 birdies and an eagle and never let Casey get closer than 3 down after the morning 18 holes. Ogilvy went his last 57 holes of the tournament without being credited with a bogey in the 4 and 3 victory.

Of course, it is likely that only the true golf fan knows that Ogilvy now owns more WGC titles (three) than any player not named Woods (who has 15). And that four of his six PGA Tour victories are a major and three WGC events. And that he also owns a Mercedes-Benz Championship title, which he won earlier this year, giving him five of six wins against some of the best fields in the game. He's ranked eighth in the world and headed higher.

"I think when Geoff plays the golf he played today, you have to put him in that category," Casey said. "Geoff is a quiet guy, and maybe that's why he doesn't get the attention that he deserves or the recognition that he deserves. But he's a phenomenal golfer."

[+] EnlargeGeoff Ogilvy
Stuart Franklin/Getty ImagesThere's only one person who owns more WGC titles (3) than Geoff Ogilvy. That would be Tiger Woods with 15.

Case in point: this past year's CA Championship at Doral. Woods came into the event having won three straight years at Doral. He was also fresh off a dramatic victory at the Arnold Palmer Invitational, his fifth in a row on the PGA Tour and seventh straight worldwide.

Ogilvy took the first-round lead with a 7-under-par 65 and never trailed, beating an all-star cast that included Retief Goosen, Vijay Singh, Jim Furyk and Woods. It was one of just two tournaments out of the seven Tiger competed in this past year that he did not win.

"Doral last year was obviously a really nice week to win for a lot of reasons," Ogilvy said. "Mostly because everyone had decided that Tiger was going to win every tournament last year."

Of course, it was a big week for Ogilvy because it was his first win since the 2006 U.S. Open -- a span of some 34 PGA Tour events. That major championship is remembered far more for Phil Mickelson's final-hole exploits -- and to a lesser extent those of Colin Montgomerie -- than for the way Ogilvy played.

Mickelson led the tournament heading to the 72nd hole and was about to win his third straight major championship when he pushed his tee shot left, tried to play a miraculous second shot from the rough and hit a tree, and ended up making a double-bogey when a bogey would have meant a playoff with Ogilvy. Montgomerie, who missed the green with a 7-iron from the fairway, also made a double-bogey to miss a playoff by 1.

What is forgotten is Ogilvy's clutch play down the stretch at brutal Winged Foot, where he parred the final four holes, including chipping in at the 17th to keep his chances alive. When Mickelson and Monty faltered, there was Ogilvy to snag the trophy.

"His game is such a simple game, but with power," said Cink, who lost to Ogilvy 3 and 2 in Saturday's semifinals and won Sunday's consolation match against Ross Fisher. "He doesn't really do anything that fancy, but when he gets out of position, his short game is one of the top five out here on tour and it's tough to beat him when he's on."

Ogilvy's 6-stroke victory to begin this year in Hawaii was largely ignored due to the malaise that afflicted golf during Woods' absence. It didn't help that Mickelson, Sergio Garcia and Padraig Harrington were also missing from the field, despite being eligible.

But Ogilvy can't help that. Nor can he help it if he is occasionally mistaken for the PGA Tour player from Texas who wasn't in the field this week.

"We still share stuff in our lockers every now and then, and there will be a slip of the tongue every now and then," Ogilvy said. "People will yell out, 'Go Joe.' But I don't really think it's a mistake in identity any more. ... It's just a slip of the tongue."

Those mistakes promise to be fewer and fewer, especially if Ogilvy keeps winning. And he gets another shot in two weeks at Doral, where he defends his WGC title -- and where he's once again likely to take a backseat to Woods.

Bob Harig covers golf for ESPN.com. He can be reached at BobHarig@gmail.com.

Bob Harig | email

Golf Writer, ESPN.com