- Ivan Maisel, College Football Senior Writer
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MEDINAH, Ill. -- In 36 holes of tee-to-tee combat between the top two players in the world, in the two most anticipated rounds of the year, Tiger Woods needed a last-hole, right-jab-inducing birdie in order to catch up to ... Geoff Ogilvy.
It's time to play Captain Obvious: the bigger the stage, the bigger the role for the 29-year-old Aussie. Ogilvy won the Accenture Match Play Championship in February, defeating four major champions in six rounds. He won the U.S. Open in June, keeping the lid on his golf game as Winged Foot blew the lid off of so many others.
With a steady Friday drizzle giving extra cushion to the already soft greens, Ogilvy took advantage at the 88th PGA Championship. His second-round 68 at Medinah No. 3 gave him a 36-hole score of 137, even with Woods and Davis Love III and one stroke behind leaders Billy Andrade, Luke Donald, Tim Herron and Henrik Stenson.
"I can promise you," Ogilvy said, "no one is that scared that I'm on the leaderboard."
It's their fault if they're not. Finishing as co-medalist in the Threesome of Champions (Phil Mickelson shot a 71-140, three strokes behind Ogilvy and Woods) may do as much to raise Ogilvy's profile as raising the Wanamaker Trophy itself. He took advantage of the opportunity to play in the circus atmosphere to try and learn something.
"A lot of guys would kill for experience like that," Ogilvy said. "I'm pretty fortunate that I get to play two days with those guys. One, you learn a lot by watching them play, and two, you learn a lot how to deal with all the stuff that goes on in their world. Their world is a bit different from my world. They can keep their world, but it's fun for a few days."
Ogilvy raced ahead of Woods and Mickelson with four consecutive birdies on the front nine. He stopped a string of two straight bogeys at the 13th with a 25-foot snake of a birdie putt. As Mickelson continued to spray the ball, as Woods got good bounces off of spectators at the first and 10th holes, Ogilvy never looked anything but comfortable.
"To be fair," Ogilvy said, "I think Tiger hit the ball at least as well as me or better the first two days. I'm sure he did. We both hit the ball better than Phil did. Phil showed his magic around the greens quite a lot. I've got a fair way to go until I'm as good as these guys. I'm playing well at the moment and I played the same as Tiger for two days, but he's got a pretty good track record. He's just won his 50th tournament. I've got about 47 to go there."
It is clear that Ogilvy has failed to fall into the trap that has snared more than a few first-time major winners. He is not trying to prove he is worthy of the title Major Champion.
"I just looked at it from the point of view that I've won a major championship, and that's really good," Ogilvy said. "A lot of great players haven't won them yet. ... I don't know. I'm still the same guy I was the day before the U.S. Open started. That's the way you've got to look at it. I won a big tournament, sure, but hopefully, if I hadn't won the U.S. Open, I would have played well here."
Ogilvy played it smart. He took off four weeks after Winged Foot, so much time that he thinks it may have left him a bit rusty for the British Open (where he tied for 16th). He has played only once since Hoylake, and after the WGC-Bridgestone Invitational at Firestone next week, Ogilvy isn't scheduled to play again for two months.
"I'm pretty fresh," he said. "A lot of guys here at the end of August are ready to rack their clubs."
Ogilvy has won two of the biggest tournaments in the world this year. He is fourth on the PGA Tour money list and eighth in the World Ranking. He is contending to join Gene Sarazen (1922), Ben Hogan (1948), Jack Nicklaus (1980) and Woods (2000) as the only men to win the U.S. Open and the PGA in the same year.
There is a trip scheduled to China in September, but Ogilvy has a built-in excuse to prevent himself from chasing appearance fees until he is worn out. His wife Juli is expecting their first child around the first of October.
"If you miss it because you've just gone off to play another golf tournament, you never forgive yourself," Ogilvy said, "so I'm taking off until the Tour Championship (Nov. 2-5)."
You know it's a good year when winning the U.S. Open is the second-best thing that happens to you.
Ivan Maisel is a senior writer for ESPN.com. He can be reached at Ivan.Maisel@espn3.com.
Though Tiger Woods tied him with a final-hole birdie, Geoff Ogilvy may just have been the winner in the year's most anticipated grouping.