Optimistic Ogilvy realistic about Australian PGA hopes

Optimistic Ogilvy realistic about Australian PGA hopes

Geoff Ogilvy is not sure how his rusty game will respond to his pleading at Royal Queensland this week.

But he’s going to have fun trying.

Ogilvy, the 2008 Fortinet Australian PGA Championship winner and one of Australia’s all-time greats, no longer tours as a professional after 20 years in America.

He is focused on his three children, his golf course architecture business, plays a few local tournaments and recently ran a tournament in Melbourne for his own charitable foundation, which fosters opportunities for young golfers.

Yet when he wandered on to the driving range in Brisbane this week, there was some déjà vu rising to the surface.

“It’s a bit like riding a bike,” he said. “I was sort of a bit uncomfortable and I don’t know, just not that comfortable at home for some reason, but as soon as I got on the range yesterday, it was like, ‘I remember this, this is what I do’.  So, we’ll see.

“The short game is usually the question mark when you come back after a long break, but I don’t know, as I said, no expectation.”

Ogilvy is 44, an elder statesman of the game in this country.

Recently he was talking to Lucas Herbert about playing his first Masters at Augusta National, and he offered some advice; the same suggestion that he would put to Min Woo Lee (who is also on debut at Augusta this year) if he were asked. Get to Augusta National early.

“You’re going to be a fan of the Masters and you’re going to be open eyes,” he said.  “It’s like going to Disneyland for a kid the first time you go there.

“I think you’ve got to get that out of the way, but you’ve got to allow yourself that, because you’ve been waiting your whole life to get there, so you’ve got to go do that.

“So my advice to him, and as it was to Lucas, I said if you can get there early, maybe call Cam (Smith) or ‘Leish’ (Marc Leishman) or ‘Scotty’ (Adam Scott)  or someone and say, ‘are you guys going the week before the tournament?  Can I come and tag along, show me the ropes a little bit?’

“Get it all out of your system.  Drive down Magnolia Lane, go in the pro shop, buy all the merchandise, go behind the trees on 13, feel the shot that Phil (Mickelson) hit, do all that stuff.

“Get that stuff out of the way, so that when you come back a week or so later for the Masters that you’ve got that out of the way and you can play a golf tournament.”

Ogilvy’s Sandbelt Invitational in Melbourne recently had a bit of an Augusta feel about it, and he is passionate about the future of tournament golf in Australia. He thinks that in some instances, we have had it wrong.

“I think there’s been far too much focus on prizemoney and big name players,” he said.  “I mean no one really minds who goes to play in the Australian Open tennis. The Melbourne Cup’s the biggest horse race in the world and nobody cares what horses are running, they want to go anyway.

“I think we’ve sat down on Tuesday and Wednesday press conferences for the last 20 years in Australia and say, ‘isn’t this a shame Geoff, there’s no one playing here this week?’ Who’s going to come and support the tournament when we tell them don’t come because there’s no good players?

“I think all pros are great players. I think we need to focus on building great events, sort of build them from the ground up again. We’ve had this sort of all or nothing approach, that unless it’s a big massive event with the top 10 players in the world, it’s not worth having.

“I think if we can sort of go back to the basics, fundamentally sell events, just put them all on, give somebody the chance to play, build them up, build them up, build them up gradually, and the big name players will gradually come.

“I don’t think you need them for a great tournament. People come to golf tournaments for a couple of reasons. One is because they want to see people in draws with drivers and people who can do stuff that they can’t do – and everybody here can do that.

“Everyone here is impressive to a club golfer, if you ask me, and two, you go for the contest.  It doesn’t matter if it’s the 1000th player in the world versus the 900th best player in the world for one and two, the contest is the contest and that’s exciting – guys holing putts and hitting good shots and coming up with the stuff under pressure.  I mean, I think, I was at the Ashes Test the other day.  It wasn’t really who won or lost that, it was just how good it was to watch and I think all elite sport, including golf, is like that.

“If you have a great contest, it’s appealing to watch and I think if we can focus on that rather than who’s not there, I think we can rebuild and create an unbelievable tour, I think.   I think golf’s a massive sport in Australia, people love it.  You’ve just got to give them a reason to come, not give them a reason not to come.”