Ogilvy heads Aussie US Open chances

When Ogilvy won at Winged Foot it ended a frustrating 10-year majors drought for Australia since Steve Elkington was presented with the US PGA Championship trophy on the opposite side of the US continent.

To his enormous credit, Ogilvy brilliantly seized golfing glory when those about him buckled, including Phil Mickelson, whose bid for a third consecutive major ended with a double-bogey on the final hole.

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And so the celebration of Australia’s newest major winner took place not on the 18th green, but in the Winged Foot clubhouse.

Ogilvy, whose resiliency had carried him to the Match Play Championship in February that year, closed with a two-over-par 72 in the highest-scoring US Open since 1974 at Winged Foot.

He became the first Australian to win the US Open since David Graham in 1981.

Unfortunately, lost in the Mickelson collapse was what proved to be the most demanding US Open in more than 25 years.

Ogilvy finished with a five-over par 285 and was the first player to finish over par at a US Open since Andy North at Cherry Hills in 1978.

And Ogilvy’s score was the highest by a winner since Hale Irwin won with a seven-over-par total 285 at Winged Foot in the 1974 US Open.

Ogilvy also joined Irwin in another footnote that spoke of a wicked Winged Foot in that neither failed to break par in any of the four rounds.

Ogilvy was still pinching himself when he walked into an embarrassing far from full Winged Foot press room.

He was asked whether his transition to a major winner, and a player who had won one regular PGA Tour win and a WGC title earlier in 2006, had been gradual or came as a surprise.

“There was not like a light bulb lit up,” he said.

“It wasn’t like an epiphany or anything but more like a maturing process.”

“If you’re 18, you don’t want to hear that; you just want to hear you’re got to hit the ball good and then it’ll take care of itself.”

“You go through the ranks and you play with the best players in the world and you start seeing things from another perspective.”

“So the longer you play, the wiser and smarter you become and you start realising that it’s not very constructive to have anything but an exemplary attitude.”

“Tiger Woods is the best player in the world because he’s got the best brain.”

“He hits the ball well, but there are plenty of guys that hit the ball well.”

“But the big difference is he’s got the best head. He’s probably got the second best head in history behind Jack (Nicklaus).”

Ogilvy had made his majors’ debut at the 1999 British Open at Carnoustie but missed the cut with scores of 81-78 and on a ‘tricked-up’ course that forced Gary Player to remark there was ‘enough hay to feed my horses for five years’.

Up until his Winged Foot success, Ogilvy had competed in just eight majors with a best finish being tied for fifth behind Tiger Woods in the 2005 British Open at St. Andrews.

However a sixth place result a month later in the US PGA and then a share of 16th in his Augusta debut early in 2006 suggested Ogilvy was headed for the dizzy heights of his chosen sport.

I recall Ogilvy celebrating his success with a few drinks later that night in the bar of the White Plains Hotel.

The gleaming US Open trophy sat in the middle of a large coffee table and present was close friend Adam Scott and many other friends and supporters.

However I remember thinking to myself, and albeit for just a few seconds, that I would have thought it would have been Scott who we’d be toasting breaking through for a first major rather than Ogilvy.

Strangely, Ogilvy admitted he harboured the same view.

“It was all pretty scary because I knew it would come, and the Australian press were again asking the question, when is it going to happen,” said Ogilvy.

“But I have to say honestly I didn’t think it would be me. Of course, I thought Scottie or Stuey [Appleby] or a few other guys in front of me would be first.

“Adam has been up there before that week, and the last few years we’d had some top fours and fives in probably every major, every year, with players like {Mark] Hensby and Pamps [Rod Pampling] who had a good US Open, and the British Open, we’ve always had someone there.

“The PGA, we always seem to have a guy there, so it was only a matter of time.

“But I didn’t think it was going to be me.

“Then again you never think it’s going to be you – so it was all kind of bizarre.”

Yet that never stopped Ogilvy dreaming of winning a major.

“Every Australian of my age or any Australian really who grew up watching golf in the ’80s and ’90s, watching Greg [Norman] play, it became pretty apparent then that the majors were a pretty big deal,” said Ogilvy.

“The majors are where you want to be and want to you want to win more than anything.”

“If it wasn’t for Greg, we might not have an appreciation for how big these things really are.”

“Actually what’s also bizarre is that one of my first memories of the US Open was Greg actually at Winged Foot with Fuzzy Zoeller waving the white towel.”

“That was one of the first golf tapes that I ever liked to keep watching again and again because I was only about seven or eight.”

“But I still remember watching it quite a few times.”

“He made some ridiculous pars the last few holes, even more ridiculous than mine.”

“But everyone dreams about winning a major and everyone who plays golf dreams about being handed a major championship trophy, and I was no different to any player out there.”

While further majors have eluded him, Ogilvy’s made sure he’s one of the most feared players on the PGA Tour.

Take the 2008 WGC – CA Championship: Everyone was backing Tiger Woods to win five in a row and make it six months without a loss.

Ogilvy certainly had no intention of sticking to the script because the harder Woods tried to reel-in Ogilvy over the Monday morning of the rain-affected event, the more determined Ogilvy was to dig in his heels and deny Woods.

Woods eventually came up two shots shy in losing for the first time in six months, and ending his PGA Tour streak at five and his overall streak at seven.

And while Woods spoke of his near success, Ogilvy could not have been happier in denying the game’s best.

“Holding off the group like I did was pretty nice as there was a fair bit of some talent on the Top 10 of the leader board,” said Ogilvy.

“So it was pretty nice to finish in front of them, and also ending Tiger’s streak.”

Ogilvy’s victory again displayed his dogged determination.

Now, five years on, Australian golf fans still wonder when we’re going to again see the sight of the Southern Cross flying uppermost at a major championship.

But Australia’s final day take-over of this year’s Masters, the wait to witness the crowing of only our 10th major champion might finally come this month at Congressional.