No. 4 Ogilvy playing like he\‘s No. 2
By BILL HUFFMAN
Pundits might argue that the 36-hole finale of the WGC-Accenture Match Play Championship near Tucson on Sunday looked more like a club championship than the title bout between two of the best players on the planet.
After all, Australia’s Geoff Ogilvy and England’s Paul Casey are both members at Whisper Rock Golf Club in Scottsdale, where they live part-time and play in that club’s big event every year. (No, neither has won it all at “the Rock.’’)
But a closer inspection reveals that the championship match at The Ritz-Carlton Golf Club at Dove Mountain will go a long way in pushing Ogilvy – a 4-and-3 winner on this day — towards the No. 2 ranking in the world, and that Casey is not far behind. Certainly both are better than their rankings coming into the Match Play, No. 8 and No. 23, respectively.
“There are a few guys in the world who are obviously well in front of me: Tiger (Woods), Phil (Mickelson), Sergio (Garcia) and (Padraig) Harrington . . . so I’m at least fifth,’’ reasoned Ogilvy, who actually moved up to No. 4 on Monday behind Woods, Garcia and Mickelson, in that order.
Told of his projected upward mobility, Ogilvy laughed and said modestly, “That’s nice, yeah, I’m in there somewhere.’’
When reporters kept insisting that Ogilvy might be better than he gives himself credit for, the distant relative of Scotland’s legendary Robert the Bruce (no, I’m not making this up, as Ogilvy’s family tree is rooted in Scotland), chuckled again.
“I don’t know. That’s not really for me to decide,’’ Ogilvy blushed. “It’s for you guys (the media) to decide where I sit in that pecking order.’’
After winning in Australia in December, Hawaii in January and Arizona in February (even if the event ended on March 1), many are ready to elevate Ogilvy into that No. 2 slot, especially after he took out such top guns as Camilo Villegas (No. 9), Rory McIlroy (No. 16) and Stewart Cink (No. 18) just to get to Casey, who is now No. 13.
Who knows? He might have knocked off Garcia and Mickelson, too, except they fell early to far weaker foes.
Casey, the former Arizona State All-American who for some odd reason has yet to prevail in the U.S. despite 10 wins on the European Tour, certainly thinks Ogilvy belongs in that fabulous foursome atop the world. And he also knows why the Man from Down Under often flies under the radar.
“Geoff is a quiet guy. Maybe that’s why he doesn’t get the attention or recognition that he deserves’’ Casey noted of Ogilvy, who seems to get excited about once in every 10 birdies.
“But he’s a phenomenal golfer. I mean, how many guys have won two World Golf events?’’
Actually, Ogilvy has won three, including this tournament twice as well as last year’s WGC-CA Championship at Doral. That his first PGA Tour win also came in the Old Pueblo at the 2005 Chrysler Classic of Tucson, and his other at the 2006 U.S. Open, the same year he won his first WGC-Accenture Match Play title when it was played at LaCosta, Calif., well, “it’s all good, mate’’ for this 31-year-old Aussie.
Ogilvy never flinched against Casey, grabbing the lead with a birdie on the first hole and leading after the first 18 holes, 3-up, on the strength of a 66. Both players were six under through 16 holes on the second nine when Ogilvy closed out Casey with a 14-foot birdie at the 34th hole to run his record to a mindboggling17-2 in this event.
Amazingly, Ogilvy never made a bogey against Casey, or for that matter, Stewart Cink, who Ogilvy eliminated in the semifinals, 4-and-2. That streak actually started against McIlroy in the quarterfinals, as Ogilvy went the last 57 holes without a blemish on his scorecard.
About the only thing Ogilvy’s victory did NOT accomplish was to bring solace to those who had anguished over Woods’ early exit at the hands of giant-killer Tim Clark. It didn’t necessarily hurt the gate, but TV ratings on NBC had to suffer mightily when Woods, who was playing his first competition since last summer’s U.S. Open win and subsequent knee surgery, got sent home following the second round.
Afterward both Ogilvy and Casey had a good laugh about the fact they had played a practice round together for the event on Feb. 13, when they drove down to The Ritz in separate cars and then just knocked it around rather than actually competed against each other.
That touch of irony – they actually live about 10 minutes from each other — also led to words of praise for their “second home’’ in Arizona.
“It’s the complete opposite of what I grew up with as a kid,’’ said the 31-year-old Casey, who is one month younger than Ogilvy. “I love both (countries) and consider myself to have two homes, but I spend more time here because the weather’s better.’’
So good, in fact, that Casey refers to Scottsdale as “Disneyland.’’
“Everything I ever wanted was here,’’ said Casey, who has been a part-time resident for 12 years. “There’s no doubt that I feel very lucky arriving at Arizona State, getting an opportunity. I wouldn’t be sitting here right now if I didn’t have that opportunity, so I’m very grateful to the U.S. and to everybody at ASU.’’
Ogilvy said he considered all of “the bottom half of the country,’’ the obvious ones like California Texas and Florida, but opted for Arizona for many of the same reasons Casey visited and stayed.
“Florida was always a place Australians used to go,’’ he said of his fellow countryman like Greg Norman, Steve Elkington and Ian Baker-Finch. “But I had a friend who lived in Scottsdale already who got there before me, so I came to Scottsdale (in 2001) and thought I’d give it a try. I loved it.’’
That Ogilvy earned $1.4 million on Sunday, and Casey carted home $850,000, I guess the old axiom still holds true, that there’s no place like home — even if it is a second home.
Bill Huffman has covered golf in Arizona for over 20 years for the Arizona Republic and East Valley Tribune as well as writing the book Arizona’s Greatest Golf Courses. He co-hosts Backspin the Golf Show on XTRA Sports 910 AM each Wednesday (6-7pm) and Saturday (9-11am). To reach Bill directly please email him at [email protected] or call 480-540-1780.