Geoff Ogilvy: "I’m trying too hard in The Open"April, 2012
The 2006 US Open champion on what he would change in the modern game and his love of classic old layouts
You played a lot of amateur golf in the UK. What was that like?
It was really cool because they were all on some of the best golf courses in the UK.
The St Andrews Links Trophy was my favourite as we had three practice rounds around the Old and one on the New all for about £40. It was unbelievable.
You always had the course to yourselves, it was just you guys out there playing. It was fantastic. Through the Amateur I got to play Muirfield, St George’s, Turnberry. It was a great education in links golf.
How quickly did you adapt to the intricacies of links golf?
I was pretty lost at first and it took me a while to get used to it. I’d never seen anything like it. Some courses in Melbourne play firm so there were some similarities, but I was pretty lost.
Your Open record is poor by your standards – why is that?
I don’t know actually, it’s quite disappointing. I started playing quite well a few years ago at St Andrews and I thought I’d worked it out but the last few years haven’t been good.
I’ve had a couple of poor draws in the last few years – which is fine. I feel like I do everything right – I go over early and I know the courses.
Maybe I’m trying too hard. I’m only in the middle of my career, though, so I’ve got a way to go.
As a youngster you had temper issues yet you seem so laid-back now – what changed?
I guess it’s that I just had to realise that each individual shot, hole or round isn’t quite as important as you might think at the time.
Looking at the whole thing as a career opposed to a day. One bad day doesn’t kill a career. I wasn’t the only youngster with a temper.
Quite a lot have it but as they grow up and get older and more experienced, they work out how to channel it and diffuse it. You get better as you grow up, not only in golf but in life, too, don’t you think?
Have the Men of the Masters set Augusta up properly now?
Last year was fantastic. One of the best, I think, and I was fortunate enough to be involved in the finish. It was great fun.
I think they’ve had the Sunday set up right for a couple of years now. I think the course got really hard when they first changed it in 1998 then the second change in 2006.
Everyone was complaining and they got bad weather those first couple of years. It was cold and windy and hard to get a fair measure but I think they’ve had better weather the last couple of years and I think they have gone back a little bit towards where it was.
The second cut – that’s what they call it – tends to be slightly shorter and there’s some new trees on the 11th.
They’ve extended a couple of tees so they can push it forward when the wind is up. If last year’s tournament was evidence, that was one of the best Masters we’ve ever seen.
What changes would you make if you were in charge?
I would prefer to see less of the new trees on 7, 10, 11 and 15. I don’t think they add anything.
It was meant to be super-wide and you had to find your angles and they’ve taken that away in some places.
In most spots it’s still there but there’s some really narrow areas and I’m not 100 per cent on that.
Saying that, everyone has something they’d change about every golf course and if this year goes the same as last then they’ve got it right, haven’t they?
Sergio keeps his long game loose and free but tries to make his putting mechanically perfect. Is Australian golf stronger than ever?
The last five or six years have been pretty good, last year especially. You’ve got a couple of guys in second at Augusta then Jason Day second in the US Open.
We’ve got guys high up in the rankings, playing the big tournaments. The Presidents Cup has four or five Aussies in there. It was always just Greg Norman who could win the big events but not now.
How much of an influence was Greg Norman growing up?
For anyone my age – I grew up learning golf in the 80s – he was the No 1 player in the world. He had the most magnetic personality and was so charismatic.
He hit all the aggressive shots and he was the guy you wanted to be as a kid. I don’t think his influence can be underestimated.
This good run Australian golf is in – these are the golfers who Greg Norman was the hero of. He’s the one we all wanted to be when we were kids.
Can Adam Scott win a Major?
There’s no question. Without Charl’s historic finish last year, he would have a Green Jacket. Walking off the 18th tee it looked like he was going to win. If he can play 71 holes he can definitely do 72. He obviously has the bottle.
He’s been consistently one of the best ball strikers in the last 10 years. Now he’s got a pretty good handle on his putting and his short game is improving, I think he has multiple Majors in him.
And you two are big mates?
We’ve spent a fair bit of time together off the course. We play a lot of practice rounds together too. We’ve been on holidays and been surfing together quite a lot.
Are the Melbourne sand belt courses the best in the world?
It’s hard to say. I think Royal Melbourne is clearly one of the best in the world and so is Kingston Heath. As a collection it is definitely in the conversation.
You’ve got Long Island, with Shinnecock Hills and National. And Surrey, with Sunningdale, Swinley Forest, St George’s Hill and Walton Heath, which is a pretty impressive area too.
There are a few areas like that in the world and the sand belt is one of them. I don’t know if there’s a best or worst area. The courses there are pretty amazing and anyone who grows up there is pretty spoiled.
Tell us about your new course architecture company
We only started at the back end of 2010, I joined up with a guy and a group. It’s going to be fun.
Hopefully it will be something I will be able to move my head towards at the end of playing. I really enjoy it.
You think some tour courses are lacking in imagination. What do you mean by that?
Well, I would say a lot of them lack imagination just because of the way they get set up by the tours.
The trouble is they are made really hard, with long rough and narrow fairways. I think the narrower the course, the less imagination and strategy you need and the more they direct you.
It’s like, hit it to here you’ll be OK and miss and you miss. It’s like point-to-point golf, whereas at St Andrews for example you’re stood on a tee thinking where do I hit it here? You have to figure it out yourself when you’re not directed anywhere.
Designing courses for the tour would be very hard because all touring pros have a different option and they all look at a course from a self-interest perspective – whatever they play best.
Wide golf courses get panned because they’re too easy. So that would be hard but designing great, imaginative, interesting golf courses for average golfers would be not as difficult.
With that in mind, what is the best course in the world?
I go back and forward on this a lot. Right now, from the ones I’ve played, it’s Pine Valley. It’s just a stunning piece of property.
It has beautiful trees and it’s just a nice place to be. It’s got the width in the fairways that I like, astonishing greens you could never get away with designing anywhere else nowadays – they’re so slopy.
You can play it three days in a row and it’s like playing a different course every time because of the number of pin positions. It’s just a beautiful place with 18 great holes.
A lot of it is the experience as well because you can’t just rate a golf course on the 1st tee to 18th green. It has to be rated on the whole feel and experience.
Cypress Point is a close second. I love playing there, it’s got 18 great holes on a stunning piece of real estate.
Is the Masters the most popular Major Down Under?
I’d say that and the Open. The Open really, but the Masters presents itself so well.
It’s such a glossy TV production. When you’re a kid that one is the one that presents itself the best.
The Open is an acquired taste when you’re a young kid, but the more you watch it, the more you appreciate the truly, truly great players who won it and that perhaps is the one that means the most and is the biggest, but as a youngster it would be equal because who doesn’t like sitting there watching the Masters? It just seems so exciting.
You’re so starved for it – you get it for four days a year and you never see it. You’re waiting the whole time to see what it’s like again and there’s something so mystical about it.
How do you win a US Open?
I think it’s more about the mindset that week. Rory aside – he blew everyone away by being a long way better than all of us in every category – you would say it would be a guy who keeps his patient hat on and is content at making pars and the odd bogey.
Grinding for pars all the time, getting up and down and not being worn out by six-footers.
We’ve seen short hitters win, long hitters win, but generally they are all good putters.
It’s the guy who can put himself in US Open mode that week the best. Whether that’s a DNA thing or just a sensible thinking thing I don’t know.
What do you make of Sergio’s putting
I don’t think I’m qualified to fix Sergio’s putting but as an amateur it was almost like ‘pick it up’ from 15 feet. It’s a bit like the way Seve’s game went but in reverse.
Seve’s putting and chipping was imaginative just like when he was a kid but with his full swing he was trying to make it technically perfect.
Sergio keeps his long game loose and free but tries to make his putting mechanically perfect.
From my perspective, he’s not as loose and carefree as he was. There’s a great putter in him because I’ve seen it. Hopefully he can work it out because he is super-talented.