When the final group arrived on the 16th hole at the 2006 US Open, it looked like a two-horse race. Reigning Masters champion Phil Mickelson led by two over Colin Montgomerie, and a lesser known Geoff Ogilvy.
Montgomerie picked up a timely birdie on 17 but Ogilvy was struggling. After three wayward swipes, the Australian was greenside and knew, with Monty one clear playing 18, he needed to get up and down then birdie the difficult 18th to have a chance.
Incredibly, Ogilvy holed his chip on the 17th and arrived on 18 in time to see Montgomerie chunk his 7-iron approach from the fairway and make a costly double. It gave the Scot a share of the clubhouse lead but, realistically, ended his chances.
Ogilvy sniffed an opportunity. A par up the last, statistically the week’s hardest hole, could get him a play-off.
The 29-year-old gutsily holed a tricky putt after a nerveless pitch to secure the par he needed and, with Mickelson struggling behind, a chance at the title through extra holes.
Mickelson had made a meal of the last, spraying his tee shot and finding a greenside bunker. However, the left-hander had a putt to force the play-off with Ogilvy and keep alive his chances. He missed.
“I think I was the beneficiary of a little bit of charity,” Ogilvy said in his post-round interview.
Now 34, and with six more titles under his belt, the Australian opens up about his sole Major win.
ON WINGED FOOT
It’s a great club – a really cool golf course.
It’s super hard, super difficult, with crazy greens. It was playing narrow that year. In fact, it was the first year they had graduated the rough.
Up until that point, if you hit it one foot left you were hacking it out or in some thick stuff. That was the first year you had some chance so that was an interesting thing we saw in the practice round.
I just enjoyed the place immensely. It’s one of those clubs with a really great feel about it, unique. I just enjoyed it. Winning the US Open never entered my head, I just enjoyed the practice round.
ON HIS 71st HOLE CHIP-IN
I can’t really remember it! What I do remember is at that point I thought the tournament was gone because I’d hit the tee shot way to the right and then into the rough and I was next to the green in three so I thought it was gone.
Then my caddy told me to chip it in. Whether that makes you chip it in or not I don’t know but maybe it makes you think about putting extra effort in.
It’s hard to know. It’s definitely better than hearing you’re definitely out of the tournament, don’t worry about this [laughs].
If I was sitting at home watching that or there watching that I would have said Monty and Phil should have won this.
ON GETTING UP AND DOWN ON 18
That was a harder chip than 17 by a long way. That was a 25-footer that was fairly straightforward – I just had to get it out of the grass. The one on 18 was probably the hardest shot I had all week.
It was a hard lie up a hill on the downslope. I was pretty satisfied with that one actually.
ON WATCHING MICKELSON BEHIND
I didn’t know he was in the rubbish until I got on the green actually but it was kinda weird. I’m not gonna lie, I was playing that hole thinking I was playing for a play-off at best really.
I’d seen Phil making par on 17 so knew he’d have a shot on me on 18 but it’s one of the hardest holes in the world so I thought if I could make par here there’s a really good chance of making a play-off.
That’s how I was viewing it. Then when I was putting, I did see that Phil had missed the fairway, so my putt became ‘this probably will make a play-off’. It wasn’t really until the scorer’s hut that I saw what he was doing. I thought, ‘wow, that was probably to win the golf tournament’.
ON MONTY AND MICKELSON’S COLLAPSE
I think it takes away from my win less and less as time goes on. Without any question, if I was sitting at home watching that or there watching that I would have said Monty and Phil should have won this, or one of them. Not Geoff.
They were both in a position to at least make a play-off but they both had such poor 72nd holes. That’s what you remember. I just did what I had to do – par the last four holes.
It’s not my fault that they did what they did. At the time there was a lot of talk and there were headlines in New York about ‘Phil blew the Open’ but as time’s gone on more and more have made less and less of it.
ON WHAT IT TAKES TO WIN THE US OPEN
I don’t know really. 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 normally 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.
I would say it’s less of a physical attribute and more of a mental one. I think a lot of players have the minds in them, it’s just who gets themselves into it that week. We’ve seen short hitters win, long hitters win, but generally they are all good putters.
I think 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.