- The Washington Times - Wednesday, July 16, 2008

SOUTHPORT, England | Don’t forget Geoff Ogilvy.

The Aussie is one of the most overlooked major champions - the 2006 U.S. Open at Winged Foot is best remembered for Phil Mickelson’s double-bogey meltdown on the final hole - but he’s got the look of a top contender in this week’s British Open.

Ogilvy’s steady if unspectacular play could be suited to Royal Birkdale, which has been soaked by rain and punishes those who find its pot bunkers and tangly rough.

“I’ve just gradually gotten better,” Ogilvy said, describing a career in which all six of his victories have come since 2005 and have taken him to No. 3 in the world rankings. “I feel like I was a really slow learner with golf. How to go about it, stay patient on the golf course, how to approach it, how to practice, how my attitude needed to be on the golf course.

“I think I’ve learned from mistakes quite well, and I just gradually worked it out. I don’t know about any one attribute. I think I hit the ball OK, I think I chip OK and I think I putt OK. But I think it all adds up to a pretty good package.”

Rated a 25-1 shot by the British bookmakers, Ogilvy hopes tough conditions will weed out many of his potential rivals.

“The golf course is fantastic - it’s really difficult,” he said. “It’s playing really long, quite narrow. The rough is pretty healthy. It’s just a very green Birkdale.”

Ogilvy’s nationality might also work in his favor.

The only winners at Royal Birkdale are Australians and Americans. The champions from Down Under are Peter Thomson (1954, 1965) and Ian Baker-Finch (1991), while Americans Arnold Palmer (1961), Lee Trevino (1971), Johnny Miller (1976), Tom Watson (1983) and Mark O’Meara (1998) have triumphed.

The world’s current No. 1 is not on that list, and he won’t get a chance to rectify that situation. Tiger Woods is sitting out the rest of the year recovering from knee surgery.

In an interesting twist, Ogilvy didn’t have to worry about Woods at Winged Foot, either. That was the only major as a professional in which he failed to make it to the weekend.

Viva Espana

Sergio Garcia is looking to add another victory to what already has been a memorable summer for Spanish sports.

The country’s soccer team captured the European championship, its first major international title in 44 years, then Rafael Nadal ended Roger Federer’s five-year winning streak at Wimbledon in an epic final.

Garcia is generally recognized as the best player never to win a major golf championship, a distinction he hopes to erase at Royal Birkdale.

“If I manage to win here, it’ll be something,” Garcia said. “It’ll be a very good summer for Spain. But it’s not going to be easy.”

If he does manage to win the British Open, which victory would be more revered in his homeland?

“Without a question, the football,” Garcia said quickly. “In Spain, football is the biggest.”

Well, then, what would be No. 2?

“Me,” Garcia said, smiling.

Furyk’s take

Jim Furyk never lacks an opinion, no matter the subject.

So what’s his take on Britain?

“I’d probably have to say that the tea is highly overrated - and the beer is highly underrated,” Furyk quipped.

He doesn’t mind driving on the left side of the road, but he’s still trying to figure out the car-rental business on this side of the Atlantic.

“Renting a car here could be the most difficult thing of the entire trip,” Furyk said. “It sounds like it’s going to cost like 200 to 300 pounds, and by the time you’re done it’s like half the mortgage on your house. And then you get a call like six months later that you still owe them money. I try to avoid renting cars at all costs over here.”

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