- The Washington Times - Saturday, August 19, 2006

MEDINAH, Ill. — The golf world has learned more about Geoff Ogilvy’s major mettle in 48 hours at Medinah than it did in a week at Winged Foot.

After listening to days of Tiger vs. Phil hype leading into this week’s 88th PGA Championship, the third wheel in Medinah’s marquee threesome rolled unflappably through 36 head-to-head holes against the world’s dynamic duo, playing better tee-to-green golf than either of his illustrious playing partners.

In two rounds under the most public spotlight, Ogilvy hit more fairways (19 to 15) and greens (28 to 27) than Woods. But the game’s best player did match the Aussie on the scorecard (7-under 137) by curling home a 20-footer for birdie on Medinah’s final hole yesterday.

And both Ogilvy and Woods easily trumped Lefty (4-under 140), whose respectable scores (69-71) do an impressive injustice to some lamentable ballstriking.

“[Geoff] playing the way he did the first two days, that’s not a surprise at all,” Woods said. “He’s extremely talented, and he’s proved he knows how to play in major championships. There’s a reason he’s the U.S. Open champion.”

Sure, and most people still think that reason resides in the noggin of Lefty, who spent yesterday slogging through the rain beside Ogilvy. The 29-year-old native of Adelaide will never own his triumph at Winged Foot free and clear. That was a back-door job. And to his credit, Ogilvy has never denied it.

When two of the biggest names in golf (Mickelson and Colin Montgomerie) author double-bogey debacles on the 72nd hole of a major, history is always going to choose blame over acclaim.

But the details can’t change the fact that Ogilvy is still one of only two twentysomethings in the world (along with Ben Curtis) with a major to his credit. And given his record in recent majors, Ogilvy looks like a player who’s going to have plenty of future opportunities to improve upon the Slam style points he failed to score at the U.S. Open.

Unlike other recent major first-timers like Curtis (2003 British), Shaun Micheel (2003 PGA) and Todd Hamilton (2004 British), Ogilvy looks like anything but a one-pop bottle rocket. Dating to last season’s British Open, Ogilvy has put together a major streak that reads: T5-T6-T16-Win-T16.

“The majors force me to focus and play like I probably should play every week,” said Ogilvy, who stands one back of four lightly decorated leaders heading into this weekend at Medinah. “I tend to have a better attitude in the majors.”

Always recognized as one of the game’s most gifted young players, Ogilvy’s attitude was what held him back for four winless seasons on the PGA Tour after he earned his card for the 2001 season on his first trip to Q-School. Ogilvy spent his first four seasons in the States leading the tour in emotional masochism. He did more than his share of club-slamming, but his favorite outlet for anger was the mirror-aided tirade.

“I used to go back to my hotel room and beat myself up for hours,” Ogilvy said. “I’d look in the mirror and think, ‘What a useless [loser].’”

Ogilvy decided to give up the self-flagellation before last season and positive results followed very quickly. He won his first PGA Tour event at last year’s Chrysler Tucson Classic, added another earlier this year at the prestigious World Match Play and has totaled 11 top-20 finishes during this breakout season.

“We’re talking about one of the four or five most physically gifted players in golf,” Mickelson’s caddie, Jim “Bone” Mackay told GolfWorld after the U.S. Open.

Unlike other noted Aussies like Stuart Appleby, Robert Allenby and Adam Scott, Ogilvy has a healthy dose of feel and putting prowess accompanying his length and sublime ball-striking ability. Throw in the relatively recent attitude adjustment, and perhaps we’re talking about the young player most capable of tangling with Tiger.

The golf world will learn a good deal more about Ogilvy in the next two days. One thing is certain this time. After spending the first 36 holes in the standing in the glare of the game’s ultimate pair, nobody can claim Ogilvy has done any stealing in the shadows at Medinah.

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