Big-game player: Ogilvy set to defend at Doral

Big-game player: Ogilvy set to defend at Doral

7. The moment of truth: Rory's hips and chest are open to the target at impact. His belt line is level and he's pushing off his right foot. That's why his ball speed is 176 mph, way above Tour average.
Fred Vuich/SI

DORAL, Fla. (AP) — Geoff Ogilvy is a mystery, sometimes even to himself.

All five of his wins since 2006 have come in events with prestige, like a World Golf Championship event, a U.S. Open or the winners-only Mercedes-Benz Championship. Ogilvy can’t explain why, nor does he grasp his outrageous 18-3 record in head-to-head competition, capped by his second win at Match Play earlier this month.

“I’m not really sure whether I have a better frame of mind in a big tournament,” Ogilvy said. “I definitely enjoy big tournaments. Not that I don’t enjoy all golf tournaments, but I enjoy big tournaments more.”

Here comes another one.

Ogilvy will aim to defend his title in the CA Championship starting Thursday at Doral, where someone in the 80-player, no-cut field will earn $1.4 million. The guy with the most attention, as always, will be Tiger Woods, who has won at Doral in three of the past four years and is in a stroke-play event this week for the first time since outlasting Rocco Mediate in last summer’s U.S. Open.

Ogilvy led virtually wire-to-wire last year, actually sleeping on the lead four times, thanks to rain delays necessitating a Monday finish.

“My best week last year, for sure,” Ogilvy said.

That win, combined with his dominance at Match Play two weeks ago (in Woods’ return event following knee surgery) left the all-time WGC victory standings looking like this:

1. Woods, 15.

2. Ogilvy, 3.

So Woods’ stranglehold atop that list obviously won’t end anytime soon, if ever. If nothing else, Ogilvy has clearly proven that when the stakes are high, he can compete.

“I always said to him, ‘The day that you stop beating yourself up, you’ll be one of the greatest golfers in the world,”‘ fellow Australian Robert Allenby said of Ogilvy. “And look, about three years ago, he stopped beating himself up.”

And started beating a lot of people.

Ogilvy was the 52nd seed in the 64-man bracket at Match Play in 2006, and went to extra holes in each of his first four matches. He won then all, then beat Tom Lehman and Davis Love III for the title. He won the U.S. Open that summer, won at Doral last year and already has two wins in five starts this season.

“He’s very quiet and unassuming,” said Stewart Cink, who lost to Ogilvy in this year’s Match Play semifinals. “He’s not a loudmouth. He’s not out there. He’s not flashy. His game is real simple, but he’s got power, a good short game, and he doesn’t do anything fancy. … As far as I’m concerned, he is in the elite group.”

He’ll need to be this week, where the field is a who’s-who of today’s game.

Start with Woods, who rallied from two shots down entering the final round at Doral to beat Phil Mickelson in 2005 and reclaimed the world No. 1 ranking, which he’s held ever since. Woods held off Camilo Villegas and David Toms to win again in 2006, then beat Brett Wetterich by two in 2007. Ogilvy was tied for third that week, four shots behind Woods.

Woods was razor-sharp then. Now, here’s merely sharpening up for the Masters.

“I’ve only played two tournaments in what – 10 months? Not a whole lot of golf,” Woods said. “So for me, I just need rounds under my belt, and this week will obviously be a very positive week for me – four rounds and no cuts, which is exactly what I need.”

Since leaving Doral last year, Woods has played 11 rounds of tournament golf.

Sergio Garcia has a chance to replace him at No. 1 in the world this week if he wins the CA Championship and Woods finishes 27th or worse. Woods has never been out of the top 10 at Doral, but no one really knows what to expect.

“I’m ready to win,” Woods said. “That’s why I’m here.”

Of course, same goes for Ogilvy.

He didn’t play much golf last week, instead taking a few days off to recover from the grind of Match Play. That hardly meant he wasn’t thinking about the game, though.

Ogilvy is as baffled as anyone why the approach he takes into Match Play doesn’t always carry over into stroke play. The object of the game doesn’t change – getting the ball into the hole with as few shots as possible – but Ogilvy’s mindset at Doral won’t be the same as it was two weeks ago.

Woods put it in these terms: The object of stroke play is giving yourself a chance to win on Sunday, whereas in Match Play, it’s always Sunday, because it’s the final round for the loser. Ogilvy sees it the same way.

“In a stroke-play event, you don’t play against specifically the guys right next to you,” Ogilvy said. “I mean, you are playing against your playing partners, but you’re almost teammates with your playing partners the first few days of a tournament. It’s less intense, I guess. Match play is very intense from the first hole.”

And Ogilvy is a guy who thrives on intensity.

Put it this way: If there’s someone on the treadmill next to him, Ogilvy sets his machine to move 1 mph faster.

“It’s quite a difference in mindset, but not any difference in preparation,” Ogilvy said. “Just try to be playing as good as I can.”

In big events, that’s often good enough.

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