Geoff Ogilvy would like nothing better than to join the likes of Jack Nicklaus, Gary Player and Greg Norman as a multiple Australian Open Champion. Tomorrow he gets his chance.
The 39-year-old rode a hot putter to a superb eight under 64, the low round of the tournament, to reach 11 under and assume the 54-hole lead by two strokes.
His closest pursuers are two-time Australian Open winner Aaron Baddeley (67 today), New Zealander Ryan Fox (71) and World No.5 Jordan Spieth (68), while evergreen Queenslander Rod Pampling (70) is a further shot back at eight under.
Ogilvy grabbed this tournament by the scruff of the neck on day three by taking advantage of the benign weather conditions in the morning to carve out his flawless 64.
He ripped around the front nine in just 30 strokes, six under, which included birdies at the 1st and 2nd holes followed by four-in-a-row starting at the par-3 6th hole. Having started his round six shots behind halfway leader James Nitties, Ogilvy was in a share of the lead by the time he reached the 10th tee.
He didn’t lose any ground with six straight pars to start the homeward nine. The 2010 Champion grabbed a seventh birdie at the par-5 16th and sealed the deal on his round with a birdie at the iconic 18th hole. The birdie was set up by a stunning short iron approach that bounced once and spun back towards the hole, eventually stopping within tap-in distance of the cup.
“To be honest, I didn’t really see 64 on the first tee,” Ogilvy said. “But after going out so well on the front nine I kind of started seeing a score like that; so it was nice.
“I guess the whole point of the first three rounds is to give yourself a chance with one round to play and I left quite a few shots out there on Thursday, Friday, playing nicely but just not having the max (score) I could have had to lead. Today I had the least I could have had; so, that’s always a nice feeling.
“And that couple of birdies on the last three holes … fun birdie on the last. So, I’m back in the mix.”
Indeed he is, and the motivation now is stronger than ever to emulate the legends and get his name on the Stonehaven Cup more than once.
“It would be great (to win again),” Ogilvy said. “Obviously, the list of winners on this trophy is about as good as any trophy in the world and the list of multiple winners on this trophy probably is as good as any other trophy in the world – Gary, Jack, Greg. It would be pretty nice.
“As we all end our career and we look back, this one (for an Australian player) is going to be right up there with one of the most important tournaments we’ve played and satisfying one to win. So, two is always better than one; yeah, it would be nice.” – Geoff Ogilvy
It would also mark a significant comeback from some inconsistent form in recent years, which has often been blamed on his putter. Ogilvy confessed his putting was so bad a year ago he was missing putts by a foot.
“(Better putting) has been coming,” he said. “A year ago I was missing the hole by a foot and it’s been getting closer and closer to going in.
“So, I think at some point they’re going to start going in. The signs have been there, that even though I’d been missing a few, they were going in the direction I was trying to make them go and sometimes it’s just a matter of, it’s almost like someone takes the lid off and they start going in … the hole looks bigger, you put more positive strokes on it because you’ve made a few.”
He said he hasn’t been working on anything in particularly to turn his putting form around.
“It’s just getting out of my head and not thinking about it (putting) too much, just rolling the ball like I used to. As I said, it’s been coming,” he smiled.
“I’m not shocked that they all went in, it’s just pleasant, kind of that was nice, that’s kind of what felt like was coming.”
Ogilvy, an award-winning columnist for Golf Australia magazine, will head out in the final group alongside Baddeley, who also hails from Victoria via Scottsdale, Arizona, while Spieth and Fox will be in the penultimate group.
Spieth says he hopes to draw on the strategy behind his final round 63, which saw him win the Championship two years ago.
“There’s going to be some other six or seven-under rounds that come from five to 10 groups back from the lead group,” the American said. “Understanding that’s there is going to be key and not having that kind of get into my head and make me feel like I have to do too much.
“The reason we shot 63 wasn’t because we went out that day trying to shoot 63, it was because we went out, we were patient, recognised that other people were going to make moves but at the same time, if you’re playing a risk game, I’m going to play to my strengths.
“I’ve been playing very aggressive. I may dial back on a couple of holes if I’m in the position to do so, but, for the most part, I’m going to stay true to myself.
“I feel very confident about where things are, so yeah, off of 2014, that was a round that kind of felt like an easy 63, if that makes any sense. It just felt like I went out trying to just take advantage of each hole when I sit on the tee box and it did wonders for me going forward. So, very excited about the opportunity tomorrow … I like the position we’re in.”
If not for three front nine bogies, Adam Scott might be in a similar position.
The World No.7 signed for one under 71 and will start the final round five shots behind Ogilvy.
“It was really a battle out there for me through the middle of the round,” Scott said. “But then hit some good shots coming in. It would have been nice to get that putt on the last and get that one closer; it would have felt nice.
“A hot start tomorrow is what I need; a quick front 9 and I’ll be right in it.”