Geoff Ogilvy is back.
Back at the Australian PGA Championship for the first time since 2012.
Back to competitive golf after four months having not played “with a scorecard in my pocket”.
And most importantly for golf in this country, back living in Australia full-time for the first time since the late 1990s.
The 2006 US Open champion is no longer at the height of his playing powers, but the Victorian will add interest and prestige to every local event he chooses to tee it up in from his new base in Melbourne. And Ogilvy’s value goes well beyond bolstering fields.
As one of the most respected voices in the professional game, the Golf Australia Magazine columnist could very well be the perfect sounding board and idea source for the game’s administrators in this country as they attempt to overcome an underwhelming Australian Open field and the ongoing place of our biggest events in the world golf schedule.
Ogilvy made it extremely clear during his press conference at RACV Royal Pines before the Australian PGA that he doesn’t wish to be an administrator, but acknowledged his breadth of knowledge, having played tournament golf around the world while designing golf courses in his spare time, gives him a unique outlook on the game at the highest level.
“There's the playing side and there's the business side,” Ogilvy told the assembled media. “I understand what makes golf tournaments work and everything about that from my viewpoint, from driving in the car, parking, walking into the locker room, to hitting balls to the golf course setups, to all that stuff. I understand up and down what the good tournaments in the world do and what the bad tournaments in the world do and what makes that work and not work.
“There is a million little things, I know that well. But the paper side of the trail, I have no clue at all. I've got a sense, but I have no real clue. It's miraculous sometimes to pull off golf tournaments in Australia with the economic conditions, so I get that. So administration, I don't like that word, but from the golf side I think I would have a bit to offer but from the outside, I don't know.”
Although non-committal when asked if he would be willing to lend a hand to the game’s governing bodies, Ogilvy has already driven much of the conversation of the summer of golf. His story in the November issue of Golf Australia has been one of the main talking points in recent weeks, with Ogilvy believing the resulting discussions will have a positive impact.
“Mostly positive, I have to say,” he said of the feedback he has received since arriving home to setup his base in Melbourne last week. “I'm sure there are people that are annoyed about it, but the timing was interesting. I thought it came off quite nicely.
“Just observations. I mean it's just you want the Australian Open to be the premium thing, you know, all due respect to the Australian PGA. It's the same in the U.S. The Majors are the Majors, right, and the U.S. Open is still the U.S. Open, regardless if it's the USGA's only tournament, it's still a big tournament.
“So you want the Australian Open to be that. And the bigger the Australian Open gets, the bigger the PGA gets, and the bigger the Open gets the bigger it all gets. So just, I don't know, created a little bit of conversation, I guess. Conversations are where good stuff happens.”
Part of the controversy stirred up by Ogilvy’s opinion piece on the Stonehaven Cup, a trophy he owns and puts alongside the Kirkwood Cup he won at the Australian PGA 10 years ago among his highest achievements, was the 41-year-old’s lack of attendance at The Lakes two weeks ago.
But Ogilvy’s reason for missing his national open, a trip to Disneyland promised to his children before leaving America for good, adds even more weight to the case to involve him decision making for the game’s future. His balance of life and golf is surely one of his keys to longevity at the top of the game, and his obvious disappointment at missing the event is reason enough to forgive and forget.
“It was horrific. It was brutal; right?” Ogilvy said of missing the event at a course he helped redesign. “But the Australian Open has been Thanksgiving week in America for, like, I don't know how long. For as long as I've been playing, and I think like longer, because I feel like Greg used to use that excuse every now and then; right? But it's been a long time. It was on the internet, it was originally posted, this is the original date, and so I'm like, perfect, we can do this.
“Disney, end of America trip almost for my kids. They all got to the right age, and it was just perfect. We'll lock that in, it's perfect. There is nothing on that weekend, I'm going to play, and then they changed, and I'm not go to tell my kids they can't go to Disneyland. Anyone who is ready to do that, congratulations, but I'm not going to do that, so we had an unbelievable week. It was one of those dreamy family weeks and it opened up my eyes to there is more tournaments to come play, and it opened up the option for here, because I said I've got to get back there to get organized, to get the trip here, and things maybe happen for a reason sometimes, so here we are.”
That Ogilvy is at Royal Pines bodes well for his commitment to Australian golf, at least as a player, going forward. And while the layout may not be among his list of must-play tracks based on golf course architecture alone, he again displayed his innate ability to look beyond his own personal preferences for the greater good of the game, the tournament and the players.
“I played 16 holes ... Look, it's a good venue for a tournament,” Ogilvy said of his first look at the Gold Coast course. “Everybody knows it's not in the top-50 in the world, Royal Pines, but it hosts the tournament well. It's great for RACV, and if people enjoy playing here, that's great, and it's a big enough course for us to host pros. Coolum was getting too small for how far we hit it. This is big enough. It's in good shape. Good players have won here. And that's all you can ask. Good shape, good players win here, and it's a good environment and a good week, so for a tournament like this, it's perfect, and the last tournament of the year, being in Queensland, from a player's perspective, it works great.”
Ogilvy’s first look during his practice round also allowed him to evaluate his slightly rusty game, which pleasantly surprised him, particularly around the Graham Marsh design’s tricky, grainy greens. And while he may not be one of the favourites, you can never count out a major champion, with the potential for some European Tour status a good motivator to play well and open up even more options for 2019.
Ogilvy once again followed that thought with a statement that underlines his credentials as an invaluable and selfless resource to the game.
“There is nothing set in stone with us, obviously but plans to play he Vic Open, maybe New Zealand, Perth maybe, play a little bit more here. I made sure I paid my affiliate membership in Europe, so it works if I make some money, and I've got some past champion status in Europe, believe it or not because of World Golf Championships and the U.S. Open and stuff, so I think I can get into some smaller ones anyway, so I could probably scrape together a reasonable European schedule if I can put a bit of money together here, so that might be an option, too.
“That European co sanction is huge for Australians, it's really, really big, especially for the young guys. It's really important and it's definitely maybe the best carrot we have to get guys kind of in the middle of do I come or not, well it's Europe, so I better go. It's an important thing, I think, for us.”
Part of Ogilvy’s first PGA Championship appearance in nearly 10 years, will be to take part in the event turning yellow for Thursday’s opening round in honour of his fellow Victorian Jarrod Lyle.
Ogilvy and Robert Allenby are hoping to take the idea even further in the future, with the potential for a tournament paying tribute to the lovable larakin perhaps the perfect way for Ogilvy to dip his toe in the organisational waters of golf and not only help the Lyle family, but the game and country he clearly loves.
“I think it would be very appropriate that there might be room to create a new tournament in Australia, the Masters is done. There might be space. Obviously the PGA, there is a whole lot of stuff organised, but hypothetical it seems like a cool idea to have a Jarrod Lyle Tournament,” Ogilvy said.
“Whether it be a big tournament or a small tournament, but honours Jarrod every year. It's a non-profit tournament that raises money for wherever the Lyle family wants to go, probably Challenge, I would expect. And I think you could create a feeling that might get quite a lot of enthusiasm behind the tournament, and you've got a lot of players coming in to play because everybody liked Jarrod, and he got such a bad deal, and it would be appropriate, because he was a great golfer from Melbourne, and it would raise money for Challenge and I think around that framework there is obviously a million different boxes you have to tick to get it work, but Robert and I loved the idea instantly.
“We'll see. These things are not easy to get organized. I think conceptually it's a cool idea. It would be amazing it if we could create a legacy tournament for Jarrod, which would do a lot of good and it would actually help the alternative motive, which is you get maybe a great tournament in Melbourne again. We talked about the idea and we both loved it.”