Ogilvy heads into Players weekend in top 10

Geoff Ogilvy during Friday's second round of the PGA Tour's 2014 Players Championship at TPC Sawgrass.
Geoff Ogilvy during Friday's second round of the PGA Tour's 2014 Players Championship at TPC Sawgrass. ( Associated Press )

Saturday, May 10, 2014

PONTE VEDRA BEACH, Fla. – Slowly, perhaps surely, Geoff Ogilvy’s game is showing a pulse again.

The 2006 U.S. Open champion has been mired in a prolonged slump until recently. A seven-time winner on the PGA Tour, the Australian has only two Tour top 10s since September 2011. His tie for 11th at the Valero Texas Open in late March was his only finish better than 29th in more than a year.

Ogilvy showed more good form last week at the Wells Fargo. He tied for 14th there despite three-putting the final two holes, a frustrating finish that led to his breaking his putter in two and burying the shaft in the ground near the 18th green.

Playing a rare fourth consecutive week, he has continued the improvement this week at the Players. A birdie-eagle surge on Nos. 1-2 right after he turned Friday put him in a temporary tie for second, but bogeys at Nos. 6-8 dropped him into a tie for ninth at 5-under 139.

He’ll take it, and not just because he has to.

“I’d like to be a couple of shots better, but it’s a four-round tournament and I’m happy with where I’m at,” he said.

Ogilvy, who turns 37 next month, said he developed bad habits with his setup and pivot last season, when he made only nine cuts in 19 Tour starts. Plus that wicked short game that helped him win the Open regressed. He ranked 155th or worse last season in strokes gained-putting, greens in regulation and all-around. This year, Ogilvy ranks 119th or worse in putting, scrambling and driving accuracy.

The putting problems messed with his head, as they are prone to do in golf. He has talked about how good putting can completely change a golfer’s outlook and ease the mental demons.

But now there’s light again. You can see it in his play and hear it in his words.

“I’ve been playing better all around,” Ogilvy said Friday after shooting 70 on a windy afternoon. “I’m doing everything a little better. I’m hitting it better. I’m not holing everything, but I’m putting tidily. I’m gradually getting better and better, and it’s starting to show up on the scoreboard.”

He said his work on the greens has improved during the last few weeks because of practice and a mental shift.

“Sometimes I was trying to control it too much,” he said of putting. “You’ve got to let it go. And you’ve got to practice letting it go. The putting definitely is on an upswing.”

He played well until those bogeys on Nos. 6-8 on his final nine Friday. After the birdie at No. 1 (2 feet) and eagle at No. 2 (19 feet) moved him into that T-2, Ogilvy missed birdie chances at Nos. 3-4 from 6 and 15 feet, respectively.

Three consecutive missed greens in regulation fueled the bogey streak. He was unable to chip to closer than 11 feet on those holes coming in.

“I just hit a couple of wrong clubs that led to bad shots,” he said.

The good news for him is those bad shots are coming less frequently now. His fall was such that he dropped from fourth in the world ranking (early 2009) to his current 152nd.

“When you used to play well regularly, it’s frustrating,” Ogilvy said in January when he returned for the start of his 2014 season. “You start enjoying it less, and the game becomes harder. But I feel I’m on the right track.”

Apparently so.

Golfweek.com readers: We value your input and welcome your comments, but please be respectful in this forum.