Ogilvy the last man standing in historic US Open
BY Bruce Young | US PGA Tour | 2006 US Open | Wrap | 19 Jun 2006
Geoff Ogilvy, at the age of just 29 years and 7 days has not only secured his future in the game and a place in golfing history by winning the US Open but he has also gone a long way creating a new level of interest in the game in his homeland of Australia.
Ogilvy has now created impetus and momentum for the growth of Australian golf at a time when there is a climate of change in the organisation and administration of the game in that country. He has done his part now it is up to others to capitalise on the increased profile his victory will bring.
The Adelaide born Victorian’s narrow one shot victory over Phil Mickelson, Colin Montgomerie and Jim Furyk was achieved in the most gripping and gut wrenching of finishes as both Mickelson and Montgomerie self destructed with double bogeys at the final hurdle, the 72nd hole.
Ogilvy had played a beautiful tournament for so long but four bogeys in seven holes from the 8th today threatened to destroy his chances. This is Winged Foot though and when the ultimate pressure was applied it was perhaps ironic that it was the more experienced Mickelson and Montgomerie who faltered.
As Ogilvy played the final hole he trailed by one and it appeared that he would need a birdie to force the issue with Mickelson, who was in the process of producing another Houdini act at the 17th to make par to stay one ahead. Ogilvy had himself made a miraculous par save at the 17th when he holed it from just off the green after a wild drive had forced him to struggle at the par four.
At the last Ogilvy drove it long along the left hand tree line and although he finished in the fairway, he was unlucky to find himself all but in a sand filled divot. From there he hit a very good short iron right on line but it failed to clear the false front of the green and fed back down the hill. He was left with a difficult pitch but he picked it beautifully and it came to rest just five feet behind the hole. He was faced with a tricky par saving putt. It was crucial that he would make that to force Mickelson to attack with his second if he wanted to win the tournament without the gamble of a playoff. He did just that and so it was over to Mickelson.
“I thought I was in a bit of trouble,” said Ogilvy later referring to the situation he found himself in at the 17th. “Obviously I was way in the boonies, had a terrible lie, tried to go for a bit too much but thought I had to at that point. I thought 4 over was going to be the number because Monty just made birdie on 17, and I thought one of them was going to finish at about 3 or 4. Left it in the rough and then missed the green. Yeah, wow, chipped it in. Just scary. What do you say? I mean, a shot that you wait your whole life to chip it in in a situation like that when you need to, and then you do.”
“Monty was on the fairway on 18, and I thought he’s going to hit the green and make a 4 and I’ll have to make a birdie. I hit the best drive I hit all week right there. It wasn’t in a divot; it was my end of a divot, so it didn’t really affect how I hit the ball. It might have slowed the ball down because of the sand, but in the air I thought it was going pretty close, I have to say. I was pretty happy with my second shot.”
“The first time all week it kind of hits and spins back. There have been some big bounces out here so it’s weird. If it flies another foot, it’s right down the hill. I thought I’ll get this up and down and I’ll lose by a shot, that’s what I thought. It was a tricky chip shot, and I hit a good shot and made the putt, and I thought 2nd in the Open is pretty good. That’s a good spot.”
“Phil is probably going to think about that one for a while because that’s hard to swallow. I thought I would make a playoff because 18 is a hard hole, but I never thought that would happen.”
“It’s pretty scary, added Ogilvy referring to the fact that he is the first Australian to win a major in eleven years. "I knew it would come, and the Australian press has been starting to ask the question, when is it going to happen. I honestly didn’t think it would be me. I thought Scottie (Adam Scott) or Stuey (Stuart Appleby) or a few other guys in front of me. Adam has been up there, and the last few years we’ve had some top 4 or 5s in probably every major every year, Hensby and Pamps (Pampling) had a good Open, and the British Open, we’ve always had someone there. At the PGA, we always seem to have a guy there, so it was only a matter of time. I didn’t think it was going to be me, but you never think it’s going to be you. It’s kind of bizarre."
Mickelson, who had driven the ball so badly all day, was again under the gun on the last tee. His drive was left and came to rest in a clearing and in a reasonably good lie. As he contemplated his second shot Ogilvy made his par saving putt and it was apparent that if Mickelson was to win in regulation time he needed a par to do so. There was an option to hit back onto the fairway but the gambler in Mickelson felt the risk was worth it and so took on the trees between his ball and the green. He clearly mishit the shot and caught the trees. Now par was all but out of the question and bogey was looking to be a very good result. With an eight iron for his third, he cleared everything but the left hand greenside bunker and when it plugged, with only half the ball above the surface, the task was getting even greater. His fourth shot from the bunker careered across the green and into the rough beyond and in the end, with his mind no doubt in tatters, Mickelson somehow salvaged a double bogey to share second place with Colin Montgomerie.
“I still am in shock that I did that,” said Mickelson at the post round press conference, referring to his demise. “I just can’t believe that I did that. I am such an idiot. I just couldn’t hit a fairway all day. I tried to go to my bread and butter shot, a baby carve slice on 18 and just get it in the fairway, and I missed it left. It was still okay, wasn’t too bad. I just can’t believe I couldn’t par the last hole. It really stings.”
“As a kid I dreamt of winning this tournament. I came out here and worked hard all four days, haven’t made a bogey all week and then bogeyed the last hole. Even a bogey would have gotten me into a playoff. I just can’t believe I did that.”
This week Mickelson did away with his two driver policy which he had so successfully employed at the Bell South and at the Masters but there were not doubt many occasions both yesterday and today where he would have been ruing that decision.
His driving today was shocking and he seemed unable to control the shape of the ball all day. That he was able to hang onto his score as well as he had speaks volumes for his all round brilliance. It also speaks for his imaginative play but in the end if may well have been his imagination that got the better of him with some rather odd decision making late in the day.
Montgomerie too fell victim to the final hole when, after driving it in the fairway, he chunked his second short and right of the green and was left with an almost impossible task to save par. He spoke later of the indecision in club selection with that approach. He pitched it well past the flag and when he three putted for double bogey his challenge was all but gone. The Scot had played beautifully all day to keep himself in the mix and when he holed a 45 foot left to right putt at the 17th it seemed his time might have finally arrived. It was not to be and whether he will again have such a chance remains to be seen. This though was an opportunity too good to miss.
“This is as difficult as it gets,” said Montgomerie referring to the pain he was feeling. “You wonder sometimes why you put yourself through this. I doubled the last there and Phil holed a very good putt to double the last. It’s a very tricky hole, but it shouldn’t be that tricky from the fairway. I did the hard thing, hit the fairway. That’s my strength normally. I hit the wrong club for my second shot. We put ourselves into poor position after two shots, and then it was difficult from then on because that green is very fast.”
“Geoff holed a great putt for a par to avoid a four way playoff there, and all credit to him. He was the last man standing, really. It was the last man in.”
“At my age I’ve got to think positively. I’m 43 next week, and it’s nice I can come back to this tournament and do well again, and I look forward to coming back here again next year and try another U.S. Open – Disaster (laughter).”
Furyk will also be thinking back to how might have better played the final hole. He found the left hand greenside trap with his approach and hit a brilliant bunker shot to four feet. If he could make that putt he likely knew he still had a chance. He missed it and his chance was gone. He will also look back on a horrible three putt at the 15th from 25 feet after leaving his first putt some eight feet short.
Padraig Harrington will look back on the blood he spilt over the final three holes on both Saturday and Sunday and wonder what might have been. It does not require a mathematician to work out what his triple bogey at the last on day three and his closing three bogeys today have cost him in terms of money and his chance at the title. That he finished just two shots out of the lead highlights just how costly that closing stretch was.
Nick O’Hern did what we have come to expect from the left hander, namely he ground it out on a golf course that required just that. His brilliant start today had him at four under though eight holes and at that stage he was at five over for the tournament and very much moving into contention. The golf course finally caught up with him but his performance highlights the amazing leaps he has made in his status in recent times. He finished in a share of sixth, his best ever finish in a major.
Of the other Australians Allenby played a solid last round to finish 16th, Adam Scott was 21st while Rod Pampling and Scott Hend were 32nd. Scott had a disappointing week after arriving here as perhaps Australia’s hope but once he gain he has not impressed in a major. This was though a better showing for him in this tournament and 21st is never all that bad in a major.
Scott Hend had a great week considering his status in the game and although he battled over the weekend he stood up to the rigours of this event more than most would have given credit for.
Photo – WireImage