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Geoff Ogilvy (JOHN LEHMANN/The Globe and Mail)
Geoff Ogilvy (JOHN LEHMANN/The Globe and Mail)

Rubenstein: More to Geoff Ogilvy than playing golf Add to ...

Geoff Ogilvy finished second to Michael Thompson in the Honda Classic. Ogilvy, the 2006 U.S. Open champion, advanced from 79th in the world ranking to 47th, which gets him into this week’s WGC-Cadillac Championship at Doral in Miami. If he remains in the top 50 up to the Masters, he’ll be in the season’s first major at a course he understands and enjoys studying – he’s played the last seven Masters and his best finish was a T-4 in 2011. I, like many others, think Ogilvy, a 35-year-old Australian, is one of the game’s most thoughtful golfers. It’s always a pleasure to hear what he has to say about the game, particularly course architecture. With Michael Clayton, he is part of the Australian design firm Ogilvy Clayton . If you’re interested in architecture, you will enjoy spending some time at the website. Meanwhile, I’ve assembled some of what Ogilvy has said about design in various interviews over the years. Here’s a small collection.

March 10, 2001, Honda Classic, TPC at Heron Bay, Coral Springs, Fla . (a course most PGA Tour players did not like. Ogilvy saw something different in the course that Mark McCumber designed for the high winds that often occur in South Florida in March) [This is] a different kind of fun. The grueling wind, bouncing greens, having a lot of low shots can be fun.

Oct. 5, 2002, Michelob Championship at Kingsmill, Williamsburg, VA .: I don’t mean to sell Kingsmill short, but most golf courses on this tour are pretty similar really, in the setup anyway. The sand is pretty similar, the rough is generally similar, the greens are all the same speed. It’s really just the same yardage in a different state, not because of the course but the way they set it up.

May 8, 2004, Wachovia Championship, Quail Hollow, Charlotte, NC.: It’s one of the best that we play. It’s a fantastic course. You go out for a walk and enjoy it. It’s just a nice place to walk around, even if there were no golf holes on it. The greens are fantastic. It’s just a nice place. It’s long, but it’s not crazy long for me. I guess some guys are struggling with the length. Nice par 3s and nice par 5s, everything about it, it’s just a nice place, good holes, it’s not overbunkered, it’s not overwatered, the greens aren’t too big. Everything that sometimes can make these new courses not so good, this one does it all perfectly.

Aug. 14, 2005, PGA Championship, Baltusrol, Springfield, NJ.: It’s not a putting contest. It’s a contest from tee to green and everything is tested today equally. A regular tournament when the greens are soft, guys are shooting 25 under par and it’s really whoever putts best wins. Here it’s the whole package and I get more fired up and enjoy that sort of golf more. I seem to keep my head more when I make a bogey and don’t lose it as much as I do in a normal week.

March 8, 2006, Honda Classic, Country Club at Mirasol, Palm Beach Gardens: It’s a golf course I think that tests every part of the game. I mean, when everyone turned up here, I don’t think it was everyone’s favorite golf course at first but I think it’s grown on people, because you have to hit the ball well, you have to chip well and you have to putt well and you have to use your brain.

There’s a lot of golf courses that we play that it really doesn’t matter what you do the first two shots on the hole. It’s really the second two shots that matter, the third and the fourth shot, because the greens will be soft and you can hit the green from anywhere out of the rough and just swing away and go at it and not really use your brain too much.

Here you have to hit some solid shots, and if you can’t hold shots into the wind, you can’t get on the green, and you have to be able to move it both ways and you have to be a good chipper around here. Not that I’m great at any of that, I just think my game, I’m okay at everything. I don’t think I have anything really, really great, and I don’t think I have anything really, really bad and I think that’s what this course asks for.

June 16, 2006, U.S. Open, Winged Foot, Mamaroneck, NY . (after first round): For some reason, I seem to handle adversity better in a major. I seem to have been, anyway. If I’m 2 over after 5 in a regular Tour event, I’m probably not the most cheerful guy in the world, but I was quite fine today. I was not stressing at all because that’s kind of what you do.

I don’t know, I think four times a year you’ve got to have your best you’ve got to bring your brain and your patience, and if you don’t, you’re not going to do any good. You’ve got a choice, and I’m trying to have a better one.

June 18, 2006, after winning U.S. Open: The greens here are so well-designed, You’ve just got to play the hole backwards before you start. You’ve got to know if you’re going to miss the tee shots you’re going to miss the shots because they’re narrow, extremely narrow. So if you’re going to miss it, you’ve got to miss it on the correct side so you can run it up near the green to a spot where you’re going to have a chance of getting it up and down.

On a good golf course you have to think backwards like that. Augusta National you have to think backwards. I like a golf course that makes you think that way. St. Andrews makes you do that.

I enjoy that aspect of golf, you know, just really plotting my way around there and thinking about it.

There was not like a light bulb, it wasn’t like an epiphany or anything. It was just a gradual realization that for the most part the best players out here are the best because they’re the best up here. It’s just the maturing process. If you’re at 18, you don’t want to hear that; you just want to hear you’ve got to hit the ball good and then it’ll take care of itself. You go through and you play with guys, you do it yourself, you kind of self-destruct and you get down on yourself.

And then you play with guys and see it from another perspective and see another guy self-destruct and kind of get in his own way, if you like. The longer you play, you get older and wiser and smarter and start realizing that it’s not very constructive to have anything but an exemplary attitude.

Tiger Woods is the best golfer in the world because he’s got the best brain. He hits the ball well, but there’s plenty of guys that hit the ball well. But he’s got the best head. He’s probably got the second best head in history next to Jack, and it might turn out that Tiger’s might be more impressive than Jack’s. Nicklaus’ was obviously the best because his brain was the best, no doubt.

You just slowly come across the realization that you’d better be smarter about it, I guess. I don’t know.

April 6, 2010, pre-Masters, comparing Augusta National to Royal Melbourne: Yeah, it is. I mean, an Australian Open setup, say, at Royal Melbourne is similar that if you miss it in the wrong spot on the green, you have absolutely no chance. You are just looking to get the chip shot on the green, which happens out here if you miss it in the wrong spot. If you miss it in the right spot, it’s really quite simple and I guess that’s the beauty of golf courses like these is that they invite you to try to work out where those good spots are and tempt you to learn where the bad ones are.

It’s spacious off the tee like Royal Melbourne is. There’s a bit more water and some tricky wind directions out here. It’s always, you change direction suddenly quite a lot out here and it does do some funny things to the trees, the wind here, so the unpredictability of the wind is more a factor than Australia. In Australia it would be constant in one direction. As far as the setup around the greens, it’s definitely the same type of approach that you have to take to it.

March 3, 2013, Honda Classic, PGA National Champion, after finishing second: Yeah, it’s a pretty impressive effort (referring to Thompson’s win). There’s a lot of golf courses on Tour that it might be easy to close out a golf tournament, or easier, but this is not one of them. This is probably one of the hardest.

RELATED LINK: More blogs from Lorne Rubenstein

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Lorne Rubenstein has written a golf column for The Globe and Mail since 1980. He has played golf since the early 1960s and was the Royal Canadian Golf Association’s first curator of its museum and library at the Glen Abbey Golf Club in Oakville, Ontario and the first editor of Score, Canada’s Golf Magazine, where he continues to write a column and features. He has won four first-place awards from the Golf Writers Association of America, one National Magazine Award in Canada, and he won the award for the best feature in 2009 from the Golf Journalists Association of Canada. Lorne has written 12 books, including Mike Weir: The Road to the Masters (2003); A Disorderly Compendium of Golf, with Jeff Neuman (2006); This Round’s on Me (2009); and the latest Moe & Me: Encounters with Moe Norman, Golf’s Mysterious Genius (2012). He is a member of the Ontario Golf Hall of Fame and the Canadian Golf Hall of Fame. Lorne can be reached at rube@sympatico.ca . You can now follow him on Twitter @lornerubenstein

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