One week ago, Geoff Ogilvy was playing not just to make the FedEx Cup playoffs, but to make sure he had his PGA Tour privileges. His job was on the line, and to his great relief he got the job done.
That’s why he’s playing in the Northern Trust at Glen Oaks Club this week in the first playoff event, and that’s why he knows he can play a full schedule on PGA Tour this coming season. Never has a tie for 16th place felt so much like winning.
That’s where Ogilvy ended up in the Wyndham Championship last week, the last regular season tour event. He entered the tournament 125 in the FedEx rankings, the last position to get into the Northern Trust, the last position to secure full privileges for next season. His finish last week put him comfortably over the top in 116th place.
Being on the bubble was not the position the 2006 U.S. Open champion wanted to be in, and much of the past three seasons he’s been wandering around in the wilderness, playing nothing like the player who won his major championship at Winged Foot. Ogilvy has been forced to play the hardest game of all, the six-inch game. You know, between the ears.
He described his problem, and its solution, in philosophical terms Tuesday at Glen Oaks, then came up with an apt metaphor.
“I was trying to eat soup with a fork,” Ogilvy said. “You could do it all day, hold the fork perfectly and do that, but you are never going to be able to eat the soup, right? I’ve found my spoon.”
That spoon turned into a ladle last week with a performance decent enough to get him to Long Island. Golf is always a game of managing pressure as much as it is the shot at hand. For Ogilvy, the pressure had shifted from trying to win tournaments to trying to stay in them, and brought back some dreaded memories.
“I’m sure you’ve all talked to people who play Q-schools. It’s a pretty uncomfortable situation,” Ogilvy said. “It’s like a root canal. You’ve got to do it to get rid of the toothache, but it [stinks] the whole time you’re doing it.
“Whereas coming down the stretch at a major is as fun as it gets. It’s nervous, nerve-wracking and pressure-filled, but it’s fun pressure . . . Trying to win a tournament you have nothing to lose. Whereas playing for a card is trying not to mess up.”
He had been messing up for the better part of three seasons since the last of his eight PGA Tour victories in 2014. He just wasn’t hitting the ball the way he had for most of his career, and the more he tried to fix it through more practice, the worse it got. The ball was rattling around between his ears, the sound deafened his game. By exploring every possible avenue — swing advice, mental advice, fitness advice — he worked his way through it.
“The last few years, I’ve kind of been there in the rabbit hole looking for a way out and I feel like I’ve found it,” Ogilvy said.
And what an extraordinary place to emerge, at the luscious confines of the Glen Oaks Club. With a spoon in his back pocket.