Geoff Ogilvy says playing at the Barracuda Championship two weeks ago and the Rocket Mortgage Classic this week have wet his whistle. They are his first starts on the PGA Tour since 2018, and so everyone from Webb Simpson to caddies to Tour officials are stopping what they’re doing to say hello.
“It’s good to dip a toe in the ocean again,” he says. He shakes his head when he reports his opening-round score on Thursday at Detroit Golf Club, a 2-over 73.
“Rubbish,” he says.
He’s played plenty of golf since moving back home to Australia at Victoria Golf Club, his longtime playground in his native Melbourne, Peninsula-Kingswood, where he helped renovate the North course, and at famed Royal Melbourne, where he finally became a member. “It’s been a long-term project,” he says. “They never really had pros as members.”
But Ogilvy is quick to point at the difference between golf and tournament golf and as he put it, he hasn’t been “flexing that muscle.”
“It’s a muscle you have to flex,” he says.
Ogilvy is scheduled to be back in September for the Presidents Cup, where he will serve as “chief sandwich maker,” otherwise known as a vice captain for International Team Captain Trevor Immelman. When the biennial match is complete, he says he will attempt to play some more.
“At some point,” he says, “you realize this is what you do.”
Golfweek: During your time on the PGA Tour, myself and others always thought of you as one of the smartest, most interesting minds among players. Whose minds in the golf industry had or have always impressed you the most?
Geoff Ogilvy tees off during a practice round at the 2022 Rocket Mortgage Classic, just his second PGA Tour event since 2018. (Adam Schupak/Golfweek)
Geoff Ogilvy: I think Bob Jones had the best golf brain of all time. His books are the best; he said more with less words which is always the genius, right? He just seemed to get it and look the biggest tournament in the world, he started it, right, like his legacy is still there with that. I would love to hang out with Bob Jones to talk golf.
GWK: What do you miss from pro golf the most?
GO: I miss the trip with the boys kind of thing. By that I mean I like to just have been around with all the players and caddies and the reps and you guys (media), just the traveling circus. That and I miss contention.
I miss the last nine holes on Sunday. That’s really fun. That’s just the best. The best fun I’ve ever had is when I’ve been in the mix. Anything – it doesn’t even have to be a big tournament. That’s better, but just to be in the mix for anything, I miss that.
GWK: What’s your biggest regret in your career?
Geoff Ogilvy hoists the 2009 WGC-Accenture Match Play trophy.
GO: I wish I had not tried to get better. I wish I’d let myself get better. I think when you chase golf, you end up chasing your tail. And I think if you just let yourself improve and have a good attitude and play enough golf, you just gradually improve. When we start chasing improvement, we get in our own way a bit. And I definitely did that a few times.
GWK: What advice would you tell a talented young tour player who doesn’t want to make golf everything in his life?
GO: Find some friends and life away from the Tour. Find your football team or play guitar or get into hiking or something, a point of focus or passion that can take you away from it that you really enjoy and that’s conducive to playing golf.
I played guitar for a long time. It’s good to start off (bad) at something and try to get good at something, you know, go through the learning process. When I did something I just I kind of go all in, like a lot of guys out here do the same thing. You know, it’s kind of our makeup.
GWK: How do you see global golf evolving with LIV?
Geoff Ogilvy and Tiger Woods during the third round of the 2008 WGC-CA Championship.
GO: It’s really hard to see. I don’t have a crystal ball. It’s a very interesting time. If the U.S. was like a football league or something, the U.S. has been the dominating team, right? I don’t know, there’s a party throwing outrageous amounts of money at people, money that they can’t say no to, so forcing a change, if it all ends up like that sort of original Greg (Norman) thought, there’s 10 in the U.S. and 10 outside the U.S. and they’re the biggest tournaments, you know, and the majors I mean, I can see more big tournaments being played outside the U.S., but I still think the U.S. is the center of professional golf.
GWK: How much money, if it were 2007, would it have taken for you to leave the Tour for LIV?
GO: Yeah, would have taken a chunk of change. But the numbers they’re talking about would have been very, very compelling. I mean, if the numbers that we’re hearing are true, that’s generational wealth. It wasn’t ever put on the table for me, so I don’t know how I would have taken it to be honest. But I know if someone put a nine-figure check on my desk, it’d be hard to say no, it really would. Saying that in 2007 when I had a whole lot more in front of me and stuff, I don’t know, it would have been a really tough decision, for sure.
GWK: Do you and fellow Aussie Wayne Grady (who came down hard on The Shark) share an opinion of Greg Norman?
GO: I’ve always got along great with Greg. He’s been super generous to me at times, the period when he was our Presidents Cup captain was a three or four-year period, we were pretty close, stayed at his house. I haven’t spent that much time with him in the last decade, so I’ll stay neutral on that one. But my experiences with Greg have been great.
GWK: You have dabbled in TV. Would you be interested in broadcasting LIV Golf?
Geoff Ogilvy during a practice round for the SBS Championship.
GO: If they offered me a nine-figure check, maybe. No, I sort of dipped my toe in the ocean a little bit and I don’t mind it. If I’m going to travel to golf tournaments, I’d rather be trying to play them. I’m sure that might change at some point. But at this point, if I’m going to be traveling, I want to go play.
GWK: Does the team concept of LIV Golf appeal to you at all?
GO: I think the team thing is cool. I think that’s the coolest thing that they’ve done, actually. I think it’s fairly evident that team sports are the biggest sports in the world, always. It gives people something to follow, they can create some loyalty and some sort of hype around groups. I think it’s a good idea. I don’t know if putting it inside of stroke-play tournaments makes sense.
I’d love to see a team season. I’d love to see three or four weeks where it was like teams of five playing five against five match plays against each other for like a month or something. It was like a table and there was playoffs and all that I think that would be really, really cool, right? Take the whole scoring and individual thing out of it just make it straight team because the most compelling events in golf, outside of the majors is the Ryder Cup. Even the Presidents Cup gets everybody on the edge of their seat, you know, like, more than individual golf does. So any sort of creative, interesting team golf would be well received and fun to play, you know?
GWK: Presuming the majors end up keeping LIV guys out (or force them to qualify), will that be enough to keep the young stars on board?
GO: If they can’t get into majors, that would be pretty hard to leave. I get it for the Martin Kaymers and the Henrik Stensons, they’ve had their run. Like someone of my age, maybe just piling up the bank account is a more attractive thing than playing four hard courses a year, you know? That will be a massive dent to LIV’s plans. I think if you can’t get in the majors, that would be damaging for them.
GWK: What would you change to LIV to make it more attractive to the Jordan’s and JT’s and Jon Rahm’s that would really cement its success?
Geoff Ogilvy won the last U.S. Open played at Winged Foot, back in 2006. Photo by Frank Becerra Jr./The Journal News
GO: I think the only way you get those guys, is if the PGA Tour and LIV can come to some sort of agreement. I’m on both of these guys sides. I mean, I completely understand most of the guys who have gone why they’ve gone. I completely understand why JT and Jordan and all that aren’t going. There needs to be some friendliness between the two operations, I think for those guys, because they’ve got too much to lose.
GWK: Should LIV and the PGA Tour merge?
GO: I don’t know. I think there needs to be a sit down at some point. A fractured sport isn’t as good as a sport that’s all together. And as much as some people might not like it, LIV’s not going anywhere. They’re going to be here. Finding a way to coexist would be the best solution.
GWK: Should PGA Tour and DP World Tour merge?
GO: Well, they’re kind of almost are, aren’t they? They’re certainly allies and as the months go by they are strengthening their sort of bond. I think golf should be together as a sport, you know. There’d be no reason why hypothetically, you couldn’t have an amazing FedEx cup season and then have a couple of other seasons outside of that. The Fedex Cup doesn’t need to be 52 weeks? There’d be an argument to say if you compress it a little bit, maybe it would be even more compelling. You know, football sort of comes and then goes, and then everyone is starved for football. I think in an ideal world this didn’t happen, but it did happen and they’re not going to go anywhere. I think at some point, they need to find a way to coexist.
GWK: How disappointed are you that the PGA Tour and LPGA Tour haven’t formed a team event yet?
GEELONG, AUSTRALIA – FEBRUARY 06: Golfers Geoff Ogilvy and Karrie Webb of Australia pose prior to the ISPS Handa Vic Open at 13th Beach Golf Club on February 06, 2019 in Geelong, Australia. (Photo by Michael Dodge/Getty Images)
GO: A little disappointed, actually. I think it’s not for every week, but the weeks that it happens in Australia, they play the Vic Open, they play two different tournaments – a men’s Open and a women’s Open over two courses at the venue at the same time, men’s group, women’s group, men’s group, women’s group, it’s fantastic. The guys’ love playing in it, the girls’ love playing in it. The fans have got two different games to see for a direct comparison. I think it makes people respect the ladies’ game a bit more. It makes us respect the ladies’ game more. We get something out of how they go about it. They get something about watching how we go about it. A concurrent tournament is great. I think anything together would be amazing. I think it’d be well received, and it would be great.
GWK: Do you think women should be integrated into the Presidents Cup to make it a more competitive and better event?
GO: I don’t know. I think that you could probably have an event that was PGA-LPGA versus the rest of the world men and women or something, you know, international versus America. I think Presidents Cup stands up pretty well. It’s a pretty solid event. I don’t think the Presidents Cup needs enhancing. But that doesn’t mean more team events wouldn’t be good.
GWK: How much time do you invest in thinking about the Presidents Cup?
GO: A fair bit. I mean, Trevor (Immelman), we’ve had the WhatsApp thing going for, it’s almost a continuation of the one from last time. The banter never really stopped. It slowed down there for about a year, but the last 12 months has been winding up. And he’s really keen. So a fair bit. I mean, we get the list that he sends us every Monday and we sort of discuss what’s going on. There’s been some stress on our side and probably the US side about losing players along the way, not really knowing what’s going to happen. So yeah, we think about it a lot. Talk about Charlotte, talking about the course, who we think should be in the team, the ones who aren’t in the team and talking about picks and stuff already.
GWK: How much do you think Adam Scott, Cam Smith, Marc Leishman and Hideki Matsuyama care about the Presidents Cup?
GO: Lots. Scottie, Leash, Cam, Hideki loves it. I can’t have deep conversations with Hideki, obviously. But Scotty is very passionate about it. Cam was jumping out of his skin last time around Melbourne. Leash loves it, like loves it. They’re fantastic. If you had 12 of them, you’d be great. I mean, most guys who play it love it. It’s hard not to love those tournaments. But Adam has been doing it a really long time. He hasn’t won one. Yeah, they love it. They’re really into it.
GWK: What the hell happened to your career?
Mamaroneck, UNITED STATES: Geoff Ogilvy of Australia celebrates a putt on the 17th green during the final round play at the 106th US Open Golf Tournament 18 June 2006 at the Winged Foot Golf Club in Maraoneck, New York. Ogilvy won the championship after Phil Mickelson of the US double bogeyed the 18th hole. AFP PHOTO/Tim SLOAN (Photo credit should read TIM SLOAN/AFP via Getty Images)
GO: I answered that a little bit earlier. I started trying to get better as opposed to letting myself get better.
GWK: Did you have some injuries that contributed to your slide?
GO: Nah, nothing really bad that messed me up. You start dabbling with the golf swing, I started hitting way more balls and playing less holes. Everyone’s built different, but I started chasing golf swing and putting stroke as opposed to just going out and playing for 20 bucks every day. That’s what I needed to do.
GWK: Where are you on rolling back the ball?
GO: It’s a very interesting thing. You have to remember (points to hat with Titleist on it).
I’m not against the discussion continuing. It’ll be a shame when the best golf courses can no longer be used on Tour. That’s the golf that you show to the world, right, and if we’re not going to any of those courses, that’s a loss.
If golf has always been at Shinnecock off the original tee, Royal Melbourne, Riviera, a lot of these places, we wouldn’t have chased distance as much. We would have been out in the range trying to hit fades and draws and learning how to spin it. We would have demanded Titleist make us a ball that spins more because we needed it to stop. When we gave everybody 8,000-yard courses that were soft and rewarded smashing it, what are pros gonna go do? They’re gonna go work on what makes their job easier and what makes them better at their job and they’re gonna go smash it. So, now everybody goes down to the range and tries to smash it as hard as they can. That wasn’t like that before.
So, it’s too holistic to just point at the ball. I think you’ve got to look at the whole sport, like what game are you asking people to play? And if you asked us to play Detroit Golf Club every week in firm conditions, we wouldn’t hit it 350. We just wouldn’t. We’d ask for different stuff. And the equipment would evolve in a different way. Our equipment just evolved the way that the golf course has been asking for. So I think it’s a discussion that needs to keep happening, but I think it has to be a holistic approach. It has to be the golf course. It has to be everything.
GWK: Do you want to be best architect of your generation?
Geoff Ogilvy is sporting a mustache nowadays. Can anyone answer why?
GO: I wouldn’t think of it that way. I just want people to really enjoy playing golf and want to play golf more after they play a golf course I designed.
GWK: What specifically about Rees Jones courses didn’t you like?
GO: When did I say that?
GWK: You and Phil Mickelson were particularly harsh after Cog Hill re-opened?
GO: It was a bit penal. And there wasn’t as much thought involved, like, sort of the Cog Hill, Torrey Pines model with bunkers. It was just if you miss, you’re dead. Let’s make it narrow. Let’s make it long and if you miss you’re dead. It was just making it hard for hard sake. Hard isn’t necessarily good and easy isn’t necessarily bad. I mean, the Old Course in a lot of ways you could argue it’s the best and most important course in the world and who cares what they shoot? Augusta, when they go 16-17-18 under, it’s so much fun to watch. It’s got nothing to do with the difficulty, you know. If it’s too hard, it’s just boring. You know, I just think he tried to make it too hard.
GWK: What do you expect out of your architectural career?
GO: We’re starting to get some really nice properties. Medinah is a really big job for us. It’s only the golf tragics who even notice what’s going on, right. But when you get a course like Medinah, it’ll get noticed, you know, one way or the other. So that’s really good. We’ve got a couple other really great sites in the U.S. that are sort of getting going. We just want to do great golf courses. When you redo a golf course, which has been majority of the industry at least for us for the last 10 years, it’s a fantastic feeling to go back to Shady Oaks, and the member calls and emails say it’s so much more fun than it was before. You know, that’s success. I just want people to like golf as much as I do.
GWK: Where do you see yourself in 10 years?
Geoff Ogilvy’s win at the SBS Championship extended the American losing streak in Kapalua.
GO: Hopefully, still playing a bit of golf, Champions Tour if it’s still a thing. Yeah, building courses and playing Champions Tour. Kids will be all gone by then, so, I’ll be back to being at the golf course every day.