Geoff Ogilvy was done with competitive golf. But quitting proved harder than he thought

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DETROIT — Geoff Ogilvy scrunched up his face and tilted his head slightly. He seemed just slightly hesitant to assess his two-over 74 Thursday in the opening round of the Rocket Mortgage Classic. Then he let it out.

The former U.S. Open champion has always been inclined to say what he thinks. Kind of refreshing these days.

Four years removed from his last full season, Ogilvy is making his second start on the PGA Tour after he reappeared two weeks ago at the Barracuda Championship, which happened to be his last event in America since 2018. The 45-year-old Australian has been thinking about making a return for some time, but travel restrictions in his home country due to the pandemic forced a delay.

He’s been staying busy since he moved back to Melbourne in 2018, working with the course design firm OCM, and playing a bit, including the mixed men’s and women’s event, the ISPS Handa Vic Open, earlier this year. His charitable foundation also created a new event, the Sandbelt Invitational, held over four courses in Melbourne.

Ogilvy’s lack of competitive golf has paid off in one capacity—he recently was accepted as a member at Royal Melbourne. He lives next to the prestigious club, which hosted the last Presidents Cup in 2019 and, yet, you ask, he wasn’t a member until recently?

“Yeah, they’ve never really had tour pros as members,” he explained.

But make no mistake, Ogilvy still thinks of himself as a tour pro. So he figured he’d start trying to be one again.

“Life got really complicated when I went back to Australia,” he said behind the 18th green at Detroit Golf Club on Thursday. “I’ve been doing lots of good stuff, lots of fun stuff. No shortage of things going on that I just love. It’s been great. But at some point you realize that this is what I do. You know, we all have something that we do. This is what I do.”

The difficult part is relearning how to do it somewhat as proficiently as he once did when he was winning a major—the 2006 U.S. Open at Winged Foot—plus three World Golf Championships, making Presidents Cup teams and hovering around the top of the World Ranking. He reached as high as No. 4 in 2009.

There weren’t many highlights to his opening round at the Donald Ross course, four bogeys offsetting a pair of birdies. But it’s not motor skills holding him back.

“Like, there’s golf and there’s tournament golf, right? And I’ve been playing a little bit of golf, but not a lot of tournament golf,” he said. “I think for someone at my stage, with a lot of golf under his belt, it’s more about the focus and getting into it than actually the golf. And that’s a muscle that you have to flex.

“I mean, look at Tony [Finau, who opened with a 64 to share the Day 1 lead]. How often do you see last week’s winner play well the next week straight away? It’s because they’re kind of in that last group, winning a tournament, it’s in his head space. And he’s still in it, you know, and that’s a muscle that I haven’t been flexing.”

A vice captain for Trevor Immelman at the upcoming Presidents Cup in September at Quail Hollow Club in Charlotte, Ogilvy said that part of his reason for coming back to the U.S. was for the purpose of getting acquainted with some of the players. As luck would have it—or more likely as things were arranged—he was paired in the first two rounds with Si Woo Kim of South Korea and Mackenzie Hughes of Canada, who are potential International Team competitors.

“Obviously, the group today, uh, might have been manipulated a little bit to be like that,” he said with a grin.

Ogilvy might have referred to his round as rubbish, but he was not entirely disappointed in it. “The pieces are all there,” he said. “As I said, it’s just … I’ve got to flex the right muscle a little bit. This one up here. I was probably better at the end than I was at the start. So that’s all you can ask for.”

His future competitive options are murky. Ogilvy had no plans to try to play in next week’s PGA Tour season finale, the Wyndham Championship, not wanting to take a spot from a player potentially trying to play his way into the FedEx Cup Playoffs. He is heading back to Australia, but will return for the Presidents Cup and then perhaps test the waters at a few fall events.

“The stars kind of lined up, and I got to wet my whistle, so to speak, and it’s going to make me want to do it more,” he said. “Right now, I have no idea what the next week is going to bring from a golf sense. We’ll just see sort of where I can sneak a start where I can sneak a start, what I can get into out of my category [past champions]. Maybe I can get some invites and take it from there. So we’ll I’ll just play this week and see what happens.”

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