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Tuesday, June 16, 2009Geoff Ogilvy
Geoff Ogilvy

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BETH MURRISON: Good afternoon, again, from the 2009 U.S. Open here at Bethpage in New York. We are honored to have with us this afternoon Geoff Ogilvy, the 2006 U.S. Open Champion. Geoff has had a nice season so far in 2009 with two victories on the PGA TOUR. He's playing in his sixth U.S. Open. Did not play in 2002.

Can you talk a little bit about your first impressions of Bethpage?

GEOFF OGILVY: Yeah, it's obviously, I'm sure you've been hearing so far, that it's incredibly long. Really difficult probably because of the length.

I was here actually two weeks ago, two weeks ago yesterday for my first ever look at it. It was playing a firmer, few tees up run it down on 6 and 4 was playing quite short. I thought this is long, but it's not crazy. But since it's raining, the ball's kind of hitting and stopping on the fairways. And I hit a wood into multiple holes par‑4s this morning. 3‑ and 4‑irons; we're wearing them out this morning.

We don't do it regularly. If we play it all the way back it's going to be incredibly long and difficult because of the length.

But then it's a stunning piece of land and it's a stunning property and it's a pretty enjoyable place to be. So looking forward to it.

BETH MURRISON: You're known as bit of a fan of architecture and design. Can you talk just a little bit about how you feel about this course in terms of those two things?

GEOFF OGILVY: Yeah, it's a beautiful place. It's a stunning piece of land. As I said, it's got a really cool look with all the fescue grass that's, thank goodness, mostly out of play.

And some raggedy edges to the bunkers that we don't see very often; cool old greens. 14 is a cool, odd‑shaped green with spots everywhere you can put pins a lot of fun stuff there.

When you cross over the road to get to the 15th tee, that's a pretty impressive moment of the day. There's not many golf courses where you have ‑‑ you walk into a place you can see all the last four holes in front of you. And 17's right there, and 15 and 16 you can see the whole thing.

It does feel like you go on an adventure and you come back for the crescendo to the finish. It's a pretty cool routing like that. No, it's a really nice place.

It's really nice that the average guy gets to play it, be it through a lot of hard work to get to play it. But most courses, most great courses are inaccessible for 99 percent of the people; so the fact that this one is accessible is pretty cool.

Q. Can you think of any other Open you played in where the setup had such an influence; when the setup of a course has an influence, with the scoring you might have a legitimate chance this week?

GEOFF OGILVY: I haven't been to many courses that simply ‑‑ I mean, the pin positions won't change it too much.

But the tee positions, it's amazing what you could do. You could change the course completely by going forward on a lot of tees or going way back on a lot of tees. I guess if you went on the back edge of every single tee, you can count out a lot of guys because it's going to be too long.

But if they balance it out, go forward on a lot of tees, some holes go from really, really hard to quite simple, if you move it forward 40 yards because the forced carry is going away and hit a 7‑iron or instead of a 3‑iron or 5‑wood.

At Oakmont you move the tee, it doesn't matter. The trouble's all at the green. The difficulty of Bethpage is how long it is. And it's not really I guess that hard if you hit it on the fairway, but length becomes hard when you miss the fairway; now you've got 3‑irons out of the rough and 3‑irons aren't designed to go out of the rough very well.

150 yards from the green in the rough, the rough's not that bad but when you're 220 like you are out here a lot of times you don't have a chance.

So the length makes it a difficult thing. They've got so much control over how long the course plays that you could really change up how it played day‑to‑day and some guys, bring some guys into the tournament and take some guys out of the tournament. It's interesting like that.

Q. How do you play it?

GEOFF OGILVY: How will I set it up? I balance it out. Length is a legitimate part of golf these days. And hitting it long should be an advantage at times. But I would set it out with a bit more interest. I'd move the par‑3s they're incredibly long. If you play it on the back. Mess with the par‑3s and holes that are interesting if you move them up.

9 is probably more interesting, because it brings in fairway bunker that brings in a different decision into play. I'd mess around with some par 4 tees. I don't know. I don't know the course well enough. But I'd definitely move the par‑3s around quite a lot. Play them short one day and long another day, and I'd move some of the longer par‑4s up every now and then to create a bit of indecision.

Q. Sounds like as a guy who is coming here for the first time, that this may be might not be as hard of a course as you might have envisioned or heard of. Is that fair? It seems like you're saying that the only real obstacle is that it's just long.

GEOFF OGILVY: That's the obstacle. But Oakmont is hard because the greens are crazy. Augusta is hard because the greens are crazy. This course the greens are relatively puttable. The hard part is getting it to the green in regulation or on the putting surface in regulation.

The length makes it hard, as I said, not purely because the driver/3‑iron hole is that incredibly hard; but if you miss your driver, now it's really hard.

And nearly every hole out there except for 2 or 3, you have to fly it on the green. The first hole you can tumble run one up there from the rough, but nearly every other hole you've got to fly it on the green.

If you're in the rough 220 yards away, these guys are getting pretty good at hacking 5‑woods and hybrids running them up near the green; you can't do it because there's bunkers and rough in front of nearly every green. That makes it really hard, but it would be less hard if it wasn't as long. It's the lengths that accentuates what the greens are.

It's a tough course. It would be tough not that long, but it's really, puts another whole other level on because of the length. If the ball is rolling 30 yards, it would be different, but it would be hard to stop on the greens because the greens would be firm. So there's a give‑and‑take.

Q. How rough is the actual rough? And have you ever played a course that had a big, giant warning sign in front of it as this one does, which I'm guessing you saw at some point?

GEOFF OGILVY: I've seen the tee‑shirt out there a few times.

The rough ‑‑ firstly, this is probably the only golf course with a warning at the first tee. I'm sure someone will come up with a stat, there's another one. But I've seen lots of rules written down on the first tees but I've never seen warnings.

The rough is tricky. The rough around the greens is a different grass than the rest of the fairways. It's not that long, but it's absurdly thick and wiry and gnarly, and any other ‑‑ insert any other word for gnarly rough.

The fairway rough is thick, but pretty doable, the first cut, whatever they call it, the two‑and‑a‑half‑inch or whatever it is. That's actually pretty reasonable. You'll see guys hitting 5‑woods and rescues and up to 5‑irons and stuff and you'll have some good and bad lies, which I think is good. And then the five or six yards off the fairway when the heavy stuff starts is really bad. That's the spot not to go. That's the wedge back out onto the fairway.

Then the fescue stuff, that's going to be lost balls and all sorts of stuff. But it's pretty much out of play for the most part.

So the rough is ‑‑ the stuff around the greens is really, it's not long as I said but it's really thick. I don't know what sort of grass it is, but it's thicker than the fairway grass. I don't know what it is; or a different strain of something, because it's gnarly.

Q. You tend to do well on more difficult tracks. Do you think that this one being, A, difficult, and B, you having a typically high fly ball, hitting it fairly high and long, will make it easier for you than the average guy?

GEOFF OGILVY: Long and high is an advantage here for sure, because there's long shots you have to fly on the green and stop. At the moment they're relatively easy to stop because they're soft.

But that might or might not change depending on the weather. But I think it's a little bit of an advantage. Some places where it's really windy and crazy, hitting it high is really a disadvantage. But here it's probably not going to get too windy. So hitting it high is probably a reasonable chance. Everyone's got 5‑woods and hybrids and they're probably all hitting the manufacturers from the fairways and rescues at the moment, because it's going to be a very valuable club this week.

And the guy who gets it up‑and‑down from 100 yards is going to be in good shape, because there's going to be a lot of hacking out of the rough to just short, try get them up‑and‑down for pars. There's going to be a lot of that stuff.

It's definitely a course different from other courses.

Q. Back in New York since Winged Foot, because it's the Open, is there any nostalgia, any similar feelings you had going into the Open?

GEOFF OGILVY: There's similar feelings, because that worked out quite well. Walking around I'm signing a lot of tickets, Winged Foot tickets. And Winged Foot flags and I was on the 15th hole, when you were playing there, when you were at Winged Foot on Sunday.

And I've met 10 of the people who walked around inside the ropes the last day. I don't know how many people we had. But I keep meeting people who were there at the time; and "I saw you there earlier in the week" and "you signed my boy's hat," and hundreds of them. Everywhere out there. So that's the cool thing, all these people who were there.

Q. Ten people in your group?

GEOFF OGILVY: So far. I've met a lot of people who were inside the ropes with me. Maybe different days. Maybe there's some exaggeration going on out there. But it's really, really cool.

So just meeting everyone's got a Winged Foot story. Not everybody but a lot of people I met have Winged Foot stories that makes the nostalgia better.

Q. What about the state of your game, as far as ‑‑

GEOFF OGILVY: It's pretty good. Golf's a funny game. I played great for periods at Memorial and horrible for other periods at Memorial. There's got of good stuff there. Golf's always a bit unpredictable.

I like to think it's all pretty close. I've felt like this before for weeks and had great weeks and I felt like this for weeks and struggled. So I don't see there's any reason why I can't play well this week. It feels pretty decent.

Q. How hard has it become to challenge a guy like Tiger in a major championship?

GEOFF OGILVY: I don't know. I mean, when did he last win one?

Q. Last year.

GEOFF OGILVY: Torrey Pines last year. Yeah. It seems in the leadup, because of all the talk, it obviously seems real difficult, but he doesn't win every one of them. In fact, he wins less than half.

Q. But in the locker room is he considered a favorite? Do you guys talk?

GEOFF OGILVY: He's by far and away the favorite, I would have thought. But that doesn't mean ‑‑ I don't think anybody ‑‑ see, nobody walks around thinking: We can't win this week because Tiger's playing. I don't believe anybody thinks that way. They just ‑‑ you know Tiger's going to play well, or you assume that he's going to play well; or assume if he struggles, he's still going to be in contention, because that's what he's good at.

But I don't think anyone walks around saying we're playing for second now because Tiger's playing. I think everyone appreciates how good he is, knows he's going to be in contention and hopes to get there with him. He's obviously hard to beat. But he's been close in a lot of majors in the last couple of years when he started and the last of the third group and not won. So it's a feeling that he's beatable. It's just a feeling that he's really good.

Q. I guess they're looking at moving the tee box around a lot on the 8th hole, which is a par‑3. I'm trying to envision what that would look like it's been a while. Can you address what that might be from back‑to‑front with clubs, and whether playing a front tee might make it a little even more dicey, sounds like it might be a fun hole this week?

GEOFF OGILVY: It won't be any fun when you spin it back into the water from the front tee.

But the back, you could. I mean, if it drifted into the wind, it could probably be a 3‑ or 4‑iron to the back, from the back to the back. It's a pretty deep green.

And from that front ‑‑ we dropped the ball. They had tee markers this morning or a net on the tee that they may use it was a 9‑iron to the front. So it can vary a lot. But the front tee being soft greens, couple of us spun it straight back. We landed it 10 feet on the green. It spun into the water.

So like you say it will be a little dicey from short to the front pin.

Q. Maybe 100 yards different, front‑to‑back, total yards?

GEOFF OGILVY: From back tee to the back of the green it's probably 225. And we played 140 something today. So, yeah, if you move the tee forward 40 and you move the pin 30 towards the front, that's 60 or 70.

It's an interesting hole. It's one of the holes where it got shorter but might not get any easier.

Q. You mentioned the number of fans that have talked to you about Winged Foot. Generally speaking, have you noticed the crowds here to be a little more talkative than other places?

GEOFF OGILVY: Yeah, definitely very vocal. Yeah, it's fun. They're not shy. They'll talk to you and tell you their stories and request that you sign their stuff. Requests. It's fun. A lot of places people are a bit shy and stuff. But not here. It's fun.

You definitely know how they're feeling and they let you know if they like you and they let you know if they don't like you. And that's probably a good thing. You know where you stand with them.

If you give them something back, they really appreciate it. The practice rounds are very long and they take a very long time, but it's quite ‑‑ it's entertaining between green and tee and standing on the tees and stuff. It's good fun.

Q. Do you like you?

GEOFF OGILVY: At the moment. At the moment probably plenty that don't. But you can't sign them all. You try your best.

But for the most part, I think. I haven't been booed yet.

Q. Twenty, thirty years ago, we may have not been talking about many non‑Americans winning U.S. majors and now we can talk about that quite frequently. In fact the last three majors were won by non‑Americans and wanted to get a thought from you on just that progression to where we are now, where we really don't even need to make a distinction where players are from because seems like they're from everywhere. Your thoughts?

GEOFF OGILVY: I guess. I mean, more good players are playing in the U.S. full time now which probably makes tournaments like this a little less intimidating. If you played your whole career in Europe and just lobbed over for one week for this tournament it's a different kettle of fish. But if you played two or three years in this Tour. The U.S. Open is like a U.S. Tour event on steroids. It's like everything's bigger. The course is longer. It's narrow, tougher the rough's hardest and greens faster.

Effectively it's not that different from what we played at Memorial a couple of weeks ago. So it's more players are playing here on a regular basis that's probably why we see them contend more in majors. But it's nice. It shouldn't be a point of discussion that why aren't American guys winning or why are foreigners winning. It should just be this is interesting we've got an Argentinean winning the Masters. It's a South African winning the Masters, cool stuff; Irishman. It's just cool stories to be told.

Q. I'd be curious your thoughts on that certain Irishman who after winning a second straight major, if you look at his record, it's not very good in the middle of tinkering and changing to get better. From your own perspective, I don't know how much you've overhauled your swing over the years, but would it be difficult to be under that kind of spotlight and have these kind of results and not be the least bit panicked about not getting the results? Can you relate to that at all?

GEOFF OGILVY: I can relate to hitting a lot of balls and not getting any better. Because I think a lot of us have done that. I think a lot of people would panic.

I don't think Harrington, he's probably one of the only guys who can go ‑‑ he almost treats the way his score is within indifference, would have been nice to play better what do you do? Most of the guys would get depressed if they won two majors and started struggling, but he seems to be able to just: It will be all right. I'm working it out. It's a project of mine, when I work it out we'll get back to winning tournaments. That's the way he seems to be approaching it.

And not many people can do that. He has hit ‑‑ I don't hit that many balls. But I haven't been on a range this year that he hasn't been on.

Every day at the Masters, before I play, there he is. After I play, there he is there he is. Even Memorial, how many top four or five guys do you see practice on the weekend when they miss a cut. It doesn't happen. Vijay; but he goes to Sawgrass and practices. Padraig is on the range all weekend at Memorial. That just doesn't happen.

Obviously he's into what he's doing. I mean he got to where he is because of hard work. That's the way he knows how to get better, so that's the way he's going to do it. If he was going to be uncomfortable with himself by not doing all this, then he would be I'm sure at the end of his career, why didn't I just hit all those balls in 2009, I would have been all right.

That's why he's doing it. It would be frustrating for him but he seems to be the only one who doesn't get frustrated by it.

Q. Ever seen him at the range at Whisper Rock?

GEOFF OGILVY: No. A range at a tournament.

Q. At Winged Foot, you came back, and it was determined the last couple holes. Do you see the layout of this course, of the let's say final four holes presenting a challenge in the outcome on Sunday?

GEOFF OGILVY: 14, depending on how you set it up is probably the last realistic birdie. You can birdie any hole.

But the last realistic chance that's realistic, because it could be an 8‑iron or 9‑iron, 15, 16, 17 are really hard holes. If you had to par the last four holes to win, you'd really earn it if you did it.

So crazy stuff can happen in these tournaments every year it does. It's a really, really strong finish. Last year was an interesting finish, because we had a par‑5 and 14 was played way up, and there were some different sorts of fireworks you could get out of the last few holes, I guess.

This one's going to be a hang‑on‑for‑the‑last‑four‑holes. It seems that way. But as I said, if Mike moves the tees up a little bit and the tee was at front of the 17 and the pin was down, that becomes a birdie hole.

It's a really, really tough finish. I don't think you'll get too many people charging back with three birdies in the last four holes. But you never know.

Q. To follow up on the Tiger thing, in terms of the vibe from players, you being one of the top players, when he's out there and doing his thing he's not playing well but still gets his fourth and fifth and whatnot, that's one thing. But when he's like at Memorial hitting every fairway, hits every green, shoots 65, could have been 62; is there this element of dread of, oh, now he's not just going to do smoke and mirrors, now he's back to the real thing, amongst you like do you ‑‑

GEOFF OGILVY: We don't use terms like that. You guys use terms like that.

Q. He actually used it today. But do you pay attention, in other words, to look and say, well, it looks like he's playing really well?

GEOFF OGILVY: I don't, because he's never given me ‑‑ even when he's had his slumps, if you like, he's always to me looked a week away from winning six of the next eight tournaments.

So he wins Memorial; he should win Memorial. There isn't a course that's better suited for Tiger than Memorial. And he hadn't won for a while. For him, a couple of months is a while. And Bay Hill, he wins Bay Hill every time he plays it.

So when he wins Bay Hill, nothing is different on Monday morning. It will be different if he didn't win.

But, no, I think by this point we all know how good he is. Some guys you have to ask whether they start worrying when he wins tournaments like that. But if I went away from Memorial after he played well, I was more frustrated about the way I played after a few holes than what he did.

It's nice to see him win tournaments. I'm sure Jack was happy. And I'm sure people who bought tickets was happy when Tiger did that. So golf is better when he's winning.

Q. They say we say that the list of possible contenders here is five or ten players, which is probably disrespecting the rest of the field. But because of the length or because it's wet, do you agree with that? If so, is this different than most other tournaments, majors or otherwise?

GEOFF OGILVY: They said that for Torrey Pines last year, too. If you put Rocco Mediate and the guy who is going to win the tournament, you'd say, he's nice. But he was a birdie on the last hole away from winning. Because that was the longest course ever.

There's certain guys it's going to be really hard for. And it hasn't helped them that it's rained. There's no doubt hitting the ball a long way off the tee is good, and there's no doubt hitting a long way straight off the tee is really good.

That's an advantage in every Open. It's probably more of an advantage here. You can't say that there's anybody on this field that can't win, but it's going to be harder for them to win here than it would be, say, Pinehurst where the ball rolls out and it's more about placing it around the course. I wouldn't say it counts out everybody, but it makes it a little difficult for a lot of guys.

Q. You were talking about Harrington earlier. Just a word about Rory McIlroy in match play. He hits it strong and straight for sure.

GEOFF OGILVY: If you wanted to pick out the ten guys who were there, he'd be one of them; I would hope you guys would hope think that.

He hits hit high. He hits it longer than me. He's obviously not afraid. I don't know how he's played in the last month. He's probably played horrible and still finished fifth every week. He's a really, really good player.

I think this is his first U.S. Open. I'm sure he'll do fine. I'm sure he will do good next year. It's not too long before he's a fixture on most major leaderboards. He's that good a player. Everyone knows how good a player he is. But it's not long until he's there every major we play.

Q. I was just checking out the odds for individual players in the tournament, and the line, if you will, for this week has been set at three and a half under par, which I was wondering, given that it's soft and the greens seem to be receptive to almost any iron or any wood from however far back, whether we might actually go lower than that. It's been a while since we've been that deep in the red.

GEOFF OGILVY: It depends on the setup. What play was last year? 1‑under?

Q. 5‑over the year before that?

GEOFF OGILVY: Four perfect days last year, textbook. And the tees were up a lot and we had two reachable by five.

I'll take 3‑under. It would be a really good score. The forecast is for ‑‑ it's not going to blow much, but there will be periods of rain. So the course isn't going to get any shorter.

But what you lose in driving distance because the ball stops is that you gain ‑‑ instead of hitting a 5‑iron bounce it over the back you hit a 3‑ or 5‑wood, stop it on the green. There's give‑and‑take with the softness.

But under par will be a really good score. I imagine. What was Tiger last time, 1‑over?

Q. 3‑under.

GEOFF OGILVY: 3‑under. It rained all week, too. It's longer now.

Mike could set it up so everyone's over par, or he could set it up so we shoot 5‑ or 6‑under par, which I think would be really fun. As long as it finds the best player. But 3‑under sounds like a good score to me.

Q. You had the chance after Winged Foot. Given the fact that it's only been done twice before in the last 50‑odd years, is it any more pressure to win the next year to win the U.S. Open the next year?

GEOFF OGILVY: There will be aspects of it that would be more difficult. And aspects that would be easier. You're the most recent winner of the U.S. Open in the field and a lot to do with winning U.S. Opens is thinking you can or believing that you can.

So you have the most recent good history of the tournament if you like. So you start with good vibes. I played horrible at Oakmont, but I was going okay for the first couple of rounds, just because the year before and knowing I could do it kind of thing.

And it probably got me a couple of shots better than it might have done. But then there's the going in with there's not 15 people in the room. There's 50 and like there's all extra external stuff that you didn't have the year before going on.

So the U.S. Open's ‑‑ every tournament is hard to win. This is one that's harder than most. So to do it twice, I guess, is really difficult. The easy part is because you've done it before but hard part is because you probably tried too hard maybe the next year.

Q. Obviously you know what it takes to win a U.S. Open and the grueling process that it goes through, but is there such a thing as a prototypical U.S. Open player? Does that thing exist? Is there a guy maybe that's at least close to it?

GEOFF OGILVY: Probably did in the past. I don't know if it does ‑‑ it doesn't seem to ring true anymore. I mean, if you picked your prototypical U.S. Open player out of the field with the old school of thought, it would be Jim Furyk, lots of fairways, great short game, great grinder, never going to talk himself out of it; a Nick Faldo type of player, lots of fairways, lots of greens, good short games, good grinding.

But now look at the different guys that win them. Tiger's not the straightest. I'm not the straightest. Cabrera's not the straightest. Typically you would ‑‑ you never count Tiger out because he's the best player in the world, but the guys who did not hit it straight traditionally you never would have thought would do any good. I mean, Greg Norman would be a classic, great U.S. Open player because he drives it so long and so straight.

But now I don't think such a varied amount of people. Rocco and Tiger, you couldn't get two guys at the other end of the spectrum last year and they were the two clear best players in the field.

So I think that shows maybe that the setup's become more democratic, like a little bit for everyone to get something out of, maybe. But I think traditionally there was but I guess the answer

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