Ogilvy: Tiger inspired a generation

Tiger Woods and Geoff Ogilvy
Tiger Woods and Geoff Ogilvy chat during a Presidents Cup match. Picture: GETTY IMAGES

It was very early on a Monday morning as Geoff Ogilvy got up to watch TV coverage of the final round of the 1997 Masters.

He was aged 19 and just shy of turning to the play-for-pay ranks.

Ogilvy had already enjoyed success on the world amateur stage, capturing the 1995 Portsea Open Amateur, the 1996 German Amateur Open and the 1997 Lake Macquarie Amateur.

But here he was, mesmerised by what he was watching for the next four hours.

Tiger Woods was two years older than Ogilvy, and the Victorian was well aware of what Woods had achieved in the amateur ranks.

“At age 19, I had won a few amateur titles and was proud of myself and I felt that I was heading in a good direction and I wasn’t thinking of doing anything else but playing golf,” Ogilvy said.

“I had played in a few pro events and major amateur titles, so I had been aware of what Tiger was achieving for some years as I was also competing in US Amateur championships and other big US amateur events like the Western Amateur.

“The only US Amateur I didn’t play in that Tiger won was the year he beat Steve Scott in 1996 at Pumpkin Ridge in Oregon (when Scott lost at the 38th hole and Woods ended his amateur career with three straight US Boys’ and three straight US Amateur crowns).

“The immediate effect on me watching Tiger win the ‘97 Masters that morning on TV was to head down to my local golf course and practise harder than I had ever done before.

“And it was not just that day, but probably for the next three months as it not only showed you what was possible, but also it showed me how far away my own game was from what we saw that week at the Masters.”

While Ogilvy had been aware of Woods’ brilliant amateur record, it was after the 1994 Eisenhower Trophy in France that Ogilvy received first-hand reports from his compatriots on Woods’ amazing ability.

“I had not crossed paths or met Tiger at any time back then and it was after the Eisenhower Trophy in 1994 when a few of the Australian lads had competed, like Jason Dawes and Brett Partridge, and with ‘Dawesy’ one of the best players I knew, and they came back home … I was about 16 or 17 ... and they came back and were raving about this guy Tiger Woods and how good he was,” Ogilvy said.

“Of course, we had heard of Tiger a few years earlier as it was big news when he played the 1992 LA Open at Riviera, but then you don’t forget a name like Tiger Woods.

“But these guys came back from the 1994 Eisenhower Trophy  that Tiger had helped the (United) States win, and they were saying,  `Oh my gosh, this kid Tiger Woods is just so good’. And they couldn’t believe how far he hit the golf ball as he was hitting it ridiculous lengths.

“I can still recall their reactions to seeing Woods play in France.

“Then we were over in the UK in 1996 competing in some of the major British amateur events and trying to qualify for The Open, and while two of us didn’t, Stevie Allan managed to qualify.

“So while the other in our group caddied for Stevie that week at Royal Lytham, I had the other ticket Stevie was given and I had a virtual free run of walking around the course.

“I went out and followed Tiger for nine holes in a practice round and then I remember he shot a really low round in Friday’s second round (66 on his way to T22 and low amateur).

“This was like about two weeks before he was turning pro and before he had a hole-in-one at Milwaukee and before his ‘Hello, world’ thing.

“But in walking the course with him, I just thought this guy looks really, really special. Though back then you could not have imagined, despite such a great amateur career, that he would go on to win the (next) Masters by 12 shots.  No one, in the modern era had ever done that.

“It just was not part of your imagination and my first thought was that I am just going to have to get so much better myself.

“Sergio (Garcia) was also competing that week in ’96 as a 16-year-old and I also thought to myself this guy is talented little kid.

“But then after Tiger’s remarkable ’97 Masters he had a couple of normal player years and then all of a sudden he burst back in the middle of ’99 and it was just full-on.  It was such a joke!

“So, from mid ’99 to Bethpage Park and the US Open in 2002, it was the best period of golf from anyone. Period.

“It was just silly how well Tiger played like winning the 2000 US Open by 15 shots and then The Open a few weeks later by eight shots and then after beating Bob May at Valhalla, Tiger goes and wins four (majors, the `Tiger Slam’) in a row (by winning the 2001 Masters).”

Ogilvy, who made his Masters debut in 2006 and has a best finish of T4 in 2011, was asked of the impact Woods had on the game.

“Before Tiger came along, no one thought anyone could beat Jack’s record of 18 major victories, but then what Tiger was achieving was changing the face of golf,” he said.

“His biggest impact from a pro’s perspective was that he showed us what was possible.  He opened our eyes to more than we had ever seen.  I am not saying he was better than Jack, though we hadn’t seen Jack play when we were growing up, though we had (Greg) Norman who was a complete legend though he had a few faults, and then there was guys like (Nick) Faldo winning majors but he was not winning by 12 or 15 shots.

“So, we had seen great players who were great and playing well for a few weeks and also winning the odd tournament here and there, but Tiger was basically winning virtually every time he teed up.

 

“Tiger showed us what was possible in the game of golf and what was possible was bigger I think than most of us had imagined.

“I mean you hear all these numbers when Byron Nelson and (Ben) Hogan were winning, but for one player to win eight time in 1999 and nine times a year later was incredible and that’s how he changed the game for all of us.”

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