x Abu Dhabi, UAEWednesday 24 January 2018

Norman invasion is Ogilvy's inspiration

Australia's leading golfer Geoff Ogilvy, the 2006 US Open champion, was nine when Norman was as formidable as Ayers Rock when he won at Turnberry in 1986.

Geoff Ogilvy remembers the rough at Turnberry being 'brutal' when he played there as an amateur in his teens. And the weather, he recalls, was 'horrific'. So he's hoping for sunshine at this  week's Open.
Geoff Ogilvy remembers the rough at Turnberry being 'brutal' when he played there as an amateur in his teens. And the weather, he recalls, was 'horrific'. So he's hoping for sunshine at this week's Open.
Bob Hawke was a sport-loving Primer Minister of Australia, Crocodile Dundee was enrapturing global cinema audiences and the Great White Shark was an undisputed No 1 in golf. If ever there was a time to say 'G'day cobber', grab a slab from the local bottle shop and fire up the barbie to revel in the glorious, untainted ruggedness of the good old Aussie male, it was back in 1986. Back in the day for Greg Norman, a year when "The Shark", a figure built for all occasions, with his sun-kissed blonde locks and unflinching mannerisms, mastered the miserly Scottish wind and rain to tame the British Open at Turnberry in a Lyle and Scott lemon sweater perhaps more on a par with Sydney's Mardi Gras.

Paul Hogan played the intrepid crocodile hunter 'Mick Dundee', but Norman did not fare too badly as a leading sporting export. Hogan and Norman promoted Australia, and both brought in millions. Australia's leading golfer Geoff Ogilvy, the 2006 US Open champion, was nine when Norman was as formidable as Ayers Rock or, perhaps more pertinently, the Ailsa Craig in the Firth of Clyde near Turnberry. Ogilvy's dad handed him his first club at the age of seven. He was a scratch golfer at 16.

Ogilvy and a handful of other Aussies, including Adam Scott, Robert Allenby, Stuart Appleby and Richard Green, will tee it up this week alongside the weathered Norman at Turnberry. They have all derived inspiration from the standards Norman attained when he was a genuine collusus with a sweet driver, winning two Opens, his second in 1993 at Royal St Georges. Ogilvy remembers Jack Nicklaus winning the last of his majors at the 1986 US Masters after Norman bogeyed the 72nd hole with an errant approach shot. There was no stopping Norman at the Open a couple of months later. In the elements, Norman was in his element. He won by five shots.

"I was only nine at the time," recalls Ogilvy. "I remember there was an advert 'They said you'd never make it, but you finally came through'. I remember that song. "I remember that yellow sweater Greg had on when he won, but that's only because I have seen footage of it. "I remember the 1986 US Masters vividly, but not the Open. The British Open was on in the middle of the night in Australia. When you are nine, you are not getting up to watch the British Open.

"Your parents wouldn't be letting you get up at that time, anyway." Ogilvy was wide awake when Norman threatened to become the oldest winner at Royal Birkdale a year ago. At 53, he came in from the outback of his burgeoning business interests to play his first major in three years. He remains the oldest leader after three rounds of such a lofty tournament. He finished third in the face of some brutal weather, but Ogilvy feels Norman emerged with as much respect as Padraig Harrington, the champion of Birkdale.

They like battlers and winners in Australia. Ogilvy missed the cut with rounds of 77 and 74, but marvelled at Norman's excellence. "Greg's performance was fun to watch, with his shots and imagination," said Ogilvy. "I was a bit grumpy, because I didn't play very well, but it it was fun to watch Greg do that. He got us all fired up about it again. "It was such a bizarre tournament with the bad weather. I think Greg's performance kind of saved the tournament, because it created a whole lot of excitement that might not have been there. It added a dimension, and it was cool.

"He was always one of the best bad weather golfers anyway, as he proved in 1986 at Turnberry. He shot a 63 in the second round when everybody else was shooting in the 70s, but you quickly learn, that talent never goes away. Desire and practice might go away, but talent never goes away. "If someone has been No 1 in the world for ten years, it is still in there." Ogilvy, who lives in Scottsdale, Arizona, with his wife Juli and their two children, is not faring too badly, either.

He enters the Open as the world's seventh best golfer. Since turning professional 11 years ago, Ogilvy has won more than $19 million (Dh 69.7m) on the USPGA Tour, this season collecting the Mercedes-Benz championship in Hawaii and the Accenture World Match Play in Arizona, where he defeated Paul Casey 4&3 in the final. Speaking in the home of golf, Ogilvy is aware of the history of golf. He has Scottish ancestry, a distant relative of Robert the Bruce, the King of Scots in the 1300s. Folklore says Bruce, while holed up in a cave in Ireland, watched a spider repeatedly try to spin a web before managing the task.

It is said to have given Bruce inspiration to fight on against the English. Such a philosophy would be handy at Turnberry, or even Bruce's sword to chop at the rough. Ogilvy has played here in the British Amateur championship as a teenager. "The rough is fairly healthy," he said. "I played in the amateur in 1996. "I remember it being brutal, but we had horrific weather with the wind blowing sideways, like Birkdale last year.

"I remember it being really hard, especially along the ocean. They have obviously lengthened it a little bit, with a couple of new bunkers, but the rough is controllable. "They can always cut some of it if they feel like it. If we get four days of sun, it will be nice, but if get four days like the first day at Birkdale last year, it will probably be unfinishable. I missed the qualifying at the amateur championship. I hit 83 or 84 on that horrific day.

"I was only 18 at the time. I recall the big white hotel on the hill, and the 10th tee hanging out in the ocean going past the light house. "St Andrews remains my favourite open venue, but they're all kind of cool." Nick Price held off Jesper Parnevik to win the last time the tournament was hosted by Turnberry, helped by holing a 50-feet putt on the 17th hole on the final day. "There is probably only about ten guys in the field that played in 1994, so it's pretty much a new tournament for all of us," said Ogilvy.

Ogilvy will play in the Dubai World Championship in November before he and Tiger Woods are the main draws at the Australian Masters tournament at Melbourne's Kingston Heath GC. "You don't really call up Tiger and say, 'hey, what are you doing, and ask him if he is excited about Melbourne," said Ogilvy. "If I do play with him between now and then, which I probably will, such as at the President's Cup, I'll mention it to him."

Ogilvy goes walkabout with Harrington and Jim Furyk for the first two rounds. He goes out after Norman tomorrow, but will also try to follow in the footsteps of a figure who has wrote the instruction manual on how an Aussie can win the Open.