Geoff Ogilvy was in a sticky spot, rare for him in the Accenture Match Play Championship.
His second shot on the par-5 11th hole Sunday morning bounced into the desert and landed in a bed of jumping chollas, the ball suspended by 2-inch cactus needles. He wasn't about to take a swing. He didn't even want to touch it.
"I chose not to put my hand anywhere near it," Ogilvy said.
What became significant about that hole is the way it ended. Ogilvy took a penalty drop 40 yards behind him in the desert, failed to reach the green and was on the verge of losing the hole until he chipped in for par from 60 feet away to win the hole. It was early in the match, but it was a pivotal moment in his 4-and-3 victory over Paul Casey.
"I'm sure he was standing there thinking, 'I'll be unlucky to not win this hole,'" Ogilvy said. "It was one of those textbook, almost a comedy-of-errors match-play hole that ended my way."
Everything is going Ogilvy's way at the moment, especially in this fickle format.
He won the Accenture Match Play Championship for the second time in four years, leading from the start against Casey and closing him out with yet another birdie putt for a victory that moved him to No. 4 in the world.
"This tournament has been pretty good to me," Ogilvy said.
On Thursday, as all eyes were on Tiger Woods getting eliminated by Tim Clark for a premature end to his return from knee surgery, Ogilvy was 12 feet away from joining Woods at the exit.
He watched Shingo Katayama stand over a birdie putt with a chance to win the match, and when Katayama missed, Ogilvy had to make a 10-foot par to stay alive. Ogilvy managed to force extra holes, won on the 19th, and he never was challenged the rest of the week.
In his final four rounds (including a 36-hole title match) over two days, Ogilvy was nothing short of brilliant.
He never trailed over the final 63 holes of this tournament. He didn't have a bogey on his card over the last 48 holes. He was 25-under par over 66 holes on the weekend, when he mowed down teenage sensation Rory McIlroy and Stewart Cink to reach the championship match, then pounded Casey for his third World Golf Championship title.
If Casey felt a kick in the gut on Ogilvy's chip in for par, imagine how he felt when the afternoon round began. Ogilvy was 3 up, and Casey knew he would have to get off to a fast start to get back in the match.
"This afternoon, three birdies in the first eight holes and I still lost two holes," Casey said. "Geoff was exceptional."
Ogilvy is in a league of his own when it comes to match play.
He is 17-2 in the Accenture Match Play Championship, the best record of anyone in the 11-year history of this event. Throw in the Presidents Cup and his one appearance in the World Match Play Championship, and Ogilvy's career mark is 18-3.
Not even Woods (40-12-1) has a winning percentage that great.
The record makes Ogilvy the best in the world at match play, although he wasn't ready to go that far.
"This week I probably was. Last year, I was the 33rd best match player in the world," he said, alluding to his first-round loss to Justin Leonard. "But I have played very well in this tournament in the last few years. I'm obviously one of the better match plays."
A tournament that began with so much hype over Woods' return ended with a newfound appreciation for Ogilvy.
He has won three times in his last seven starts, dating to the Australian PGA Championship in December and including his wire-to-wire victory at Kapalua, where he won by six at 24-under par.
The 31-year-old Australian now has six PGA Tour victories, including a U.S. Open and three World Golf Championships, the most of anyone besides Woods, who has won 15 of them.
Ogilvy loves match play, which might explain why he's so successful.
He is one of the few players who studies the entirety of the bracket, to see where he is and who might be in his face. Ogilvy noticed quickly that Woods was in his quarter of the bracket, a match that never materialized when Tim Clark beat Woods in the second round.
"Tim helped us all out," Ogilvy said.
Ogilvy has only won two stroke-play events when Woods was in the field, the U.S. Open at Winged Foot and the CA Championship last year at Doral, when Woods was going for his seventh straight PGA Tour victory.
Someone asked him if he would fare better against Woods in stroke play or match play.
"I don't know," Ogilvy said, intrigued by the question. "He seems, when he gets deep into this tournament, quite hard to beat. If he makes it through a few rounds, he tends to go all the way _ which is like him in stroke play. The closer he gets to the end, the more likely he is to win it, if he's in the lead.
"I think I would do OK," Ogilvy said. "He is the best match player in the world in the last 15 years. I mean, the guy won three U.S. Juniors, three U.S. Amateurs. It would be fun.
"Hopefully, we can do it one day for sure."
This victory was no less satisfying. Ogilvy, who once let his high expectations get the best of him, has learned to contain his emotions. He wears players down with a sharp game, never showing emotions that are too high or too low. He has become the consummate match player, with a record that bears that out.
"The thing I'll remember is I beat some really good players, and I beat them well," Ogilvy said. "I played better and better during the week. Every round, I played better, which doesn't often happen in golf."
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