Geoff Ogilvy certainly loves the last week of February – of that there is no doubt. Last year, he ended the second month of 2005 with victory in the Chrysler Classic of Tucson on the US PGA Tour and, 12 months later, he won again, albeit in the more salubrious surroundings of the World Golf Championships – Accenture Match Play.
The 28 year old Australian defeated American Davis Love III 3 and 2 in the 36 hole final at La Costa Resort & Spa in Carlsbad, California, after having been one hole ahead at lunch, to pick up the bumper first prize of €1,091,886 (£746,997).
He became only the second Australian golfer to win an event in the World Golf Championships series – following Craig Parry who claimed the WGC – NEC Invitational at Sahalee Country Club in 2002 – and, presuming he remains within the World Top 64, will now undertake a triumphant return to Tucson to defend his title next year, given news that the 2007 WGC – Accenture Match Play will be staged at The Gallery Golf Club on the outskirts of the Arizona city.
It also proved to be the second defeat in the final of the event for Love III, the 1997 US PGA Champion having also gone down 3 and 2 to Tiger Woods at La Costa in the denouement of the 2004 tournament.
“This is unbelievable,” said an understandably delighted Ogilvy. “I got a little lucky in my first four matches but in the last two rounds I played really well. Throughout the week I made some really big putts. I don't think I missed a putt which I had to make all week. This is very special.”
Ogilvy found himself one down in the early stages of the morning round but a Love double bogey at the 15th allied to Ogilvy’s own birdie two at the short 16th, turned matters around and the Antipodean went to lunch one hole to the good.
Ogilvy looked to have taken a stranglehold on proceedings when he birdied the third and fourth holes in the afternoon to move three up, but Love showed the tenacity which has made him an integral part of the US Ryder Cup Team since 1993 to battle back, and he claimed the sixth and seventh holes to slash Ogilvy’s lead back to one.
However, when the American missed the green at the ninth to halve the hole in bogey five, he seemed to sense a missed opportunity and the momentum swung back to the Australian even more when Ogilvy eagled the 11th and birdied the 12th to restore his three hole lead.
It then seemed only a matter of when Ogilvy would win, rather than if, and that question was answered on the 16th green. Ogilvy had moved four up when another Love approach found sand at the 14th and although the American rallied briefly with a brave birdie at the 15th, it was all over on the next green.
“I have had a good week but not a good day today,” said Love. “I wanted to make a good run at it today but I didn’t hit enough good iron shots. Geoff did and even when he didn’t, he did well with his pitching around the green and from sand. I haven’t seen a lot of him up to now, but I saw a lot of him today and he is a strong player.”
In the 18 hole Consolation Match to determine third and fourth places, American Zach Johnson, who celebrated his 30th birthday on Friday, gave himself a belated gift with a last hole victory over US Ryder Cup Captain Tom Lehman.
A ding-dong contest saw Johnson hold the upper hand in the early stages before Lehman rallied around the turn to move one up. But errors on both the 11th and 12th by the match’s elder statesman saw Johnson move one hole ahead again.
A Lehman birdie levelled matters again at the 15th and the pair were still tied coming down the last. But when Johnson fired a superb sand wedge approach to five feet, the pressure was on Lehman and it told when he failed to extricate himself from a greenside bunker. The 46 year old did get out at the second attempt but, with the ball still above ground, he offered his hand in congratulation to his younger opponent.
“I had a discussion with my caddie about getting up for this match after the disappointment of losing the semi-final to Davis yesterday,” said Johnson. “He gave me something to play for in the respect that he told me there were more Ryder Cup points available for finishing third than fourth so that is really what I was playing for. It is not easy, but it is business and I have to go about it and treat it as such.”