‘Refuse to lose’: Geoff Ogilvy explains his clever match-play strategy

Some players just excel at match play.

It’s a different game than the typical 72-hole stroke play format of championship golf. In any particular round, you only have to beat one player as opposed to an entire 156-player field.

Ian Poulter in the Ryder Cup and the old WGC-Match Play was always a formidable draw; likewise, he has a 48-21-5 record in singles play throughout his career. Kevin Kisner is another example, going 22-7-2 in his career, including winning the 2019 Match Play and losing in the final twice.

However, one of the best is Geoff Ogilvy. The two-time WGC-Match Play champion compiled 20 match play wins in PGA Tour competition (all coming at the WGC) in 25 matches, giving him the third-best winning percentage in Tour history.

“You just got to refuse to lose, I think. It’s all in the head. It’s got nothing to do with golf,” Ogilvy told co-hosts Colt Knost and Drew Stoltz on this week’s episode of GOLF’s Subpar. “I don’t know what it is.”

Pro golfers Tiger Woods and Geoff Ogilvy at a PGA Tour tournament.
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The eight-time PGA Tour winner and 2006 U.S. Open champion said it’s really tough to describe what the secret was to his incredible match play run from 2006 to 2012. He also went 3-0-0 in singles play at the Presidents Cup in that time.

When he was watching the most recent Presidents Cup, in 2022 when he served as an assistant captain to Trevor Immelman, he saw that same attitude during one of the most exciting matches between Justin Thomas and Si Woo Kim.

“Those were two hard-headed, stubborn people like me,” Ogilvy said. “You just got to know you’re going to win.”

Kim beat Thomas 1 up in one of that President Cup’s most shocking upsets, but the U.S. team had the last laugh in winning the matches 17.5 to 12.5.

Ogilvy says he loves match play because there are head games he can play with his opponent. Having fun with gimmes is a common play.

“The best thing is when they get annoyed when you don’t give them gimmes. It’s like, this is my favorite game to play,” he said. “I think is when you don’t have to worry about score and it’s just you and another guy, that’s the most fun.”

For more from Ogilvy, including when he first realized Woods was going to be a unique talent, check out the full episode below.

Jack Hirsh

Golf.com Editor

Jack Hirsh is an assistant editor at GOLF. A Pennsylvania native, Jack is a 2020 graduate of Penn State University, earning degrees in broadcast journalism and political science. He was captain of his high school golf team and recently returned to the program to serve as head coach. Jack also still *tries* to remain competitive in local amateurs. Before joining GOLF, Jack spent two years working at a TV station in Bend, Oregon, primarily as a Multimedia Journalist/reporter, but also producing, anchoring and even presenting the weather. He can be reached at jack.hirsh@golf.com.