Masters invite looms for Geoff Ogilvy

PALM BEACH GARDENS, Fla. -- The thought crossed his mind as he stood over a putt on the final green of his final hole of the 2012 season. Geoff Ogilvy had a 20-footer for birdie, and while he had no chance to win the Australian PGA Championship, he sensed the putt was more meaningful than the difference in prize money.

Much to his dismay now, he was right.

All of it will be forgotten if Ogilvy prevails Sunday at the Honda Classic, where he is 2 shots out of the lead heading to the final round at PGA National.

But because of just one shot anywhere toward the end of 2012, Ogilvy, 35, has yet to receive a Masters invitation.

Ogilvy, the 2006 U.S. Open champion, missed the putt, finished tied for fourth in his homeland and was 50th in the Official World Ranking. But when the calendar year ended, he had dropped to 51st -- by percentage points -- meaning one way into the year's first major championship had been missed. The top 50 not otherwise exempt receive an invite.

Having dropped to 79th in the world, Ogilvy still isn't assured a spot at Augusta National.

"I'll be very disappointed if I don't get to play in the Masters for sure," Ogilvy said after an even-par 70 on Saturday in difficult conditions that left him 2 shots behind third-round leaders Luke Guthrie and Michael Thompson.

He could still get into the year's first major with either a PGA Tour win before the Masters or by being inside the top 50 of the world rankings the week prior to Augusta.

"It took me by surprise," said Ogilvy, who is tied with Lee Westwood. "I finished the year 51st by 1 shot in the last tournament. I hit a decent putt, and I ended up missing by effectively 1 shot in the last three months of the year. One shot at any tournament where I made points, really. That's pretty disappointing.

"But I wasn't really that worried about it; 51st, I'll just go out and have a top-10 on the West Coast. But by the time I played the Bob Hope [the Humana Challenge] ... I was like 70-something. I just had a plummet. I guess I didn't see that coming. And then all of a sudden you start thinking about it."

Ogilvy actually dropped to 62nd after finishing tied for 27th at the Humana Challenge and was losing points from high finishes in his 2011 season.

Then he began missing cuts. Starting with the Farmers Insurance Open, Ogilvy missed four in a row and didn't qualify for last week's WGC-Accenture Match Play Championship. At this moment, he is not in next week's WGC-Cadillac Championship.

Three of his seven PGA Tour titles have come at those two tournaments.

"That wasn't fun," he said. "Theoretically, I can get into next week. Up to this week, I am going to miss two tournaments I've won before. And big ones too, sort of a wake-up call."

Ogilvy maintains his woes are nothing that some improved putting won't fix. He has missed four of five cuts coming into this week, due mostly to being 168th in the PGA Tour's strokes gained-putting statistic -- out of 177 players.

"I've probably putted worse than I ever have," he said. "I putted really, really poorly on the West Coast, and I was hitting the ball quite well, but when you miss a couple of putts, it changes your whole mood as well.

"Golf seems so much harder when you're not making those 8-, 10-footers for birdies every now and then when you get a chance. It just seems like a harder game, and things are just going the wrong way, which happens when you're not making any putts."

Ogilvy had to feel good about his performance Saturday. After bogeying the first two holes, he rallied to shoot 70 on the most difficult day of the week, one made tricky by a strong wind and cool temperatures.

There were just eight scores in the 60s, the lowest a 67.

"I'm happy with how I'm playing," Ogilvy said. "I could always be making more putts, but today was a day to stay out of trouble, and if you had to hit it to 30 feet and two-putt, hit it to 30 feet and two-putt. Even par for the day was never going to go backward; it was only going to go forward, and I did that."