The questions – and the narrative – have changed dramatically for Andy Ogletree.
Less than a year ago, we wondered: Is he good enough to play in the LIV Golf League?
Now, after two International Series victories this year and a firm grasp on the guaranteed LIV Golf spot for 2024, he’s being asked: Which team do you want to play for next season?
“I think that just limits my options. So, I’m not going to comment on that,” Ogletree said in a savvy and diplomatic response.
The question was posed to him Sunday after his dominant performance at International Series England, as he shot a final-round 64 to win by 7 strokes. Add that victory to his earlier success this season in Qatar, and he’s racing away with the Order of Merit title, which receives that coveted “golden ticket” for 2024. As current LIV Golf regular Anirban Lahiri said this weekend, “Getting a spot on LIV, it’s life-changing.”
Of course, nothing is settled just yet. After all, we’re just five tournaments into the 10-event International Series schedule, with the next event set for this week at St Andrews Bay.
But Ogletree currently has more than double the points/dollars ($887,370) than his closest pursuer, Japan’s Takumi Kanaya ($426,233). Given the American’s current form, it seems unlikely he’ll be caught. And given his level of determination and focus on his singular goal of becoming a LIV Golf regular, Ogletree isn’t about to let his foot off the gas.
“Getting a chance to play LIV Golf is what everyone's here to do,” Ogletree said. “I want to be out there, and I feel like that's where I want to be right now in the next phase of my life. So, I’m doing all I can to secure that spot.”
It was just 14 months ago that Ogletree played in LIV Golf’s debut tournament in London. The three days did not go well for him. He was injured, which curtailed his prep work, and he admittedly wasn’t mentally ready. He opened with an 82 and eventually finished last in the 48-player field. He did not make another LIV start, and his playing options back home vanished.
The silver lining? His professional path started to clear. Opportunities on the Asian Tour opened up, and he made the most of them. Winning the International Series Egypt last year secured status for two years. When he won in Qatar, that added three more years. He now has the comfort of knowing he has a place to play.
But as he shows with each start, the 2022 result in London was a fluke, a result of unfortunate circumstances and not an accurate reflection of a player talented enough to win the U.S. Amateur – which he did in 2019.
Yet, he remains grateful that it happened.
“It’s playing the first LIV event in London, which has given me a lot of opportunities,” he said. “First of all, it's given me the opportunity to play The International Series, given me a way to build my schedule, and learn how to travel. There's a lot of great things that have come from it and I wouldn't be standing in front of you guys if it weren't for LIV.”
Even though LIV Golf regulars have seen him more on the range than in live action this season, they appreciate how Ogletree has responded to the tough start in London last year.
"Going straight into LIV Golf was like going into the lion’s den," said Cleeks GC's Graeme McDowell, who finished T20 in England, 15 shots behind Ogletree. "There was obviously a lot of scrutiny, a lot of pressure, a lot of a lot of eyeballs, a lot of kind of negativity, and LIV was maybe a hard start for him in the beginning.
"But having the opportunity to play on the Asian Tour, playing as well as he has, he’s gone from strength-to-strength. It’s great to see him playing well and if he makes it, he’ll be a great addition to LIV."
Thus, the big target remains the LIV Golf League.
Ogletree has been a reserve at a handful of events this season, waiting to see if a spot opens up due to injury or other circumstances. Three reserves are on-site each week, and teams list their reserve choices in order of priority.
When Majesticks GC Co-Captain Lee Westwood suffered an injury before the final round in Tulsa, the team tapped Ogletree as the replacement. It was the first time an American had played for the UK-centric squad. The result?
Ogletree shot an 8-under 62 that Sunday. It remains the lowest round shot by any Majesticks player this season.
Just as important as the contribution he made for the team, that 62 also delivered a message: Ogletree is more than ready for the big stage. His victory Sunday at Close House was further confirmation, since the field contained nearly half of this year’s LIV Golf League regulars.
“Don't take that the wrong way, but I know that my game matches up with those guys very well,” Ogletree said Sunday. “22 of them were here this week and won by seven, so yeah playing good.”
That’s why the intrigue now becomes which team he’ll land on for 2024. He’ll be an attractive option for teams looking to shake up their rosters. He’s young and confident – and now a proven winner at the professional level.
Even if Ogletree doesn’t get the guaranteed International Series Order of Merit spot, he’ll have a chance to play the promotion event, in which the top three players will earn spots for next year. Or he could be added as a free agent. In the meantime, being a reserve this season allows him to hobnob with teams and showcase his skills, like he did in Tulsa.
By all accounts, he’ll be one of the most attractive free agents available.
"He’s clearly a young and upcoming superstar and it will be super interesting to see which team he fits into and how he does when he comes back out to play," McDowell said.
Said Ogletree: “I think I've proven that I should be out there, and I think I've proven that my game matches up against those guys very well. So, I don't know when that time will be. But I'm looking forward to conversations that I'll have with LIV Golf.”
Whose team will he represent in 2024? The answer is still a few months away. But at least the question is being asked now – and that’s a positive development for one of golf’s emerging young talents.