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Defending champion Geoff Ogilvy back at Australian Open after injury-plagued year

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SYDNEY - Geoff Ogilvy calls his golf year "up and down," and maybe that was being generous: the ups were few and far between.

A cut finger in Hawaii at the beginning of the season, then a shoulder injury at the Masters forced him to take nearly three months off. When he returned, there was something he'd never experienced before — concern that he'd reinjure himself if he played too hard.

"I guess it is psychological," the defending Australian Open champion said Tuesday shortly before playing a practice round at The Lakes with his Presidents Cup captain, Greg Norman.

"At the U.S. Open I felt I needed to make some ground. There is the mental side of trying too hard and the physical side of not wanting to hurt it again.

"You play with a bit of trepidation, and it takes a while to get past that. There are a lot of players who have had really long stretches of bad play after injuries. I could never work it out, but now I have a lot more sympathy."

The 2006 U.S. Open winner's best finish this year has been a third at the BMW Championship and a tie for fourth at the Masters and Canadian Open. He suffered a small muscle tear in his left shoulder at the Masters which forced him off the PGA Tour until the U.S. Open.

Ogilvy, now sporting a moustache, will play the first two rounds here with two American opponents from next week's Presidents Cup at Royal Melbourne: Bill Haas and Bubba Watson.

"They will do well," Ogilvy said of the Americans in the field — eight of the 12 from the Presidents Cup team.

"They don't see courses exactly like this in the U.S. but they won't be intimidated by all the water," he said. "A lot of them are very long. Bill Haas is playing well. Hunter (Mahan) plays well every week. Tiger is a threat every time he tees it up. Dustin Johnson will be fun for everyone to watch... he hits the ball miles. Bubba is an unknown ... he could blow the field away."

Ogilvy isn't sure he'll be among the leaders come Sunday in Sydney. He shot a final-round 77 in Shanghai last Sunday at the HSBC Champions, finishing 22 strokes behind winner Martin Kaymer.

"I died a few putts over the edge of the hole and a couple of things went wrong at the wrong time," Ogilvy said. "It makes a big difference. You don't have to be playing bad. These guys shot some really low scores. You can be playing well and they can make you look silly."

Ogilvy said his memories of winning last year's Australian Open — his first home national championship — helped him through the tough season.

"You think about it all year ... it is a special tournament to win for an Australian," Ogilvy said. "When you get to the end of your career and look back, having an Australian Open on your resume is going to be pretty satisfying. I played in a lot of them before last year. I would love to do it again."

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