“With the wind, I would have signed probably for somewhere around 75, 76 and shaken everyone’s hand and said, I’m going to go back and have a beer after that round.”
These aren’t the words of some unknown amateur who has come through qualifying, this is how defending champion and World No 2 Jordan Spieth sees this year’s US Open.
Last time out here, in 2007, the winning score added up +5. This year Spieth doesn’t see anyone finishing in red figures.
“Like I said, six weeks ago, I said I’d sign for even par. I don’t think anyone’s going to be in the red come 72 holes.”
We all know about the pace of the greens – this is where the Stimpmeter originated after Edward Stimpson watched Gene Sarazen putt a ball off the green at the 1935 Open. The winning score there turned out to be +11, turned in by Sam Parks Jr. He developed a device to measure their speed and donated it to the USGA. It was modified in the mid 70s and distributed to clubs in 1978.
Spieth likens them to Augusta. “You have a lot of similar putts from midrange to short range where you’ve got to use a lot of feel, and it’s very much speed based and really just have to be careful. You can’t let your mind slip on these greens for one moment, or else you’re going to be left with possibly a 10-to 15-footer on the next putt, if not worse.”
Judging by the social media this week it appears that 10 feet could be quite a result.
Jun 12, 2016 at 1:37pm PDT
The first part of the problem is finding the greens. Miss the fairway by a few yards and the rough can get very juicy. What has been talked about less and one outstanding aspect of HC Fownes’ design is that the fairway bunkers offer no respite.
Brad Faxon asked Devin Gee, who will take over as head pro at Oakmont in October, how many shots from 100 fairway bunkers that he would be able to find the putting surface. He replied 15, before reverting to more like 10.
But for all the talk of high scores, thick rough and possible four putts there will be a winner at the end of the week and the big questions remain the same.
Like the main one at the start of every US Open week – can Phil Mickelson win one? On the upside he has six second places, he was runner-up on Sunday and his Scoring Average is better than anyone else’s on the PGA Tour.
On the downside he has six second places and his two previous appearances here have finished in a tie for 47th and a MC in 2007, his only blank weekend at a US Open since 1992. Supposedly a wrist injury got in the way of his hopes having, for whatever reason, practised for long periods from heavy rough. The previous month he had won the Players.
“On Sunday I hit it a lot better. It was important for me to get in contention and feel the heat, and to just get my game feeling sharp heading into next week.”
Another player to emerge from Memphis with his confidence nicely oiled is Dustin Johnson, a back-nine 29 helping him to a 63. There have already been seven top 10s in 2016 though what happened 12 months ago might have more of an effect than anything. Or it might not, who knows with Johnson?
World No 1 Jason Day took Sunday off to recover from a cold, 12 months ago he was falling over with vertigo. His outlook for the week will be a positive outlook.
“You gotta understand that things are going to be bad. And if a player gets off to a good start early in the week, don’t try and chase him. You start doing that, you start making mental errors,” Day told the Golf Channel.
“You start having bogeys, you certainly bring in a lot of double bogeys, because it’s very easy to do that around here. The biggest thing is, if you’re in trouble just try and minimize mistakes. If we have hot, dry conditions it’s probably going to be very close to that score. There’s going to be a lot more frustration than joy on a golf course like this.”
A positive outlook, on and off the course, could well be the difference at the end of the week. Glass half full and the likes of Spieth and Rory McIlroy will point to the fact they both won on their penultimate starts.
Glass half empty, like most of those asking the questions, and the same players will have to talk about either what went wrong at Augusta or how their putting will stand up to the test that is at hand.
So, while we’re at it, is our champion over what happened at No 12?
“I’ve said it many, many times, that it was just a mis-hit. I wasn’t trying to hit it at the hole. I was trying to hit it left of the hole, and I hit it a little thin off the heel, which was my miss that week. You can miss it short right on 16 of the 18 holes at the Masters, and 12 and 13 are the two that you can’t. Just happened to be that one swing there that my body started a little before my hands.
“From there, I probably should have gone to the drop zone, but I wanted to get a full wedge and made full contact. So two badly timed swings. I just made two poor timed swings. It happens.”
And is that now in the past?
“I moved on. We went and won, and I think that was really big for us to actually win a tournament. Not just contend, but to actually close one out, and so now I can draw back on those last few holes, the pressure that I felt and the speed control and kind of the control of the ball to the most minute detail, which comes down to short game that we had at the end there. So honestly, I think it’s out of our heads now just from that one experience at Colonial.”
The rough at Oakmont.
— Total Golf Move™ (@totalgolfmove) June 12, 2016