Defending US Open champion Jordan Spieth arrives in Pittsburgh this week for his first chance to play Oakmont Country Club in a competition setting. The current American number one was just 13 years old and still in school when the Pittsburgh course last hosted the US Open in 2007.
‘I played a full round yesterday, and I played nine holes today,’ said the Dallas-born golfer. ‘It’s in just immaculate condition. Still extremely challenging, where par is a great score, but I thought, if you hit the ball where you were looking, you could have birdie opportunities on quite a few holes.
‘I don’t think anyone’s going to be in the red come 72 holes, so it will be a challenge, but I’m certainly looking forward to it,’ he added.
Spieth has enjoyed a successful year, including victories at the Hyundai Tournament of Champions and Dean & DeLuca Invitational. He has a further four top-10s, two missed cuts, and has been in the top 25 at every event where he’s made the weekend this year.
The world number two has an idea of how tough Oakmont Country Club is going to be, based on Angel Cabrera’s win on five-over-par nine years ago. Spieth won at Chambers Bay on five-under-par last year.
‘I think if you’re under par, you certainly win. There’s a lot of, it looks like, quite a few different passing storms coming through Thursday from the morning on, and it really could significantly change it. If the fairways are softer, it’s going to be a lot easier to hold them, which makes a huge difference,’ he said.
Spieth’s short game has been impeccable for most of his young career, but keeping the ball in play will be a crucial element of success this week.
‘You have to work a lot of direction into the fairways just to really make them wider, to hold them. If it rains, that changes… so it’s tough to tell right now,’ he said.
Spieth has made the top five in six of his last nine major appearances, indicating that the 22-year-old has the game for big occasions.
The eight-time PGA Tour winner ranks first in birdie average, but 114th in strokes gained: approach-the-green. Oakmont Country Club has achieved legendary status for its narrow fairways, unforgiving rough, and glass-like greens, which means Spieth will need spot-on iron play in order to launch a successful title defence.