So much has already happened in the world of golf in 2016 and we are sure for more drama at the year’s second major, the US Open, which begins at Oakmont Country Club in Pennsylvania on Thursday. Oakmont last hosted the US Open in 2007 in a year that saw Argentina’s Angel Cabrera finish at +5, good enough for a one stroke win over Tiger Woods and Jim Furyk on a course that chewed up then spat out some of the best players in the world and made making pars feel like making birdies.
Expect Oakmont to once again provide a brutal test of golf which will typically reward long and accurate driving and advantage those who somehow manage to stay out of the unforgiving rough. Courses that host the US Open are traditionally set up to be tough. Narrow fairways, ridiculously thick rough - which often leaves no option but to hack out sideways, and slick, undulating greens with holes set up in the toughest of positions.
Much interest will be focused on ‘The Big Three’ - defending champion Jordan Spieth, World Number 1 Jason Day and the 2011 US open winner, Rory McIlroy. After Spieth’s capitulation at this year’s US Master’s, where he blew a five shot lead in the space of four holes, questions will be asked about any mental fragility he may have should he put himself in a position to make a run for the title on Sunday. Jason Day will be the prominent Australian and his recent run of victories in around every second tournament he tees up in, will see him full of confidence and packing the all round game to win his second major. Day’s win at last year’s USPGA Championship seems in the distant past, so proficient has his winning record been since then. The accuracy and level headed approach of Adam Scott means he will also be a good chance for an Australian to win the 2016 tournament which will mark ten years since the last Aussie, Geoff Ogilvy won the 2006 event. This year’s US Masters winner, Danny Willett, may be another man to watch. One of the form golfers at present, Willett has the all round game to back up with a second major and replicate Spieth’s efforts of 12 months ago by winning the first two majors of the year.
A winner will be extremely hard to pick with the course and conditions sure to bring a number of long shots into the equation on Sunday afternoon.
Phil Mickelson’s recent form suggests the left hander may finally break his US Open hoodoo and add the title to the other three major championships he has won. Mickelson has been runner up six times in US Open’s and has come agonisingly close to taking out his national championship. He recently described this year’s venue as “The hardest course we’ve ever played”. The fact Oakmont will be that tough may play into Mickelson’s hands with the 45 year old’s amazing wedge game likely to dig him out of trouble throughout the week where others may not be so lucky.
There are some things that US Opens throw at competitors that simply cannot be prepared for and the experience of the older heads in the field means the elder statesmen of the game such as Mickelson and fellow American Steve Stricker could be well in the hunt coming into the back nine on Sunday.
Whatever the eventual outcome, the 2016 tournament will be well worth watching.
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