As Jordan Spieth sat at the podium for his press conference Monday afternoon it was hard to imagine that a year has already passed since he won the U.S. Open at Chambers Bay.
He has been proud to carry the banner of being the defending champion, but this is a unique year.
Instead of looking back at his approach on the par-3 12th hole at Augusta National Golf Club, a shot he was asked about once again Monday, Spieth is looking ahead to what he calls the second half of his season.
“This is where it really gets ramped up,” he said. “My next five events, pending scheduling changes, are all either Majors, the Olympics, World Golf Championship. I mean, it just feels like the first half of the year is done. This is kind of how we can start to finish off the year strong into the Ryder Cup.”
There are still some unanswered questions. No, he is not for sure going to play in the Olympics, but he also maintained that if the conditions stay as is, that the winning score of this year’s U.S. Open will be above par.
“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,” Spieth said. “If the fairways are softer, it’s going to be a lot easier to hold them, which makes a huge difference because of how much pitch is in these fairways. So it’s tough to tell right now. If it played like yesterday with the 15 mile an hour wind, it’s going to be significantly over par. But the rough was actually cut a little bit today in spots where it was really thicker yesterday. I don’t think they’re going to cut it again. If it doesn’t change, it will be over par, but if it does, if it rains, you can shoot under par.”
As for Spieth himself, he feels confident about his game. Sure, he says if the wind is blowing 15 miles per-hour, he will happily sign for a 75 or 76 and go back and have a beer but a week off allowed his legs to come back, which only allows for the world’s second ranked golfer to express confidence.
“I wish the tournament started tomorrow,” said Spieth. “So coming in as the defending champ, that can certainly help me if I get into contention. But as far as getting moving this week and my preparation, it really feels like a normal event, which is nice.”
Rough times ahead?
It is no secret that the rough at Oakmont Country Club is flat out thick.
Pros, fans and journalists alike all have tried their hand at hitting a ball out of the rough and all had their troubles.
There is no telling how much more if at all the rough will grow as there is a high probability for rain later on in the week.
“Fairways or first cut, I think, is the most important statistic for me to focus on this week,” Spieth said.
Spieth is not alone.
Oakmont Country Club Course Superintendent John Zimmers Jr. also is unsure how deep the rough will be but it will be part of his job from 3:30 every morning until 11:00 at night.
“We don’t have an exact measurement,” Zimmers Jr. said. “(USGA Executive Director) Mike Davis and I talk about it daily. If it stays dry like this, we may adjust it up a little, wee bit. If there’s a storm and we can’t get out and mow then obviously it might get a bit longer. All of those things come into play. As crazy as it sounds, it’s still Monday, so a lot of things can happen between now and Thursday when they really start this thing.”
The whole point of having rough is to penalize a player. This was not the case last year at Chambers Bay, but certainly applies to Oakmont.
“The green speeds are certainly one big defense if you’re not in the bunkers or rough,” said Zimmers Jr. “It’s just really saying that you’re supposed to hit a tee shot straight and be rewarded for it. If not you have a penalty for it so that’s why you see that at the U.S. Open. It’s not all about the best putter or the guy that can drive the golf ball the longest. It’s about all aspects of the game.”
Chris Pohl assisted with this article