OAKMONT, PENNSYLVANIA | The question to Rory McIlroy was a good one:
“If excitement is the word that best defines the run-up to The Masters, what word describes the anticipation of the U.S. Open at Oakmont?”
“Trepidation, I guess,” McIlroy said. “Excitement is a good way to describe Augusta but it really depends on the venue that you play a U.S. Open at as well. This week it’s definitely … it’s not excitement.”
This is a classic U.S. Open setup – all of the traditional demands of the championship that prides itself on its difficulty set on a course that is one of the best and toughest tracks in the world.
Pick a question and Oakmont asks it.
Accuracy off the tee is critical because the fairways, which bump and roll, are trimmed with deep, thick rough and speckled with bunkers that can play like a one-stroke penalty.
Approach shots demand players find the proper spot on each green because the putting surfaces are super slick and sloped. Two-putting from any range is a good thing.
All of which leads to the game played between the ears. For players like McIlroy, who thrive on aggressiveness, Oakmont is no place to freewheel it.
“You’re going to be put under a lot of pressure on basically every single golf shot you hit out there so you have to be prepared for that,” McIlroy said.
Oakmont is as unforgiving as any major championship layout. One loose swing, one careless shot around the greens, potentially can destroy the week.
“I would expect that the more established players in the game and the players that are up near the top of the world rankings to do well this week because it is a golf course that can separate the players that are playing well from the players that are slightly off their games,” He said. “If guys are playing well and they’re confident, you’ll maybe get it around in under par.
“But the guys that are struggling, it will really magnify that weakness and you’ll see a lot of high scores as well.”