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Sunday 25 September 2016

No prisoners at Oakmont

Venue of US Open will provide true challenge

Rory McIlroy getting in some practice on the tough Oakmont course. Photo: AP
Rory McIlroy getting in some practice on the tough Oakmont course. Photo: AP

Compelling storylines abound as the US Open starts in Oakmont, Pennsylvania where defending champion Jordan Spieth, Jason Day and Rory McIlroy will bid to add another major title to their CVs.

American young gun Spieth, a double major winner at age 22, will look to rebound from his stunning back-nine collapse at this year's Masters when he led by five strokes with nine holes to play and the coveted Green Jacket seemingly secure.

Australian world number one Day, the game's best player over the past 10 months, will seek a second triumph in the blue riband events after making his breakthrough at the highest level in record style at last year's PGA Championship.

Northern Ireland's McIlroy, who announced himself as a potential golfing great with a stunning eight-shot win to claim his first grand slam crown in the 2011 US Open at Congressional, has his sights set on a fifth major title.

However, no storyline is more compelling than the venue itself which i prs widely regarded as the toughest in golf and certain to provide a gruelling challenge. The daunting par-70 layout at Oakmont Country Club, designed by Henry Fownes and opened for play in 1903, is a hilly course with very few flat lies and renowned for its slick, undulating greens which have been described by the players as "scary fast".

Oakmont, hosting the US Open for a record ninth time, was rated by Spieth as "the hardest test in all of golf" after he played there for the first time in practice last month.

Spieth said: "I know that if you win a US Open at Oakmont, you can go ahead and say that you've conquered the hardest test in all of golf."

Argentina's Angel Cabrera delivered a superb display of ball-striking to win the U.S. Open when it was last played at Oakmont in 2007, and yet he could manage only a five-over-par total of 285.

"They pride themselves on being the hardest golf course in the US," McIlroy said of Oakmont and its members. "You hit it in the bunkers and you've got to go sideways; you hit it in the rough and you can't get to the green. Even if you hit it on the fairway, it's hard to hit the greens. So obviously par is going to be very much a premium there."

US Opens are known for being the most exacting of the four major championships and at Oakmont it will be more important than ever for players to be able to grind out pars and to stay as patient as possible when the going gets tough.

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