The 2016 U.S. Open at Oakmont (Thursday at 10am ET on FS1, 5pm ET on FOX)
The final day of last year’s U.S. Open saw wunderkind Jordan Spieth birdie the final hole to shoot a 69 for the round, 275 for the tournament, and give himself a 1-shot victory over runners-up Dustin Johnson and Louis Oosthuizen. Spieth returns this year to defend his title, coming in as the #2-ranked golfer in the world, trailing only Australian Jason Day, who finished last year’s open in a 3-way tie for 9th at even par.
In preparation for the last time Oakmont hosted the Open, in 2007, course superintendent John Zimmers Jr. and his crew removed roughly 7,000 trees, opening up the fairways immensely. Since then they’ve cleared out another 7,500, reports Golf Digest. The notoriously difficult course this year plays 7,219 yards, and is a par 70, as is its custom; few golfers finish 72 holes under par, and at the last Open, winner Angel Cabrera finished 5 over. The troubles start on the very first hole, a 482-yard par 4, which is widely considered among the toughest on the Tour, with its no-look tee shot, corridor of deep and unforgiving bunkers that line the back of the fairway, and a green that runs away from you.
The forecast for Thursday in Oakmont is for it to hit a high in the mid ‘80s shortly after noon, right around the time thunderstorms are expected to roll. There’s a chance of more rain on Friday, but the weekend is expected to get progressively nicer, with clear skies and a high of 88 on Sunday.
Both Spieth and Day are among Vegas’ top 5 heading into this year’s Open. Let’s run ‘em down:
5. Rickie Fowler (25-1)
Fowler (ranked 5th in the world) missed the cut at Sawgrass by one stroke, as his birdies Saturday on the 7th, 9th, 12th and 16 were all undone by his bogey on 14. Weep not for young Mr. Fowler, however, as he’s made 10 of 14 cuts, finishing top 10 6 times.
4. Dustin Johnson (12-1)
Johnson (ranked 6th in the world) finished just a stroke shy of being in a 3-way tie for first at the Memorial two weeks ago, having to settled for 3rd place $578,000. Poor little fella did himself in with 4 bogeys on the back 9 on Sunday. Still, Johnson’s having a nice season thus far, as he’s made 12 of 12 cuts this year, and the Memorial was just the latest of his 7 top 10 finishes. Johnson is fourth in putt average at 1.714.
3. Jordan Spieth (8-1)
But if you wanna be The Man, you gotta beat The Man. Spieth (ranked 2nd) shot his way to a share of the lead with a 3-under 67 on Friday, finished in a 4-way tie for 1st on Saturday, and on Sunday he watched as Johnson missed a potential tournament-winning 12-foot putt for eagle, and then go just wide on a 3-foot comebacker for the tie, to make Spieth the youngest winner at the Open since Bobby Jones in 1923, and the youngest ever to win the Open and the Masters in the year, besting Tiger Woods record by 5 years.
Spieth has made 11 of 13 cuts, with 5 top 10 finishes, winning at the Hyundai Tournament of Champions, and the Dean & DeLuca Invitational, and coming in tied for 2nd at the Masters, 3 strokes back of champ Danny Willett. Spieth had opened the Masters with a 66 that was good enough for a 2-stroke lead, but finished just over par the next three days, unable to capitalize on his hot start. Just as he did last year, Spieth leads the tour with a 1.684 putt average.
2. Rory McIlroy (7-1)
Just one stroke behind Johnson in a four-way tie for 4th was McIlroy (ranked 3rd in the world), who was the only non-American in the top 11. McIlroy finished 1 under for the 1st round, but had to work for it, as he had 3 bogeys and a double bogey. McIlroy’s made 10 of 11 cuts, and had 5 top 10 finishes.
1. Jason Day (13-2)
Day (ranked 1st in the world) has won more tournaments this year, 3, than any other pro golfer, taking home the top prize at the Arnold Palmer Invitational, WGC: Accenture Match, and the Players Championship. At the TPC he shot an opening round 63 to put himself 2 strokes ahead and never looked back. Day has made 10 of 11 cuts, with 6 top 10 finishes, is second on the tour in putt average at 1.708, and 20th in yards per drive at 302.