OAKMONT, Pa. — It comes with his age. Jordan Spieth is short on experience here at Oakmont — very short.
Unlike many players in the field, Spieth doesn’t know how the historically demanding course played during the 2007 U.S. Open, the main reason being he was just 13 years old. Standing on arguably the toughest course in America, the phenom is in somewhat unchartered territory.
At Spieth’s disposal in his preparation for Oakmont are aged statistics from the past Open and 27 holes he played here six weeks ago, a couple of facts that might not mean anything come Sunday evening. In just two days of work, Spieth has already realized the course he played in early May is unlike the one he’ll see this week.
“It was a very tough course (in May),” Spieth said. “But it has definitely changed significantly since then.”
The luscious Oakmont rough that grabs at your feet while you tromp through it has been well-documented by various players on social media. It’s five inches long, could really use a shower and shampoo and is likely the biggest difference since his visit in May.
“It’s still going to be almost impossible to hit the green in regulation (from the rough),” Spieth said. “Then it goes up to the really thick stuff where you can hit a wedge, and you can turn it straight over just trying to wedge it out.”
As he tends to do at big events with coach Cam McCormick and caddie Michael Greller, Spieth visited that rough often during his practice round Monday. Avoiding it starting Thursday will be the key and, fittingly, that’s where he tends to thrive.
On Tour this year, in terms of distance from the fairway, Spieth ranks in the 89th percentile. Big-bombing brethren like Jason Day, Rory McIlroy and Dustin Johnson, the presumed cream of Spieth’s competition crop this week, can’t say the same. None of them even crack the 55th percentile.
Smaller misses won’t be penalized as much as large ones since Oakmont has graduated cuts of rough.
“I really think that’s a strong play by the USGA,” Spieth said. “It rewards a better shot off the tee. It even rewards slight misses versus big misses…if you have a significant miss, you’re really in trouble, and that’s the way it should be.”
In order to topple a course so relatively foreign to his 22-year-old eyes, Spieth will no doubt lean on small-miss driving — a consistent staple of his game — but he can also retrograde his brain to past successes.
On Monday, he likened Oakmont’s greens to that of Augusta National, where his green-work has served as blatant an advantage as there seems to exist in the sport. He also compared the overall layout to that of Olympic Club, where he was the low amateur with a T21 finish in 2012.
If you ask him, the course and its many mind-numbing features set up well for his game. But in order to find any truth in that statement, we’ll have to wait until Thursday.
But probably Sunday.