AFP/Oakmont, United States
Jason Day has a simple solution to the mountain of stress that comes from carrying the world number one ranking into this week’s US Open at formidable Oakmont: Embrace it.
“I’ve never been more stressed in my life than right now,” the Aussie said Tuesday, with the second major championship of 2016 set to tee off today.
There’s the constant pressure of trying to hold off Jordan Spieth and Rory McIlroy and remain atop the rankings. Then there’s the US Open itself, designed by the US Golf Association as a searching test of every aspect of a golfer’s game. Day has two runner-up finishes in five prior US Opens, and was in contention last year at Chambers Bay despite a debilitating bout of vertigo en route to a share of ninth place.
“This is one tournament that is very stressful, and I feel like I thrive under stress,” Day said. “Hopefully I can do that this year.” Day, who broke through for his first major title at last year’s PGA Championship at Whistling Straits, has won seven times in his last 18 starts.
That includes US PGA Tour victories at the Arnold Palmer Invitational at Bay Hill and the Players Championship, and a triumph in the World Golf Championships Match Play. Despite the undoubted difficulty of the par 70, 7,219 layout on the outskirts of Pittsburgh, Day said he wouldn’t get sucked into the inevitable complaining.
“That just doesn’t help,” he said. “If you’re going to have a bad attitude, you may as well not even tee it up (US Open) week because you probably won’t play good anyways.”
Day said keeping it in the fairway will be key at Oakmont, where the rough will be typically punitive and the lighting fast greens offer a challenge that some reckon to be tougher than those of Augusta National. “For the most part, it’s a bomber’s game, our generation,” Day noted. “It’s not like that this week. I played last Friday, and there was this shot that I hit 10 feet out of the rough. You just cannot hit it in the rough in certain places.”
Bunkers could prove just as deadly, he said.
“You can get lucky if it just trickles in the front edge of the bunker and you can get out, but if you hit it with any sort of speed going into a bunker, it’s going up the lip, and there’s just no chance of getting to the hole.”
Pretty cool stuff
While Day says he feels “driven” to add to his career tally of 10 tournament wins, he’s also learning to enjoy the fruits of his
A sentimental television ad featuring his toddler son, Dash, brought him to tears the first time he saw it, and he’s glad to have the record of Dash’s enthusiastic role in some of his on-course victory celebrations.
He’s also enjoyed sitting courtside at an NBA game or throwing out the ceremonial first pitch at a Pittsburgh Pirates baseball game.
“What better opportunity than now do I have to get to do this stuff and really look back on it and say I did some pretty cool stuff when I was playing golf,” Day said.
Refreshed Rose relishes challenge
Justin Rose won’t have much chance to ease his way back in this week as he returns from a back injury at the 116th US Open at Oakmont. The Englishman, who won his only major title at the 2013 US Open at Merion, has been painstakingly recovering from a back injury that kept him out of commission since the Players Championship in early May.
“It’s been a race against the clock, really, for me to be fit and ready to play here,” Rose said. “I’ve done everything humanly possible to be here from a recovery point of view, from a fitness point of view, from a practice point of view, but there’s no doubt my practice schedule has certainly been on the light side, limiting the number of balls I’ve been hitting.”
Rose said he’d only started hitting his driver a few days before arriving in Pennsylvania, and had focused on strengthening his core in the gym to protect his back. It might not be the ideal preparation for one of the toughest tests in golf - on an Oakmont course where Angel Cabrera’s winning total in 2007 was five-over par.
But it does have an upside. “I’m coming in fresh, which is the great news,” Rose said.
“Obviously, this golf course is going to require a huge amount of patience, and I think that having that quiet time to sit back and assess my game and assess the challenge this week and coming in with a freshness, I think, could be an advantage come the end of the week.”
Rose said that after 20 years as a professional he wasn’t worried that his swing would have suffered too much during his downtime.
“Competitive edge, that’s obviously certainly a factor, and that’s where I’m going to hope that the freshness outweighs the competitive rust,” he said.
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