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2016 U.S. Open: Jordan Spieth leans on success at Oakmont

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The Sports Xchange
Members of the Oakmont grounds crew tend to the 9th green at the Oakmont Country Club in Pennsylvania. Beginning June 16th, 156 golfers will compete for a $10 million purse as Oakmont hosts the the U.S. Open for a record ninth time. Photo by Kevin Dietsch/UPI
Members of the Oakmont grounds crew tend to the 9th green at the Oakmont Country Club in Pennsylvania. Beginning June 16th, 156 golfers will compete for a $10 million purse as Oakmont hosts the the U.S. Open for a record ninth time. Photo by Kevin Dietsch/UPI | License Photo

Jordan Spieth knows there is at least one accomplishment on his resume more difficult than erasing his blunders at the 2016 Masters.

That would be surviving Chambers Bay and the 2015 U.S. Open, one of the PGA majors Spieth bagged in 2015, after Dustin Johnson unraveled on the 18th green.

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"U.S. Open has been -- wearing the U.S. Open champion kind of flag, I guess, is the easiest way to put it has been a tremendous honor for me. I was fortunate enough to win a couple of USGA championships as a junior, and to win ultimate one, the highest honor in the USGA has been fantastic," Spieth said. "I reflected on it as we conquered the hardest test in golf. That takes place once a year, and it's at one of the hardest venues this year."

Spieth said his next five events, which includes the Olympics and World Golf Championship after playing Oakmont this week, is where the golf calendar is "ramped up."

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He played 27 holes at Oakmont for the first time six weeks ago and played nine holes Monday with Rory McIlroy. What he's learned after another 18 this week and 54 total holes: conditions are a major factor and will determine success or failure.

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The sun sets on the famous Oakmont "Church Pews" bunkers between the third and fourth fairways. Photo by Kevin Dietsch/UPI

"It was a very tough golf course -- as everyone knows, it always plays that way -- then, but it has definitely changed significantly (in six weeks)," Spieth said. "It's in just immaculate condition. I thought, with the wind yesterday, I would have signed probably for somewhere around 75, 76 and shaken everyone's hand and said, I'm going to go back and have a beer after that round.

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"With less wind, I thought that it was more playable. Still extremely challenging, where par is a great score, but I thought, if you hit the ball where you were looking, you could have birdie opportunities on quite a few holes. But at the same time, again, like I said, six weeks ago, I said I'd sign for even par. I don't think anyone's going to be in the red come 72 holes. So it will be a challenge, but I'm certainly looking forward to it."

Spieth said "I moved on" from the disastrous 12th hole at Augusta National in the 2016 Masters and credited winning the Colonial last month with a complete cleansing of the letdown.

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"We went and won, and I think that was really big for us to actually win a tournament," Spieth said. "Not just contend, but to actually close one out, and so now I can draw back on those last few holes, the pressure that I felt and the speed control and kind of the control of the ball to the most minute detail, which comes down to short game that we had at the end there."

Spieth's parents are from Lehigh Valley, Pa., and he said he still has a lot of family in the state. Many of them will be in the gallery this week. However, his challenge will not be satisfying demands outside the ropes.

"Winning a U.S. Open is a different experience than winning at any other venue. You learn that literally anything can happen, especially out here where the way the course is set up right now, the way the rough and the bunkers, with the amount of sand that's in the bunkers, the fact that it's very rare to be able to hit a green in regulation from a fairway bunker," he said.

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