U.S. Open Preview: Jordan Spieth’s Redemption

The U.S. Open begins tomorrow morning at Oakmont Country Club outside of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. This year will mark the ninth time that the U.S. Open will be held at Oakmont, and the first time since 2007 when Angel Cabrera edged Tiger Woods and Jim Furyk by one stroke to win the tournament at a score of +5. Oakmont, as most U.S. Open hosts tend to be, will be an incredibly difficult golf course for the professionals to play. The rough is high and fierce, the greens are fast and near impossible to navigate, and the course is filled with over 200 bunkers. But hey, at least the trees are gone. While the course itself is always one of the main talking points at any major, the biggest story in golf for both casual observers and die hard fans is 22 year-old phenom Jordan Spieth.

Jordan Spieth is the defending U.S. Open Champion, winning last year at Chamber’s Bay, after winning the 2015 Masters as well. Since then he has failed to win another major, yet has stayed very competitive with a 4th place finish in the British Open and a 2nd place finish in the PGA Championship. The stage was set for Spieth to rule the major tournaments in 2016 after his magnificent performance in 2015. With comparisons to Tiger Woods and other all-time great golfers, Spieth entered the 2016 Masters in April as the favorite to win the tournament. He came out hot in the 1st round, shooting a 66 and leading the field by 2 strokes. He came back down to Earth slightly on Friday, but still held a one stroke lead heading into the weekend. He maintained the one stroke lead Saturday and entered the Final round as the leader and prohibitive Vegas favorite at 11-10 odds (for every 11 final rounds, Spieth would win 10 of them). Sunday became that 11th round and Spieth had one of the biggest collapses in golf history. He led by five strokes entering the back nine, but ended up shooting a +5 on the final nine holes–including a disastrous quadruple bogey on hole 12–and lost the tournament to Danny Willett. Spieth still finished 2nd in the Masters, but he will be the first one to tell you that it was a giant collapse and disappointment.

Since the Masters, Spieth’s game can best be described as uneven. He has played in four tournaments, winning one, but also missing one cut, while finishing 18th and 57th at the others. This might not give you a ton of confidence in Spieth going into this week, but all of these tournaments are really just tune ups for the U.S. Open and I expect Spieth will be at the top of his game this weekend. He had a similar uneven lead up last year to the U.S. Open, missing one cut, but also notching two top five finishes. After those tune up events, Jordan Spieth went out and won the U.S. Open, becoming the youngest player to do so since Bobby Jones in 1923.

And that brings us to back to the U.S. Open this week. There will be 156 golfers vying for the championship this weekend, but most eyes will be on young Jordan Spieth to see how he rebounds from his Masters debacle. Somewhat surprisingly, he does not even head into the tournament as the favorite or top ranked player in the world (that would be Jason Day for both), but he will assuredly be the crowd favorite and the player the PGA tour and sponsors will be rooting for as the new face of golf. Golf fans will tune into the event no matter what, but the casual observers need a gripping storyline to draw them into watching the tournament. There might not be a better storyline than Jordan Spieth coming back from the biggest collapse of his career and showing everyone that it was an aberration and that he is here to stay. Jordan Spieth is my pick to win the U.S. Open on Sunday.

-Nick Bair

Photo Credit: Getty Images

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