OAKMONT, Pa. – Jordan Spieth didn’t get off to the U.S. Open start he’d hoped to jump out to on Friday, but there was a sliver of solace in this: He did a lot better than the guys directly in front of him and in back of him in the Official World Golf Ranking.
Spieth, ranked second in the world and trying to become the first champion to capture back-to-back U.S. Opens since Curtis Strange (1988-89), made four bogeys in an opening 2-over 72. Rory McIlroy, World No. 3, shot 77; World No. 1 Jason Day comes to his finals hole of his first round at 5 over.
One shot pretty much typified Spieth’s up-and-down opening round, a wedge at the par-5 fourth hole (his 13th) that he thought was all over the flagstick. Instead, his ball hit the softened green and spun back more than 35 feet away, from where Spieth three-putted for bogey 6.
“Yeah, I mean, that certainly sums it up,” he said.
On Thursday, Spieth encountered a similar situation, his ball spinning off the green and into the front-right bunker at the par-4 17th, his eighth hole of the round. He would save par with a deft bunker shot, but it’s the type of work that can make a pretty stressful week inside the ropes all the more stressful.
Spieth got a shot back with a nice birdie at the par-3 sixth, which even prompted a fist pump – but gave it back one hole later, at the 488-yard seventh. He pulled a 6-iron from 199 yards that trickled into the left bunker, hit a poor bunker shot, and watched his 18-footer for par stop short right on the lip.
But Spieth is the kind of guy who knows how to hang around. He did so last year at Chambers Bay when he didn’t have his best stuff, birdied his last hole, watched his opponent (Dustin Johnson) three-putt for par and left town with a U.S. Open trophy. He opened with 68 a year ago, but also knows there is much golf to be played.
How does he keep mentally sharp at an Open?
“Stay patient,” he said. “Recognize you can hit good shots sometimes that don’t end up in places where you thought they would because courses are set up so much harder. You got to stay patient, recognize par’s a good score. That’s also something we’re not used to.
“So, yeah, I mean you just have to really stay present, not get negative. I did a bit today. Michael (Greller, his caddie) was sure to knock me back into shape. I’ll do a better job the next 54 (holes).”