Wednesday, June 8, 2016

Mickelson on Oakmont: 'Hardest golf course we’ve ever played'

Oakmont Country Club is hard. It's really hard. It's one of the hardest -- if not the hardest -- courses in America. It is one of less than a handful that could host a U.S. Open on a moment's notice.

However, it seems that the Pittsburgh-area club, which will host the national championship next week for the ninth time, will be extra feisty this time.

“I really think it is the hardest golf course we’ve ever played,” Mickelson said Wednesday at the FedEx St. Jude Classic.

The six-time U.S. Open runner-up spent the last two days at Oakmont, prepping for a bid to complete the career Grand Slam. However, Mickelson doesn't characterize the course as unfair, saying that it's not so long that he'll have to lean on driver a lot.

“The reason why I’m optimistic about Oakmont is that it doesn’t require me to hit a lot of drivers. It requires me to get the ball in play off the tee, but when I’m not hitting drivers, if I’m hitting 3-woods, hybrids, I feel confident I’m able to do that a fairly high percentage of the time,” he said.

The last two Open winners at Oakmont found a way to hit the fairway and putt just well enough to win. Ernie Els, who won a three-man, 18-hole playoff in 1994, and Angel Cabrera in 2007 were long hitters who managed to keep the ball in play. Longer hitters will have an edge, needing less than driver to position the ball off the tee.

The rough at Oakmont will be a challenge no matter the weather. However, if the forecast calls for drying out the course, Mickelson suspects the USGA will choose to cut down rough described by others on site as at least 6 inches deep.

“They let the rough grow long," Mickelson said, "and if it is wet they’ll leave it like that, and if it’s dry they’ll thin it out."

Ryan Ballengee is a Yahoo Sports contributor. Find him on Facebook and Twitter.

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