Oakmont – Phil Mickelson seeks to end 26 years of US Open misery at Oakmont Country Club in the Pittsburgh suburbs this week, while battle is rejoined for golfing supremacy between the new spearheads of the sport – Jason Day, Jordan Spieth and Rory McIlroy.
No other golfer has endured such heartache at one tournament as Mickelson has at the second of the year’s four majors.
He has finished second a record six times since he first played it in 1990, and having captured the British Open in 2013 to go with his three Masters titles and one PGA Championship, the US Open is all that is stopping him from becoming just the sixth golfer to complete a career Grand Slam.
To do so though he will have to conquer one of the world’s finest and toughest golf courses in Oakmont.
Opened in 1904, the rugged par-70 layout features 210 bunkers that swallow up balls and aspirations in equal quantities, greens that confound the best of putters and rough so thick that sprained wrists are not uncommon.
On top of that it has the longest par-three in US Open history that can be stretched to 300 yards and the second longest par-five at a mind-boggling 667 yards.
Mickelson will know the dangers he faces when he steps out for the first round on Thursday on his 46th birthday.
“I think that it accomplishes the goal that the members want, which is to have the hardest course in the world or in America or wherever, and I think they’ve accomplished that,” he said on the eve of the tournament.
“I think that there’s no reprieve off the tee, there’s no reprieve into the greens, and there’s certainly no reprieve on the greens. These greens are way more difficult to putt than Augusta’s.”
Still, Mickelson feels that he has the craft and the experience to finally come good in what would provide one of the most compelling golf stories in recent years.
Defending champion Spieth and McIlroy, the winner in 2011, have already been victorious in the US Open, both in their early 20s, while Day has time on his side too.
All three have wins under their belts this year already and all three say they are primed for the battle ahead at Oakmont.
Spieth in particular will seek to banish the nightmare memories of the last major to be played, when he blew a five-stroke lead down Augusta National’s back nine to let in England’s Danny Willett for a huge upset win.
The 22-year-old Texan says that he has already moved on from that collapse and that his win in the Colonial proves that.
Day meanwhile admits that he is feeling as stressed as he has ever felt despite consolidating his top ranking position.
McIlroy believes that he can rein in his natural aggressive game and grind out a win that he believes would represent his “biggest accomplishment in the game.”
The 116th running of the US Open gets underway at 06:45 local time (12:45 SA time) with half the field starting from the first hole and the other half from the 10th.
Rain and afternoon thunderstorms have been forecast to hit the course for the opening round, but the weather conditions look perfect for the weekend.