U.S. Open golf 2016: Phil Mickelson says Oakmont is hardest course he's played

Written By Bob Hille
(Getty Images)

Phil Mickelson is playing the FedEx St. Jude Classic this week in Memphis, but like a lot of PGA Tour players, he's also got next week's U.S. Open on his mind.

Mickelson — like Jordan Spieth and Rickie Fowler, among others — played Oakmont Country Club this week, to get a feel for the setup before next week's national championship.

MORE: Phil's history of second at the U.S. Open | U.S. Open records

His assessment: tough, very tough. Like crazy tough.

"I've played Oakmont the last two days, and I really think it is the hardest golf course we've ever played," Mickelson told reporters Wednesday in Memphis. "They don't know what the weather is going to be next week, if it's going to be dry or if it's going to be wet. So what they do is they let the rough grow long, and if it is wet, they'll leave it like that, and if it's dry they'll thin it out. So yesterday the rough was extremely long, I guess, and challenging.

"It's a very fair test, even though it's hard. But a lot of golf courses, when they challenge you tee-to-green the way Oakmont does, it usually has a little bit of a reprieve on the greens. You really don't at Oakmont. They're some of the most undulating, fast, difficult greens to putt. It really is the hardest golf course I think we've played."

Recent history bears that out. The last time the U.S. Open was played at Oakmont, in 2007, Angel Cabrera's winning score was 5-over 285.

And yet Mickelson, who has never won the U.S. Open but has six runner-up finishes, is optimistic heading to the Pittsburgh-area course next week as he shoots for the missing title in a career Grand Slam. 

MORE: Fox's U.S. Open coverage last year was not good

"The reason why I'm optimistic about Oakmont is that it doesn't require me to hit a lot of drivers," Mickelson said. "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.

"One of the strengths of my game over the last decade or so that's really helped me win the tournaments I've won is lag putting. So if I have a good week lag putting where I'm able to have easy pars from anywhere on the green, that's going to lead to a good week. That's why I'm optimistic.

"However, it's a U.S. Open and you get on a bad streak and you start missing fairways there, which isn't exactly uncommon in my game, it is difficult."

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