U.S. Open: All eyes on Spieth as in-form Day looms large


Everywhere Jordan Spieth turns, he is constantly reminded about his Masters capitulation, but this week's U.S. Open provides a great chance for the defending champion to put his most recent memories of Augusta behind him.

As the world's finest gear up for the 116th U.S. Open, Spieth is preparing for his game to be examined and scrutinised from every possible angle after a stunning final-round meltdown cost him back-to-back green jackets in April.

Whatever could go wrong, did go wrong for Spieth, who watched his five-shot lead evaporate in one of the most stunning collapses in golf history.

A run of two bogeys and a quadruple bogey to open the back nine represented an unforgettable slump.

Spieth - grouped alongside Zach Johnson and Bryson DeChambeau for Thursday's opening round - then saw his misery compounded as he was forced to present Danny Willett with the green jacket.

And despite taking out last month's Dean & DeLuca Invitational as he returned to the winners' circle for the first time since the Tournament of Champions in January, Spieth appears primed to be the centre of attention with Day and 2011 winner Rory McIlroy - a four-time major champion - somewhat under the radar at the Oakmont Country Club in Pennsylvania.

Northern Ireland's McIlroy - set to play in a threesome featuring Willett and Rickie Fowler - is without a PGA Tour win this year, though he did claim last month's Irish Open on the European Tour.

And the focus on Spieth might suit Day, who has been paired with countryman Adam Scott and Louis Oosthuizen for the first two rounds, in the Australian's quest for his first U.S. Open crown.

A three-time winner on the PGA Tour this season, Day has taken golf by storm, cementing his place atop the sport's summit with victories at the Arnold Palmer Invitational, WGC-Dell Match Play and The Players Championship.

Day's exploits are an evident result of a healthy body, after he was severely hampered by a bout of vertigo at last year's U.S. Open.

In scary scenes at Chambers Bay, Day collapsed at the ninth hole in the second round, but somehow managed to earn a share of the 54-hole lead before ongoing dizziness saw him finish tied for ninth behind Spieth.

Since that courageous display, Day - who has never contested a U.S. Open at Oakmont - has gone on to claim seven wins, including his maiden major title at last year's US PGA Championship.

This time around, Day and Co. will have to navigate an unrelenting 7,254-yard, par-70 course, which has had around 7,000 trees removed to restore its original look.

Martin Kaymer and Spieth reigned supreme at Pinehurst and Chambers Bay in 2014 and 2015 with overall scores of nine under and five under respectively.

This year's field is not expected to have it so easy when you consider a score of five over was enough to earn Angel Cabrera victory when the U.S. Open was last staged at Oakmont nine years ago, while Tommy Armour's 13-over aggregate was enough to hoist the trophy aloft at this venue in 1927.

Ball striking will be the skill set rewarded, with position and not distance seemingly key given Oakmont's fearsome rough.