Grace has the game for Oakmont

U.S. Open - Preview Day 2While there is no real reason for it, it seems Branden Grace is able to fly somewhat under the radar heading into Thursday’s US Open at Oakmont Country Club.

That’s strange for a man who was ultimately just one tee shot and three holes away from stopping Jordan Spieth in his tracks as the young US player rolled on to his second consecutive major championship title.

Grace eventually finished in a share of fourth after hitting his tee shot on 16 out of bounds, but he has become one of golf’s grittiest fighters because he has learnt from that experience and he’s become a player who is often ignored in discussions about the domination of the big three – Spieth, Rory McIlroy and Jason Day.

“Getting to Chambers Bay last year and feeling good about my game last year was pretty exciting,” he said. “I enjoyed that week – it was probably one of the best weeks I had in my entire life. The ball striking was there, the putting was there, I handled the nerves superbly… it was just a pity it came down to one bad tee shot.

“I learned a lot. I took all that experience into the PGA Championship. In any other week, I would have finished first or close to the top, but Jason was just a different machine that week – he had a Tiger moment.

“But it was good experience and it gives me a lot of hope coming into these big weeks and I’m excited to get this started,” he added.

But he will have a course as well as other contenders with which to contend. Oakmont has drawn intense commentary – mostly critical, or at least veiled – about the difficulty of the rough and the speed of the greens.

Grace is primed for those challenges. “You have to pick targets that aren’t bunkers and that sort of thing. You have pick spots out on the course like the clubhouse or trees in the distance. And the fairways are not straightforward. A lot of times they have big slopes so you really have to plan your way around.

“The type of shots I hit at Chambers Bay – I’m definitely going to hit those shots again, and that’s the type of shot I hit when I won the RBC Heritage. I’ve got a little low stinger, and I think if I hit it around this place, it might come in handy,” he added.

As one of the experts suggests of Grace in his evaluation of the contenders for the US Open, he is “simply unafraid” and his “makeup [is] arguably best for this major”.

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