It's really rough at the US Open

Keep off the grass: Rickie Fowler plays a bunker shot during a practice round prior to the US Open. (Sam Greenwood, Getty)

Keep off the grass: Rickie Fowler plays a bunker shot during a practice round prior to the US Open. (Sam Greenwood, Getty)

“Oakmont’s rough is like rough on steroids,” Daniel Berger, the winner of the PGA Tour event in Memphis on Sunday, tweeted after a practice round — and that was before US Open week proper got underway.

The gnarly stuff around the 17th green featured in an Instagram video posted by Justin Thomas, showing a ball dropped by the American disappearing into the deep grass.

Ferocious rough has long been a hallmark of the US Golf Association’s Open set-up.

But South Africa’s Ernie Els, who won the first of his four major titles at the 1994 US Open at Oakmont, said things were a little different back then.

“The US Open is renowned for its thick rough. That’s never changed,” he said. “I would say they’ve really upped the ante the last five to 10 years with the rough.

“It’s just thick, and it’s a lot more dense than it was back in the day.

“We could move the ball around. It was almost more fun to play that way because you could advance the ball, you could get the ball to run towards the green. You’re not always going to hit the perfect shot, but you had a chance of actually hitting a shot. Now it’s at least a half a shot penalty.”

Thomas’s good friend Jordan Spieth, the defending US Open champion and world number two, said at least the United States Golf Association’s (USGA) system of graduated cuts of rough keeps conditions fair.

“I can’t remember seeing rough like certain spots,” Spieth said, noting the big difference in the rough on Monday to the conditions he saw in a practice round six weeks earlier.

“But you have the first cut, and then you have the next cut. If it’s not that bad of a shot and it just gets through the first cut, you can get a club on that ball.

“It’s still going to be almost impossible to hit the green in regulation, but you can get it to where you can make par. And then it goes up to the really thick stuff, where you can hit a wedge and you can turn it straight over just trying to wedge it out.”

“I really think that’s a strong play by the USGA,” Spieth added. “It rewards a better shot off the tee. It even rewards slight misses versus big misses ... if you have a significant miss, you’re really in trouble, and that’s the way it should be.” — AFP

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