Michael Campbell picks Aussie Adam Scott to win 2016's second Major
Accuracy, patience and mental fortitude will decide the winner, says 2005 champion Campbell
It is not often a former US Open winner walks off a course carding a 24-over 304 - and does not feel like smashing his clubs or at least burying his head in the sand.
That was exactly how 2005 US Open champion Michael Campbell finished the last time the Major was held at the Oakmont Country Club in 2007.
The Kiwi vividly remembers just how brutal the course was, and he does not expect it to be much more forgiving when play tees off today at the 2016 US Open, the ninth time Oakmont will host the year's second Major.
With a thick rough, deep bunkers peppered across the course and lightning-quick greens, Campbell believes patience and accuracy from tee to green will be critical.
"It's tough to explain how tough the course is. I played there in 2007 - conditions are brutal.
MEMORIES: Michael Campbell who won the US Open in 2005 when it was held at Pinehurst, recalls how unforgiving Oakmont (above) was when he played there in 2007.
"I made the cut (10-over), and ended 24-over, and it felt like even par!" chuckled the 47-year-old, as he recalled his time at Oakmont.
"I was so exhausted at the last hole, this was the toughest course, even tougher than at Pinehurst, where I won in 2005."
Campbell was speaking to local media in a phone interview from Pennsylvania, where he will be a guest pundit for FOX Sports.
Angel Cabrera won in 2007 with a score of five-over 285.
Wet weather is predicted over the first couple of days of competition and Campbell is resolute in his belief that Adam Scott is best equipped to tame Oakmont - or at least emerge with the fewest scars.
"Listening to the press conferences (from here) Rory McIlroy used the word trepidation - that's the word he used - (it) shows you just how aware (the players are) of the dangers of Oakmont.
"I think a score of eight-over is going to win it," said Campbell.
"Adam Scott leads the PGA Tour's tee-to-green stats and that's a huge advantage. I watched him on the range, watched him play a few holes… and even in those (wet) conditions, I'm sticking with Scott."
Campbell believes that golf's big three - world No. 1 Jason Day, No. 2 Jordan Spieth and third-ranked McIlroy - will have confidence and momentum, with each having secured recent wins, but he could not emphasise enough just how tough a challenge the course will pose.
"If you miss the fairways, the roughs are so thick that you'll be chipping out sideways - the roughs are really lush," he said, revealing that several golfers had already made equipment changes, replacing fairway woods with driving irons in a quest for more accuracy.
And with rains expected, the course will play longer and softer, but the rough will prove even tougher.
"It's about patience, patience, patience; it's about controlling the golf ball in the right direction… and the guy who handles his mental capacity and damage control the best will win it," he said.
Tiger Woods will not compete at Oakmont and Campbell believes the absence of the 14-time Major champion will hurt.
"No disrespect to the big three, but Tiger is a different animal. He's transcended the game - we still need him. Every time Tiger plays, he brings an additional dimension," said Campbell.
Even without Woods, Campbell expects a good show of golf when things get underway, tipping Henrik Stenson as the dark horse at Oakmont.
"I'm just choosing the guy because his ball-striking is up there. He doesn't use his driver off the tee, but his three-wood and driving irons are longer than most," said Campbell, of the Swede who tops the PGA Tour's "good drive percentage" rankings.
"Steve Williams (Scott's caddie) has a great quote: these greens are much faster, more challenging and undulating than Augusta. That is a true indication of how hard it will be for the boys," said Campbell.
"It'll be a true test of golf this week."
You know you’re going to be put under a lot of pressure on basically every single shot you hit out there, so you have to be prepared for that. You have to be prepared for how mentally demanding it’s going to be, how much concentration you’re going to need out there.
— Rory McIlroy (above)
A lot of fans, a lot of people around the world just don’t realise how tough it is to win, especially trying to hit a little golf ball that size and get it in a hole 400 yards away. You know what I mean?
— Jason Day
It gives you a lot of options off the tee depending upon how aggressive you want to play, but then you have to be really careful on where you place your ball around the green. The onus is on fairways and greens this week, definitely, to try to give yourself the easiest way of making par.
— Danny Willett
The US Open is often about the toughest test in golf. And Oakmont, sort of having that reputation of potentially being the toughest course in America, it kind of suits the US Open really well and gives this tournament and this week something special.
— Justin Rose (above)
I don’t think you can play enough rounds here to really know it. But some of the craziest greens I’ve ever played and most penal fairway bunkers I’ve entered, and trying to stay out of those as much as possible this week. It’s a fair golf course.
— Rickie Fowler
It’s about patience, patience, patience; it’s about controlling the golf ball in the right direction… and the guy who handles his mental capacity and damage control the best will win it.
— New Zealand’s Michael Campbell