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Friday October 23 2020
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Monday at Oakmont

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Underneath perfectly sunny skies, the U.S. Open arrived at Oakmont on Monday for a record ninth time.

The practice rounds continue through Wednesday with the tournament starting Thursday. Barring a playoff, the champion will be crowned on Sunday.

Overall, 156 players make up the field, including Austin, Texas native Wes Short. The senior player has been trying to qualify for the Open for 35 years and finally broke into the field this year for the first time. 

"I'm really looking forward to playing. It seemed like after all these years, I didn't ever know if I was going to play in [a US Open]," Short said. "I always thought I was good enough to play [in a US Open]. When I was a kid, there were two tournament I always wanted to play in -- the Masters, and the US Open. Eventually, things worked out for me."

Short did not have time to play the course beforehand due to his current golf obligations but he has a feel for what he needs to accomplish in order to make the cut this week.

"I know in this tournament you have to drive it well and putt well. I've been practicing trying to hit my driver a little straighter this past week," Short said. "Hopefully, I won't visit [the rough] very much this week and keep the ball below the hole."

Another first time qualifier is Pittsburgh's own Mike Van Sickle, a three-time All-American and 2007 Pennsylvania State Amateur champion. He was a first alternate after qualifying in Rockville, Maryland's sectional qualifier.

The USGA held six spots in the field in case any golfers cracked the top-60 rankings last week. Only one golfer broke through -- William McGirt, so five spots were up for grabs by alternates, which opened the door for Van Sickle.

The reigning U.S. Open champion, Jordan Spieth, did not have to worry about qualifying for this year's field. He knows it will be a tough task to defend his U.S. Open crown, though, as Oakmont is known as one of the most-challenging golf courses in the world.

"It's a very tough golf course, as everyone knows. It always plays that way," Spieth said. "I don't think anyone will be [below par] in 72 holes."

Spieth credits last year's U.S. Open victory as a good learning experience that can help him in future tournaments, especially U.S. Open tournaments.

"Winning a U.S. Open is a different experience than winning at any other venue. You learn that literally anything can happen, especially [at Oakmont]," Spieth said. "I feel really good right now. My game feels great."

The last time the U.S. Open was played at Oakmont, which was in 2007, Tiger Woods battled Angel Cabrera on the final holes before Cabrera held on for the win. Woods originally entered this year's open, but later withdrew due to his health. Cabrera, however, returns to defend his Oakmont U.S. Open title.

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