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"Kid Next Door" Spieth ready for the next major challenge at Oakmont

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Calm. Mature. Poised. Articulate. Humble. Unselfish. Confident. Approachable. Talented.

After watching – and listening to golf's newest and youngest superstar, and defending U.S. Open Champion, Jordan Spieth --  these are some adjectives that come to mind.

As part of defending his U.S. Open crown, Spieth was more than happy to oblige as one of the first players in the field to formally meet with the media on Monday.  As soon as he walked into the packed room, Spieth felt bad for keeping everyone waiting.

"I want to apologize for being late," added a convincingly sincere Spieth.

Immediately, the 22-year old Texan showed why he appeals to fans of all ages, and has become the face of American golf as we enter a new chapter, turning the page away from an era that was dominated by Tiger Woods.

Spieth's talent and success – winning two majors at age 21 – have been the primary reason he’s burst into the spotlight and has reached star status.

As he made his way around the course, huge throngs of Monday’s practice round crowd were following him around.  The packed gallery included young kids wearing Under Armor gear and many older fans (yes -- my mother included) were also eager to get a glimpse of the youngest U.S. Open Champ in history.

If there was one constant during his Monday appearance at the old golf course, onlookers were continuously pointing cell phones and cameras in his direction.

In fact, Spieth faced an incident earlier in the day when he pulled away from signing autographs near the driving range as a younger child was getting crushed by numerous people above him seeking an autograph.

“Sometimes, I'm instructed by security that if it looks like not only kids are being crushed but the potential of the gate collapsing, to just stop and say you'll do it a different time or say, hey, I'm only getting kids,” said Spieth.

“There was a little kid with sunglasses who looked kind of smooshed. He was taking it like a champ, though. He was still smiling and holding out his flag. But I got his flag and said to the guys that were smooshing him, which happened to be eBayers, sellers, professionals. So, it was pretty easy for me to tell them, no, you smoosh a kid, I'm not signing for you. I'm going to go sign for the next person over here.”

On the golf course, Spieth is all business.

Heading into this year’s U.S. Open – Spieth knows he has his work cut out for him in a year where he’s already had to overcome a hiccup in defending his other major title at the Masters.

“U.S. Open has been -- wearing the U.S. Open champion kind of flag, I guess, is the easiest way to put it has been a tremendous honor for me,” said Speith, who completed a back nine U.S. Open practice round at Oakmont Country Club on Monday afternoon as part a group that also included fellow stars Rickie Fowler and Rory McIlroy.

“I was fortunate enough to win a couple of USGA championships as a junior, and to win the ultimate one, the highest honor in the USGA has been fantastic. I reflected on it as we conquered the hardest test in golf. That takes place once a year, and it's at one of the hardest venues this year.”

It was the hiccup at this year’s Masters (compounded by a triple bogey on the 12th hole), which some reporters on Monday were still peppering him with questions.US Open Jordan Spieth

He had a simple answer.

“I just made two poor timed swings. It happens,” said Spieth.

Spieth also added that he did move on.  Recently – in late May he won The Colonial near his hometown in Fort Worth, Texas.

“I think that was really big for us to actually win a tournament,” added Spieth, who routinely includes his caddie, Michael Greller, in the discussion when talking about his game – and his performances.

“Not just contend, but to actually close one out, and so now I can draw back on those last few holes, the pressure that I felt and the speed control and kind of the control of the ball to the most minute detail, which comes down to short game that we had at the end there.”

Spieth, who has extended family from Lehigh Valley in Eastern Pennsylvania who will be coming to see him play this week, had a chance to play 27 holes at Oakmont for the first time in early May, and after playing practice rounds on Sunday and Monday, feels that the course is now Championship ready – especially in the rough.

“I can't remember seeing rough like certain spots. It rewards a better shot off the tee. It even rewards slight misses versus big misses,” said Spieth.

“I think it's really tough but still fair, and I think that the rough is certainly some of the hardest I've ever been in.”

Like most everyone else that’s been around Oakmont this week, Spieth couldn’t help but come away impressed.

“It's in just immaculate condition. I thought, with the wind yesterday (Sunday), I would have signed probably for somewhere around 75, 76 and shaken everyone's hand and said, I'm going to go back and have a beer after that round,” explained Spieth.

“But today (Monday), with less wind, I thought that it was more playable. Still extremely challenging, where par is a great score, but I thought, if you hit the ball where you were looking, you could have birdie opportunities on quite a few holes. But at the same time, again, like I said, six weeks ago, I said I'd sign for even par. I don't think anyone's going to be in the red come 72 holes.

“It will be a challenge, but I'm certainly looking forward to it,” added Spieth.

Spieth's certainly confident and humble – but like most of us – mostly excited for the start of the 116th United States Open here in our backyard.

"I wish the tournament started tomorrow.  I'm ready.”

A Closer Look: Jordan Spieith
Birthdate: July 27, 1993
Birthplace: Dallas, Texas
Residence: Dallas, Texas

With his U.S. Open victory at Chambers Bay, in University Place, Wash., in 2015, over Louis Oosthuizen and Dustin Johnson with a 72-hole score of 275 (5-under par), Speith accomplished a number of significant milestones:

...he became the youngest U.S. Open Champion, at 21 years, three months, since Robert T. Jones Jr. won the first of his four U.S. Open titles in 1923.

...Speith a also became the sixth player to win the Masters and U.S. Open in the same year, joining some prestigious names such as Craig Woods, Ben Hogan (twice), Arnold Palmer, Jack Nicklaus and Tiger Woods.

...Chosen as PGA Tour Player of the Year and capped five victory season with win at TOUR Championship to become FedEx Cup champion.
US Open Jordan Spieth
...joined Johnny Miller and Tiger Woods as the only players to win the U.S. Open and the U.S. Junior Amateur.  He won the Junior Amateur in 2009 and 2011.

...one of six players to place five or more PGA TOUR wins in a season since 1980.

John Krysinsky will be part of Pittsburgh Sports Report’s coverage of the U.S. Open at Oakmont.  You can follow his Open updates on Twitter @johnkrysinsky

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