As one of the last to make the US Open field, few expect Aron Price to lift one of golf’s greatest trophies.
Price is nothing if not a realist and appreciates the magnitude of running down champs 400 places higher in the world rankings.
But, by the same token, the Florida-based Sydneysider is showing both physical and mental signs that he’s far from fazed about playing the tournament that originally sparked his interest in golf.
“I’d never played golf as a kid, but I knew a few of the big Aussie events and the US Open – it was just the one I saw and it always fascinated me,” Price said after his final practice round at spectacular but savage Oakmont.
“So I guess I knew it was always hard, even before I knew what (professional) golf was all about, so it doesn’t really bother me (the difficulty levels).
“It has never bothered me what people think of my golf game, so all the crowds don’t bother me at all. It’s just a matter of doing what you can and just keeping those big mistakes out of your game.”
Price didn’t have that luck in 2014 when he made his major championship debut at another famous American layout at Pinehurst, admitting he was probably overawed and that he spent his energy too early in the week before missing the cut.
This time, with good mate Nick Flanagan – the 2003 US Amateur champ on this very course — on the bag, Price is in a far different headspace having qualified as medallist from his Florida region just last week.
“It’s great to see so many people out here from Monday to Wednesday – far from your average tournament. But we’re just doing our own thing this week and we’ll see how it goes.”
If the sharpness of Price’s short game today is anything to go by, it will “go” just fine, thanks.
The 34-year-old nipped balls repeatedly close from far-flung corners around greens on the back nine, showing a liking for the course design that has dominated conversation in the lead-up and will invariably rule out many of his rivals before they even tee it up tomorrow.
“Don’t get me wrong, it’s bloody tough. But I really like that there are no barriers, no bunkers or rough, in front of just about every green,” Price said.
“If you find yourself in trouble but you can still manage to bump one toward the green, I think I’ll be able to escape a few times and leave it in a reasonable position.
“There are some courses, like Merion, where if you’re in the rough you have no option but to just hack it out sideways. Here is different – hard but different.
“I think I can manage it a lot better, put it that way.”
Time will tell if Price’s best means he can put his name among those his talent suggests he should.
One thing’s for sure this time, he won’t be overawed by the moment and his second tilt at his childhood dream promises to be far more fruitful.