Masters champion Zach Johnson expressed his frustration with the tough Oakmont set-up after shooting a six-over-par 76 in the US Open third round on Saturday.
The 31-year-old American has been relatively pleased with his form in the year's second major but was upset with a birdie count of only three over the first three days.
"My game's been pretty good," Johnson told reporters after posting a 16-over total of 226 on a fast-running layout regarded as one of the toughest in golf.
"I'd say my biggest headache is just the course set-up. It's just so hard. The golf course is the story this week, or the way the USGA (United States Golf Association) sets it up -- one of the two.
"Going into today, my caddie and I were counting the number of opportunities we had for birdie," added Johnson, who held off a late challenge by world number one Tiger Woods to win the Masters in April by two shots.
"I made just one in two days, and we could only think of about two or three more. Yet I did not make a double (bogey) or anything more than that prior to today, and that's just tough."
Johnson, 10 strokes off the lead going into the third round, lost further ground with an erratic outward nine of six-over 41 that included a triple-bogey at the second.
However, he recovered after the turn, rolling in a 15-footer to birdie the 14th and was unfortunate to bogey the last after three-putting from long range.
"I got off to a bad start but I thought I held up pretty good," said the Iowa native, who followed his Masters breakthrough with victory at last month's Atlanta Classic.
"When you are 10 shots out of the lead, you need some help. You try to get yourself into position to make par.
"Maybe I'm not hitting my irons close enough or straight enough or whatever. I really don't know."