What is old is new again as historic Winged Foot Golf Club is hosting the 2020 United States Open. The West Course, located in Mamaroneck, N.Y., will be the challenge for the sixth time in history but the first since 2006 in determining our national champion. Oddly enough it will also decide the first major champion of the 2020-21 season, the first of SIX to be crowned.
The Par-70 will stretch to 7,469 yards and provide an unbelievable test of all 14 clubs and especially the six inches between the ears. There will be bogeys and doubles bogeys. There will be three and four putts. As with any big ballpark, those who can give it a knock off the tee will have the advantage. Finding the short grass as frequently as possible will create scoring chances but pars will be excellent this week. As Geoff Ogilvy famously remarked, the only safe place at Winged Foot is in the clubhouse.
A.W. Tillinghast made his mark in this part of the county (Bethpage Black) and Winged Foot is considered by many the perfect challenge for determining the finest golfer in all of the land. Designed and opened in the early 1920s, the winners at Winged Foot have included Bobby Jones, Billy Casper, Fuzzy Zoeller, Geoff Ogilvy and the survivor of the “Massacre at Winged Foot” Hale Irwin, who won by posting seven-over, 287. Davis Love III also won the 1997 PGA Championship on this track.
The West Course is known for its incredible green complexes and diabolical rough and both of those will be front-and-center this week. Gil Hanse has brought the greens back to their original sizes, adding more pin placements in theory, which won’t favor anyone. The massive complexes of bent and poa will test the 144 players on speed, read and creativity. Running upwards of 13 feet on the Stimpmeter being above the hole or even pin-high in certain spots will create problems. Only one creek pops up and the trees lining the rough will only affect those far enough off the beaten path. Missing large greens won’t come with a reward this week so players who can grind out pars will feel like they’ve made birdies. Accuracy is rewarded both off the tee and into the greens, as it should be.
Hanse also removed plenty of trees to help the routing visually. Social media suggested Monday that the notorious rough was getting its last haircut of the week. Yes, Monday. Upwards of five inches in the thickest spots, the graduated cut doesn’t allow the big miss to avoid penalty. Remember, with no galleries this week there won’t be any matted-down areas from foot traffic to provide any relief for the extremely errant strikes from the tee box or attacking the greens.
Last year Gary Woodland collected $2.25 million from a $12.5 million purse so that will give gamers an idea of what’s a stake this week. The official prize money, as of Tuesday morning, has not been released yet. The top 60 and ties play the final 36 holes. If there is a playoff required, it will be a two-hole aggregate followed by sudden death.
2006 U.S. Open (entered this week)
2 Phil Mickelson
6 Steve Stricker
12 Ian Poulter
12 Paul Casey
21 Adam Scott
26 Henrik Stenson
32 Scott Hend
37 Charles Howell III
48 Graeme McDowell
Last 10 U.S. Open Winners
2019: Gary Woodland (Pebble Beach)
2018: Brooks Koepka (Shinnecock Hills)
2017: Brooks Koepka (Erin Hills)
2016: Dustin Johnson (Oakmont)
2015: Jordan Spieth (Chambers Bay)
2014: Martin Kaymer (Pinerhurst No. 2)
2013: Justin Rose (Merion)
2012: Webb Simpson (Olympic Club)
2011: Rory McIlroy (Congressional Country Club)
2010: Graeme McDowell (Pebble Beach)
Source: PGA tour