The men’s US Open golf tournament will begin Thursday at one of the most difficult golf courses in America.
Winged Foot Golf Club, which opened 97 years ago (1923) just north of New York City, has hosted other four US Opens during the modern era. At a rather pedestrian (by 2020 standards) length of 7,264 yards, the West course plays to a course rating of 75.7. That means it is 3.7 shots harder for a golfer who traditionally plays 18 holes in even par.
In three of the four previous US Opens at Winged Foot, the winning score has been over par.
In 1959, Billy Casper won at +2. In 1974, Hale Irwin survived a test of nerves after posting a 7-over par winning score.
Just 14 years ago in 2006, Geoff Ogilvie took home the trophy with a less than stellar +5 final score. That was the year which Phil Mickelson had his best chance to grab the US Open for the first time in his career as he led by two shots standing on the 18th tee in the final round.
It was only in 1984 did Fuzzy Zoeller post a winning score with a (gasp) -4 total. I remember that the golfers were so scared of Winged Foot (Hale Irwin’s +7 winning score in 1974 was dubbed “The Massacre at Winged Foot”) that some players refused to play in 1984 if the course set-up wasn’t modified. The USGA reluctantly relented.
If you like seeing golfers who miss the fairway be penalized in thick, deep, gnarly rough, get your popcorn ready for a weekend of viewing enjoyment!
So, which version of Winged Foot Golf Club should we expect to see this week?
The weather is expected to be refreshingly fall-like. High temperatures should be quite comfortable in the middle 60’s to middle 70’s. That sounds great to me!
The USGA’s CEO, Mike Davis, is hinting that the course might play a little easier than a few of the past tournaments held at Winged Foot, too.
“We kept looking at ways [to] make the golf course a little bit easier, because this is such a great test. It puts the premium on everything.“
Translated – If the winning score turns out to be one under par, that would be AOK with the USGA.
I am tired of seeing modern golfers banging 350 yard drives and hitting short irons into par-5 holes. Technological advances in modern golf equipment have made a mockery of some of the country’s finest golf courses in recent years.
Get ready for Winged Foot to strike back this weekend!
Since the golf course demands accuracy off the tee and around the greens, this event should bring some of the more accurate and shorter golfers back into contention for a possible championship run this week.
With this being 2020, I believe that this US Open is going to have a storybook ending with surprises aplenty. Let’s take a look at a few possible finishes which I would love to see come true.
- Phil Mickelson finally gets his first US Open win! Fan favorite Phil is the poster boy for heartbreaking finishes in this major golf tournament. Now 50 years of age, Mickelson has finished in 2nd place a record six times (!) in the US Open. That includes his infamous final hole collapse at Winged Foot in 2006. Phil has won the other three golf “majors”, so a win this weekend at Winged Foot would complete his career grand slam. It would also be the biggest story in golf since Jack Nicklaus won the 1986 Masters at the age of 46. Phil is currently a whopping 110:1 bet to win this tournament (translated – not very likely). If Phil leaves his erratic driver at home, he still might have a chance!
- Dustin Johnson wins again? D.J. is the hottest golfer on tour right now. He is long off the tee, solid enough around the greens, and just won the $15 million FedEx Cup bonus in Atlanta. Alas, Dustin Johnson rarely shows any emotions and can be quite boring to watch. Johnson is the US Open favorite with 8:1 odds. If he wins, the odds on me being asleep by the trophy presentation are even money!
- Jordan Spieth returns! This talented young man has been literally invisible for the past three seasons. After winning the 2017 British Open, Jordan Spieth got married and is mired into a deep slump on the course. Spieth’s precision putting touch faded and his awkwardness off the tee makes him (like Phil Mickelson) a 110:1 bet this year at the US Open. Wouldn’t it be fun to see Jordan Spieth come out of nowhere to win this event?
- Tiger Woods challenges but loses down the stretch! Yes, this is highly unlikely because Woods usually prevails when the pressure is mounting. However, Tiger is now 44 years old, and he won’t have the huge gallery cheering for him this year as the course will be sans fans. Tiger has 15 majors and still needs three more to tie Jack Nicklaus for the most major championships in golf history. Woods will have to use his trusty 2-iron off the tee to have a chance this year. His odds are currently 50:1.
- Matt Kuchar/Rickie Fowler/Paul Casey/Lee Westwood finally win a first major! I know I can’t pick all four of these players to win this year’s US Open, but all of them are overdue for a little bit of good luck. So, why not this year?
Matt Kuchar is now 42 with nine PGA wins. He has finished top 7 or better in each of the four major golf championships including a 2nd place finish in the 2017 British Open. He is 150:1.
The 31-year old Rickie Fowler has five PGA victories and is currently a 66:1 betting option. He has finished 2nd in the US Open, British Open, and the Masters along with a third place in the PGA Championship.
43-year old Englishman Paul Casey has finished 2nd in the PGA Championship, 3rd in the British Open, and 4th at the Masters. He has the best odds of this quartet at 60:1.
47-year old Lee Westwood (225:1) has played in ten Ryder Cups for the Brits. He has finished second in the 2010 British Open and second in the 2010 Masters. He was third in the 2009 PGA and had two third-place finishes at the US Open (2008 and 2011). This may be Westwood’s last shot to win a major in the United States.
There is one more bit of good news for the US Open. The tournament will be telecast by Golf Channel and NBC. Fox Sports is now officially out of the televised golf business. Hallelujah!
The one thing you know about the US Open at Winged Foot is that the winner will be a tough-minded survivor.
Turn off the NFL again this Sunday (they don’t miss us anyway) and enjoy some great golf being played on a terrific venue!