In a strange year, playing the U.S. Open in September is only part of what makes the 2020 tournament so interesting. In returning to one of the supreme tests of golf, expect the unexpected at Winged Foot.
Golf fans are in for a seasonal treat this September, and no, it’s not pumpkin spiced. The U.S. Open heads to Winged Foot from September 17-20 for a special autumn edition of major championship golf.
The Golf Course
Winged Foot is no newcomer to the major rotation, hosting the U.S. Open five times previously, most recently in 2006, as well as a PGA Championship in 1997. The club has an East Course and a West Course, but only the West has hosted men’s majors, as will be the case this year. At 7,477 yards, the beefy par-70 layout (typically played as a par-72) is regarded as one of the toughest tests professionals will face. For context, Geoff Ogilvy won in 2006 with a score of +5. If you love watching top pros grind for par like 15-handicappers, you’ll thoroughly enjoy what Winged Foot has in store. Beyond its length and swirling rough, the course’s massive, rolling greens, which were restored to their original glory in 2015, are some of the most famous in the world, and will leave players baffled and frustrated. That’s just how we like it. The club is located in Mamaroneck, New York, and opened in 1923. Both courses were designed by renowned architect A.W. Tillinghast, and renovated by Gil Hanse.
There’s no question the hottest player on the planet right now is Dustin Johnson. The man whose bank account has increased by nearly $19-million over his last four starts, including taking home the Tour Championship and subsequently the FedExCup, is the favourite. But Johnson has proven vulnerable in majors, giving up big leads and struggling to close the deal, especially in U.S. Opens. So we’ll have to wait and see how he fares on a golf course that has tormented some of the game’s greats, namely Phil Mickelson, who made double on the 72nd hole in 2006 to lose by a shot. Other serious contenders include Justin Thomas, Rory McIlroy and Jon Rahm, all of whom have been playing solidly and look primed to give it a run.
A name worth a closer look is Tyrell Hatton. The gritty 28-year-old Englishman won the Arnold Palmer Invitation earlier this year and had a strong showing in the FedExCup finals. With five top-10 finishes in majors, the outspoken and often quotable Hatton might just be ready to make the major leap. As for a complete “I told you so” pick, let’s go with Matthias Schwab. Why, you ask? Because golf is a crazy game.
Scottie Scheffler who was having himself a great rookie season announced that he has withdrawn from the U.S. Open after testing positive for COVID-19. According to the USGA, Scheffler is asymptomatic and safe at home but has tested positive for COVID-19 and out of concern for everyone in the championship has withdrawn.
He will be replaced in the field by Branden Grace, who will be playing his eighth U.S. Open. He finished fourth in the 2015 U.S. Open at Chambers Bay and fifth the following year at Oakmont. Grace won the 2016 RBC Heritage and has nine European Tour victories. His 62 in the 2017 Open Championship at Royal Birkdale is the lowest round in major championship history.
Mackenzie Hughes, Taylor Pendrith, Corey Conners and Adam Hadwin will be representing the Red and White at the US Open. Hughes, who had an impressive 2019-2020 season, which included qualifying for the Tour Championship, is showing the most form out of the group, recently passing Hadwin as the highest-ranked Canadian, sitting at 57th spot in the world golf rankings. Pendrith, a bomber from Richmond Hill, Ontario, who has earned his PGA Tour card for next season after playing well on the Korn Ferry Tour, will be making his major debut. Adam Hadwin is the most veteran out of the quartet, playing in his fifth U.S. Open, his best finish was a T-39 in 2011.
Tiger’s Major Pursuit
15-time major champion Tiger Woods has never won at Winged Foot, and will need to harness his vintage prowess if he wants to turn around what has been a mediocre 2020. Woods, who will benefit from six majors in the next 10 months, remains three major victories short of equaling Jack Nicklaus for most all-time.
Major Equipment News
Titleist’s newest line of drivers, the TSi2 and TSi3, will be a couple of fresh faces teeing it up at Winged Foot. Building upon the TS2 and TS3 models, the low-trajectory TSi2 and high launch TSi3 drivers have been given the go-ahead by the USGA just in time for the US Open. Equipment isn’t often a hot topic of discussion during a major championship week, but with Winged Foot placing a premium on driving accuracy, it’ll be interesting to see how Titleist pros leverage the latest gear. It remains unclear when the drivers will be available for retail.