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Sizing up the 2020 U.S. Open at Winged Foot Golf Club

Photo: Michael Lark/Dallas Sports Fanatic

Sizing up the 2020 U.S. Open at Winged Foot Golf Club

A US Open in mid September?  Sure!

This week, the PGA Tour heads to Gil Hanse’s wonderful Winged Foot Golf Club for the 2020 U.S. Open.

The first U.S. Open was played in 1895.  Back then, only 11 competitors contended for the gold medal on the nine-hole course at the Newport Golf and Country Club, and the first prize for this tournament was $150.  Last year’s winner, Gary Woodland, took home $2.25 million.  Grow the game!

The only thing that has stopped it from being played were the two World Wars.  Willie Anderson, Bobby Jones, Ben Hogan and Jack Nicklaus have won it the most – four times each.  Tiger has won it three times.  Is is wildly regarded as the toughest test of golf that the players will face all year and you best believe that is intentional.  The United States Golf Association is notorious for making course conditions incredibly difficult.  For example, the rough this year looks like this:

Good luck getting out of that!

Let’s dive into what makes Winged Foot so great.

The Course

Winged Foot Golf Club will host its sixth U.S. Open this week – only Oakmont Country Club and Baltusrol have hosted more.  This will be its first U.S. Open there since 2006, when Geoff Ogilvy won after Phil Mickelson famously double-bogeyed the 72nd hole.  It is a golf course that prides itself on tough conditions and typically produces an over-par winner – setting up for a brutal test of golf for the world’s best players.  Historically, only once has a winner at Winged Foot finished under par – Fuzzy Zoeller in 1984.

Winged Foot doesn’t necessarily kill you with water and hazards.  It’s a track that literally demands accuracy in every single aspect of the game.  Its complex greens and strategic pin positions force players to need to hit too precise spots on the green.  Add in some ridiculous rough and we are due for some real carnage.  Expect players to look just like you during your Saturday round this week.  Relatable!

Let’s highlight some holes:

Hole #3 – Par 3 – 243 yards

This hole rests at the highest point of the golf course.  Thus its name – “Pinnacle.”  You always have to appreciate a par 3 that is nearly as long as a weekend golfer’s driver.  This massive par 3 is guarded not only by some intimidating bunkers from all angles, but it also features a green with incredibly severe slopes.  In fact, in 1959, the eventual winner Billy Casper chose to LAY UP during all four rounds rather than take on the bunkers.  Now, I can’t imagine the modern taking that approach as the game has changed dramatically since the 1950’s but this hole still demands perfection in order to score.

Hole #9 – Par 5 – 565 yards

Last time the US Open was at Winged Foot, “Meadow,” played as a par 4.  It was the first time in US Open history that there was a par 4 that was over 500 yards.  This year, it’ll play as a par 5, opening up some room for a score if the player dares to take this green in two.  This is the first par 5 of the contest and will typically be playing into the win, however, there is definitely room for guys to sneak one up there in two.

Hole #10 – Par 3 – 214 yards

Another wonderful par 3.  Ben Hogan called “Pulpit” a simple “3-iron into some guy’s bedroom.”  This hole is guarded by the deepest green side bunkers on the entire course so expect some epic up and down attempts.  This tee shot into a sloping green is one of the more iconic holes on the golf course.

Hole #18 – Par 4 – 469 yards 

Finally, we get to the finale.  “Revelations,” is a masterful golf hole that any golfer would dream of laying eyes upon.  This tee shot dog-legs to the left which, again, demands an accurate shot off the tee.  A shot to far runs the risk of going through the fairways at it narrows, with aggressive rough awaiting.  Once there, players a dramatic six foot elevation that provides the harshest false front on the entire golf course.  It was designed to give the effect of a staircase leading players into the clubhouse either with their hearts full from victory or their exhausted heads hanging low in defeat.  The entire course builds towards this moment and it delivers.  It’s among the best, most picturesque finishers in all of golf.

The Field 

That brings us to the players.  The US Open is a unique major because technically, anyone can qualify.  Throughout the year, there are hundreds of players playing in regional and sectional qualifiers just hoping to punch their ticket to Winged Foot.  However, it is the consistent professionals that we are worried about this week.

Since the PGA Championship, no player has been more dominant that Dustin Johnson.  In fact, since finishing second to Colin Morikawa, he has lost to just one other golfer (Jon Rahm) and that was in a playoff.  He’s the favorite for good reason and expected to turn his incredibly hot game into his second career major.

Winning the US Open at a course like Winged Foot sets you apart from the “regular” major championship wins.  It’s a badge of honor to take on not only perhaps the best field in golf history but also do it on a course designed to ruin your life.  While a long shot, Phil Mickelson will be looking to exercise the US Open demons of his past and complete that career grand slam.  He’s worth keeping an eye, obviously.

Brooks Koepka had been the talk of the US Open for the last three years – winning back to back and nearly going for the triple with a second place finish in 2019.  This year, the tournament will be without him as he battles through a nagging injury.

Other guys looking for their elusive first major championship are Jon Rahm, Rickie Fowler and Bryson Dechambeau.  All are eager to take their place in that next tier of professional golfer.  What better place than Winged Foot.

Our local guy, Jordan Spieth also looks to right the ship again this week.  Unfortunately for Jordan, his issues have been accuracy and Winged Foot will look to punish him.  Always rooting for the Dallas native but if you’re looking to pick a winner this week he’s more than a long shot.

2020 U.S. Open odds (via William Hill)

Dustin Johnson 17-2
Jon Rahm 10-1
Justin Thomas 14-1
Xander Schauffele 16-1
Rory McIlroy 16-1
Collin Morikawa 18-1
Bryson DeChambeau 22-1
Webb Simpson 28-1
Daniel Berger 30-1
Patrick Cantlay 30-1
Hideki Matsuyama 33-1
Tony Finau 35-1
Tommy Fleetwood 35-1
Jason Day 40-1
Adam Scott 40-1
Patrick Reed 40-1
Tyrrell Hatton 45-1
Tiger Woods 50-1
Rickie Fowler 55-1

How to watch

Thursday, Sept. 17

Golf Channel on fuboTV: 7:30 a.m.-2 p.m.
NBC: 2-5 p.m.

Friday, Sept. 18

Golf Channel on fuboTV (watch for free): 7:30 a.m.-2 p.m.
NBC: 2-5 p.m.

Saturday, Sept. 19

NBC: 11 a.m.-7:30 p.m.

Sunday, Sept. 20

Golf Channel on fuboTV (watch for free): 10 a.m.-noon.
NBC:
 Noon to 6 p.m.

All available to stream with Peacock and USopen.com

The U.S. Open is a fantastic golf tournament that always produces high drama, whiny players who don’t like not scoring and great moments.  Expect some chaos.

 

There are two things I love more than anything - golf and hockey. Well, also the NFL... and the NBA...who am I kidding. I just love sports.

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