120th U.S. Open Championship Preview

120th U.S. Open Championship Preview120th U.S. Open Championship Preview

Autumn officially begins next Tuesday but it sure feels like fall as college football is live, the NFL has kicked off, and the unique 2020-21 major-championship season rolls on this week at Winged Foot Golf Club in Mamaroneck, New York. 

This week’s U.S. Open will be the 120th edition of the event. It was originally scheduled for mid-June but the COVID-19 pandemic had other plans. 

Due to daylight concerns, only 144 golfers will be lined up to play this week at Winged Foot. It’s the lowest number in a U.S. Open field since 1932 when there were only 140 runners. It’s traditionally been a 156-man field since the 80s. 

<p class="canvas-atom canvas-text Mb(1.0em) Mb(0)–sm Mt(0.8em)–sm" type="text" content="That will help with the expected cut-made percentages this week but overall it will still be tough to earn a weekend tee time when you consider that only the top 60 and ties will make it through the cutline. That used to be a much-bigger difference when comparing from week-to-week rules but now that the TOUR has gone to top 65 every week, it’s just a minor hurdle. If we’re looking at percentages then at least 42% of golfers will play four rounds this week with the potential for more if there are ties that stack up.&nbsp;” data-reactid=”26″>That will help with the expected cut-made percentages this week but overall it will still be tough to earn a weekend tee time when you consider that only the top 60 and ties will make it through the cutline. That used to be a much-bigger difference when comparing from week-to-week rules but now that the TOUR has gone to top 65 every week, it’s just a minor hurdle. If we’re looking at percentages then at least 42% of golfers will play four rounds this week with the potential for more if there are ties that stack up. 

<h3 class="canvas-atom canvas-text Mb(1.0em) Mb(0)–sm Mt(0.8em)–sm" type="text" content="The Course” data-reactid=”27″>The Course

<p class="canvas-atom canvas-text Mb(1.0em) Mb(0)–sm Mt(0.8em)–sm" type="text" content="The West Course at Winged Foot Golf Club will play the role of host this week. It will be the 13th time it's been used in a USGA event and first time it's been used on the PGA TOUR schedule since the 2006 U.S. Open where Geoff Ogilvy won with a four-day tally of 5-over 285.&nbsp;” data-reactid=”28″>The West Course at Winged Foot Golf Club will play the role of host this week. It will be the 13th time it’s been used in a USGA event and first time it’s been used on the PGA TOUR schedule since the 2006 U.S. Open where Geoff Ogilvy won with a four-day tally of 5-over 285. 

That kind of carnage is not an outlier, either. The other USGA stroke-play events hosted at Winged Foot were won with winning scores of +6, +7, +2, +11, +7, +1, and -4.  The USGA may have softened their stance on course setups recently but the superintendent at Winged Foot is anything but soft. He recently said, “hopefully this is of one of the hardest U.S. Opens they play.” It’s just an personal observation of mine, not a fact, but it sure seems like he (and the Winged Foot membership) are gauging success of the week by how high the winning score can get. 

The A.W. Tillinghast design is set to play as a par 70 that stretches to 7,477 yards from the tips. Long! That would make it the fifth-longest U.S. Open course ever used behind Erin Hills, Chambers Bay, Torrey Pines, and Congressional. 

A deeper dive into the hole-by-hole layout shows us that seven of the par 4s are 467 yards or longer. Three of the par 3s stretch out past 210 yards. That tells us that golfers should see more than the usual allotment of long-iron approaches this week. 

As you can tell by the winning score at Erin Hills (-16), length alone is not enough to defend a course with these guys. That is where the rough comes into play this week at Winged Foot. Using the graduated-rough system, golfers will see “playable” three-to-four-inch rough when missing just off the fairway but if they stray too far off path (about 10 paces or so) then goflers will find themselves in rough that will be five inches or longer. The kind of rough that could lead to lost balls if they strictly enforce the three-minute search rule. 

Golfers will be pleased to hear that a recent Gil Hanse restoration increased the size of the greens back to around 6,400 square feet on average. That puts them right around TOUR average, so don’t mistake the increase in size to mean they are now huge greens. They had previously “shrunk” to 5,100 feet over the years. Hanse and his crew also cut down some trees and improved the drainage. 

Once golfers reach those greens they will have to deal with speedy poa annua surfaces that are heavily sloped. The greens are very boxy and might not look intimidating at first glance. In a non-USGA setup, golfers would likely be able to tear this course apart but this is a USGA setup. They will ramp the green speeds up and that turns most of the greens into pinewood derby tracks that are sloped from back to front. The greens will punish you quickly if you don’t manage your misses and keep the ball below the hole. 

<h3 class="canvas-atom canvas-text Mb(1.0em) Mb(0)–sm Mt(0.8em)–sm" type="text" content="Course Quotes” data-reactid=”35″>Course Quotes

Sifting through some past quotes, let’s try to break down the course to see how it will play.

<p class="canvas-atom canvas-text Mb(1.0em) Mb(0)–sm Mt(0.8em)–sm" type="text" content="Martin Kaymer: "It’s one of those golf courses where you need to play really well, it’s not about bombing the golf ball and not only a putting competition. I think it’s more about finding fairways and greens." -2020″ data-reactid=”37″>Martin Kaymer: “It’s one of those golf courses where you need to play really well, it’s not about bombing the golf ball and not only a putting competition. I think it’s more about finding fairways and greens.” -2020

<p class="canvas-atom canvas-text Mb(1.0em) Mb(0)–sm Mt(0.8em)–sm" type="text" content="Jon Rahm:&nbsp;"&nbsp;The greens kind of gave me an Oakmont vibe: extremely difficult, extremely undulated. But I think all 16 out of the 18 greens are all sloped back to front. There’s always a run-up on the front. At least it seems a little more fair than Oakmont might look. I’m not shocked that the winning score last time was 5-over par, and if it gets firm like some of the USGA guys told me they want it to be, I don’t see how any of us shoot under par, or if we shoot under par it would be somebody winning by a lot." -2020″ data-reactid=”42″>Jon Rahm: ” The greens kind of gave me an Oakmont vibe: extremely difficult, extremely undulated. But I think all 16 out of the 18 greens are all sloped back to front. There’s always a run-up on the front. At least it seems a little more fair than Oakmont might look. I’m not shocked that the winning score last time was 5-over par, and if it gets firm like some of the USGA guys told me they want it to be, I don’t see how any of us shoot under par, or if we shoot under par it would be somebody winning by a lot.” -2020

<p class="canvas-atom canvas-text Mb(1.0em) Mb(0)–sm Mt(0.8em)–sm" type="text" content="Geoff Ogilvy:&nbsp;"I still am not the straightest hitter in the world. My short game is pretty decent. I’ve been getting it up and down from everywhere this week, which you have to. Your best day you’re going to hit 12 greens out here probably." -2006″ data-reactid=”43″>Geoff Ogilvy“I still am not the straightest hitter in the world. My short game is pretty decent. I’ve been getting it up and down from everywhere this week, which you have to. Your best day you’re going to hit 12 greens out here probably.” -2006

<p class="canvas-atom canvas-text Mb(1.0em) Mb(0)–sm Mt(0.8em)–sm" type="text" content="Tiger Woods: "Marginal shots are just going to get killed here; it’s just the nature of this golf course. Any U.S. Open, but more so on this golf course, but any U.S. Open venue that we play, any marginal shot here just gets penalized more so than any other Open." -2006″ data-reactid=”44″>Tiger Woods: “Marginal shots are just going to get killed here; it’s just the nature of this golf course. Any U.S. Open, but more so on this golf course, but any U.S. Open venue that we play, any marginal shot here just gets penalized more so than any other Open.” -2006

<p class="canvas-atom canvas-text Mb(1.0em) Mb(0)–sm Mt(0.8em)–sm" type="text" content="Jim Furyk:&nbsp;&nbsp;"The grass is real common. I think up here in the northeast you see a lot of it, and out on the west coast you see a lot of it. Pebble Beach, Torrey Pines, the Olympic Club, even throughout the Midwest you see quite a bit of poa annua. As far as preparing, it can be the worst or the best surface. If it’s dry and firm, it can be very good. If it’s wet and soft, it can be pretty much awful to putt on. When it’s wet, it gets spongy. When we step on the green you can see pretty much your entire footprint. It gets bumpy and waffleboard like when it’s soft." -2006″ data-reactid=”45″>Jim Furyk:  “The grass is real common. I think up here in the northeast you see a lot of it, and out on the west coast you see a lot of it. Pebble Beach, Torrey Pines, the Olympic Club, even throughout the Midwest you see quite a bit of poa annua. As far as preparing, it can be the worst or the best surface. If it’s dry and firm, it can be very good. If it’s wet and soft, it can be pretty much awful to putt on. When it’s wet, it gets spongy. When we step on the green you can see pretty much your entire footprint. It gets bumpy and waffleboard like when it’s soft.” -2006

<p class="canvas-atom canvas-text Mb(1.0em) Mb(0)–sm Mt(0.8em)–sm" type="text" content="Overview:&nbsp;Golfers talk about needing to keep it in the fairways here and needing the ability to scramble because missed greens will be inevitable.&nbsp;” data-reactid=”46″>Overview: Golfers talk about needing to keep it in the fairways here and needing the ability to scramble because missed greens will be inevitable. 

 

<h3 class="canvas-atom canvas-text Mb(1.0em) Mb(0)–sm Mt(0.8em)–sm" type="text" content="Correlated Courses” data-reactid=”48″>Correlated Courses

Looking at grass types, geography, course attributes, and past performance, here are a few courses/events that I think could prove to be a good pointer this week: 

<p class="canvas-atom canvas-text Mb(1.0em) Mb(0)–sm Mt(0.8em)–sm" type="text" content="Augusta National
U.S. Open Rota
Riviera CC
Quail Hollow
East Lake Golf Club” data-reactid=”50″>Augusta National
U.S. Open Rota
Riviera CC
Quail Hollow
East Lake Golf Club

The theme this week is going to be courses that punish you for a missed fairway, courses with a lot of length, or courses with very undulating greens. 

I try to isolate courses that are used regularly but some other one-offs that would be useful include Shinnecock Hills, Merion, Bethpage, Bellerive, Olympia Fields, and Baltusrol. You could throw in Ridgewood if you like the architect angle. Even TPC Potomac and Firestone would be solid pointers given the location, grass type, etc. 

 

<h3 class="canvas-atom canvas-text Mb(1.0em) Mb(0)–sm Mt(0.8em)–sm" type="text" content="The Weather” data-reactid=”54″>The Weather

<p class="canvas-atom canvas-text Mb(1.0em) Mb(0)–sm Mt(0.8em)–sm" type="text" content="Thursday: Partly Cloudy with a high of 77 degrees. Winds at 5 to 13 MPH.&nbsp;” data-reactid=”55″>Thursday: Partly Cloudy with a high of 77 degrees. Winds at 5 to 13 MPH. 

<p class="canvas-atom canvas-text Mb(1.0em) Mb(0)–sm Mt(0.8em)–sm" type="text" content="Friday: Cloudy with a chance of showers. A high of 71 degrees. Winds at 9 to 17 MPH.&nbsp;” data-reactid=”56″>Friday: Cloudy with a chance of showers. A high of 71 degrees. Winds at 9 to 17 MPH. 

There is a sliver of rain possibility throughout the week but overall a great week for picking apples or having a U.S. Open Championship. 

<h3 class="canvas-atom canvas-text Mb(1.0em) Mb(0)–sm Mt(0.8em)–sm" type="text" content="Golfers to Watch” data-reactid=”58″>Golfers to Watch

<p class="canvas-atom canvas-text Mb(1.0em) Mb(0)–sm Mt(0.8em)–sm" type="text" content="Dustin Johnson
He’s the hottest golfer in the world right now and his lone major came at Oakmont which shares a lot of the same setup characteristics. Given his run of form to end the summer, it will shock no one to see that he’s lined up as an 8-to-1 betting favorite.&nbsp;” data-reactid=”59″>Dustin Johnson
He’s the hottest golfer in the world right now and his lone major came at Oakmont which shares a lot of the same setup characteristics. Given his run of form to end the summer, it will shock no one to see that he’s lined up as an 8-to-1 betting favorite. 

<p class="canvas-atom canvas-text Mb(1.0em) Mb(0)–sm Mt(0.8em)–sm" type="text" content="Jon Rahm
If you go by what Rory (McIlroy) said recently, then Olympia Fields and Muirfield Village have been the best course setups since the restart. They’ve properly tested golfers. Who won at both of those courses? That would be Jon Rahm. His temper was once deemed to get his way of winning a major but more recently he’s managed top 15s in five of his last six majors played. He’s trending nicely ahead of this week’s showdown with Winged Foot.&nbsp;” data-reactid=”60″>Jon Rahm
If you go by what Rory (McIlroy) said recently, then Olympia Fields and Muirfield Village have been the best course setups since the restart. They’ve properly tested golfers. Who won at both of those courses? That would be Jon Rahm. His temper was once deemed to get his way of winning a major but more recently he’s managed top 15s in five of his last six majors played. He’s trending nicely ahead of this week’s showdown with Winged Foot. 

<p class="canvas-atom canvas-text Mb(1.0em) Mb(0)–sm Mt(0.8em)–sm" type="text" content="Justin Thomas
A little further down the betting board is JT who didn’t have a win in the Playoffs but did win a WGC just over a month ago. It’s easy to get sucked into the recent results of Rahm and DJ but Thomas should not be overlooked either.&nbsp;” data-reactid=”61″>Justin Thomas
A little further down the betting board is JT who didn’t have a win in the Playoffs but did win a WGC just over a month ago. It’s easy to get sucked into the recent results of Rahm and DJ but Thomas should not be overlooked either. 

<p class="canvas-atom canvas-text Mb(1.0em) Mb(0)–sm Mt(0.8em)–sm" type="text" content="Xander Schauffele
Looking for major-championship form, it’s tough to find much better than X-man if you exclude those with wins on their resume. Schauffele has landed top 20s in eight of his 12 majors played in over the course of his young career. That includes a T10 at the PGA Championship recently and a trio of finishes T6 or better in U.S. Open Championships.&nbsp;” data-reactid=”62″>Xander Schauffele
Looking for major-championship form, it’s tough to find much better than X-man if you exclude those with wins on their resume. Schauffele has landed top 20s in eight of his 12 majors played in over the course of his young career. That includes a T10 at the PGA Championship recently and a trio of finishes T6 or better in U.S. Open Championships. 

<p class="canvas-atom canvas-text Mb(1.0em) Mb(0)–sm Mt(0.8em)–sm" type="text" content="Will Zalatoris
Comes from elite pedigree. Ended his final year at Wake Forest within five spots on the Sagarin ratings of Wyndham Clark, Sam Burns, Mav McNealy, Doug Ghim, and Scottie Scheffler. It might have taken him a year or two longer than expected but Zalatoris has finally hit the ground running. He arrives with 17 straight top 35s on the Korn Ferry Tour, dating back to the end of 2019. It’s not just steady finishes as seven of those have doubled as top-5 finishes. He picked the worst time to shine because they didn’t dish out TOUR cards for Korn Ferrry grads due to the COVID-19 crisis. It would not be surprising to see him play his way into full-time status this season and it starts this week for the youngster out of Texas.&nbsp;” data-reactid=”63″>Will Zalatoris
Comes from elite pedigree. Ended his final year at Wake Forest within five spots on the Sagarin ratings of Wyndham Clark, Sam Burns, Mav McNealy, Doug Ghim, and Scottie Scheffler. It might have taken him a year or two longer than expected but Zalatoris has finally hit the ground running. He arrives with 17 straight top 35s on the Korn Ferry Tour, dating back to the end of 2019. It’s not just steady finishes as seven of those have doubled as top-5 finishes. He picked the worst time to shine because they didn’t dish out TOUR cards for Korn Ferrry grads due to the COVID-19 crisis. It would not be surprising to see him play his way into full-time status this season and it starts this week for the youngster out of Texas. 

<p class="canvas-atom canvas-text Mb(1.0em) Mb(0)–sm Mt(0.8em)–sm" type="text" content="Phil Mickelson
Lefty is launching his coffee brand today but the main storyline will be his stumble to the finish line the last time Winged Foot hosted a U.S. Open. This remains the final piece of his Grand Slam puzzle but it’s hard to imagine him contending when you look at his current state of his driving. He’s hit 12 fewer fairways than the field over his last six rounds played. Mickelson tried to spin it in a positive way yesterday, "So I’ve won a major winning the week before, I’ve won a major missing the cut the week before. You just don’t know how it’s going to be. Right now I’m right in between. I’ve got a little bit of work to do, but again, it doesn’t feel far off." If you want to root for the Cinderella story then Phil is your man this week.&nbsp;” data-reactid=”64″>Phil Mickelson
Lefty is launching his coffee brand today but the main storyline will be his stumble to the finish line the last time Winged Foot hosted a U.S. Open. This remains the final piece of his Grand Slam puzzle but it’s hard to imagine him contending when you look at his current state of his driving. He’s hit 12 fewer fairways than the field over his last six rounds played. Mickelson tried to spin it in a positive way yesterday, “So I’ve won a major winning the week before, I’ve won a major missing the cut the week before. You just don’t know how it’s going to be. Right now I’m right in between. I’ve got a little bit of work to do, but again, it doesn’t feel far off.” If you want to root for the Cinderella story then Phil is your man this week. 

 

 

<p class="canvas-atom canvas-text Mb(1.0em) Mb(0)–sm Mt(0.8em)–sm" type="text" content="Ranking the Field&nbsp;” data-reactid=”67″>Ranking the Field 

<p class="canvas-atom canvas-text Mb(1.0em) Mb(0)–sm Mt(0.8em)–sm" type="text" content="1. Jon Rahm
2. Justin Thomas
3. Dustin Johnson
4. Webb Simpson
5. Xander Schauffele
6. Rory McIlroy
7. Daniel Berger
8. Patrick Cantlay
9. Collin Morikawa
10. Adam Scott
11. Harris English
12. Tyrrell Hatton
13. Tony Finau
14. Will Zalatoris
15. Bryson DeChambeau
16. Matthew Fitzpatrick
17. Viktor Hovland
18. Hideki Matsuyama
19. Patrick Reed
20. Tiger Woods” data-reactid=”68″>1. Jon Rahm
2. Justin Thomas
3. Dustin Johnson
4. Webb Simpson
5. Xander Schauffele
6. Rory McIlroy
7. Daniel Berger
8. Patrick Cantlay
9. Collin Morikawa
10. Adam Scott
11. Harris English
12. Tyrrell Hatton
13. Tony Finau
14. Will Zalatoris
15. Bryson DeChambeau
16. Matthew Fitzpatrick
17. Viktor Hovland
18. Hideki Matsuyama
19. Patrick Reed
20. Tiger Woods

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