Preview: 120th US Open

Time to get down.

120th United States Open

Winged Foot Golf Club

West Course

Mamaroneck, New York

Yards (per official scorecard):7,469
Par:70 (35-35)
Greens:Bentgrass, Poa annua; larger than average.
Stimpmeter:13′
Rough:Kentucky Bluegrass, rye, fescue starting at four inches.
Architects:AW Tillinghast (1921); Gil Hanse (2016).
Purse:Not disclosed; $12.5 million and $2.25 million (winner) 2019.
Defending Champion (event):Gary Woodland won by three at Pebble Beach for his first major championship.
Fact of the Week:First US Open in September since 1913.
Fact of the Week II:6th time Winged Foot will host a US Open.
  

Notes:

  • 144 players.
  • 13 amateurs included along with three club professionals.
  • 34 players experiencing their first US Open.

2020-2021  Season Winners

*- First-time winner

**- First-time winner AND rookie winner

EventWinner
Safeway OpenStewart Cink (not entered this week)

Check out HORSES FOR COURSES for more details on those who play well here.

Event Winners:

YearPlayerNotes
2019Gary WoodlandPebble Beach was benign due to marine layer, wet conditions.
2018Brooks KoepkaOutdueled Dustin Johnson from the final group to defend his title at Shinnecock Hills.
2017Brooks KoepkaBombed defenseless Erin Hills into the record books for his first major title.
2016Dustin JohnsonMade up four shots in the final group on Shane Lowry for his first major at Oakmont.
2015Jordan SpiethWatched Johnson three putt from 15 feet to hand him the the title at Chambers Bay.
2014Martin KaymerBlew the doors off the field at Pinehurst No.2  for his first US Open victory.

Facts and Figures:

Tournament Record:268(-16); Rory McIlroy, Congressional Country Club, 2011.
Lowest Round – major:62; Brendan Grace, Royal Berkshire (2017)
Lowest Round – US Open (last)63; Tommy Fleetwood, Shinnecock Hills (2018).
Recent Defending Champion(s):Koepka (2017, 2018)
Multiple Winners (event or course):Woods (2000, 2002, 2008).  
Oldest  Winner:Hale Irwin, 47, 1990.
First Time TOUR:Graeme McDowell (2010).
Odd Fact:Last 40-something to win was Payne Stewart, 42, Pinehurst No. 2 1999.
Odd Fact II:No sectional or local qualifiers this year.  

Quick Thoughts

Winged Foot is really difficult and one of my favorite tests of golf. I enjoy penal rough, sloping, fast greens and classic courses.

Sandy Tatum had the best line ever in 1974 during the “Massacre at Winged Foot”: We’re not trying to embarrass the best players; we’re trying to identify them.

Majors should test every part of your game including the mental and physical. Golf isn’t about hitting fairways. Golf isn’t about hitting greens or putting. It’s a combination of everything and that’s what will determine the champion this week.

And yes, the difficulty of the course matters.

Pros that already hate the rough, or fast greens, or whatever, are dead. No point in even teeing off. Missing the fairway by three yards is penal. So is leaving the ball above the hole. It’s major championship golf, not a hit and giggle for 25-under. Moving the ball both directions, lag putting, short-game play is all involved this week. So is keeping your cool when things get rough.

Get it over it.

This isn’t a week to fix  what is wrong either so I’ll use recent form as a tiebreaker, if it comes to that.

Winged Foot is protected by penal rough off the tee and massive, intricate green complexes upon arrival at the hole. But like all great tracks, it will reward proper tee shots and approaches. Minimizing big numbers by taking your medicine won’t hurt. Neither will finding some fairways and greens. There will be bogeys this week and accepting them on to the card will be part of the mental challenge.  So will not being able to rattle off seven or eight birdies a round. Being able to plod, par and persevere will determine the champion this week.

Tillinghast is also responsible for Bethpage Black so if you’re looking to connect a dot or two, looking in that direction won’t hurt. Neither will be the results from the two hardest events this season, Memorial and BMW. Difficult set ups provide us clues!

Chalk – Betting Favorites (Bet365.com) under 30-1

Dustin Johnson (8-1): How can he not be? Voted Player of the Year this week, the only two players who have beaten him in the last month are Jon Rahm and Collin Morikawa. One needed a 66 foot eagle while the other needed to drive a Par-4 and make eagle! This track falls right into his wheelhouse similarly to Oakmont. Only question will be is there enough gas in the tank to keep this streak rolling.

Jon Rahm (9-1): Winner of the two hardest TOUR stops this season (Memorial, Olympia Fields). Hardly a weakness in his game as he’s claimed his emotions no longer get the better of him. Has the confidence that he’s already taken care of DJ once. My choice of the two.

Justin Thomas (12-1): Fatigue, caddy shuffles, playoff loss, WGC win, he’s practically had a season in two months. Bones is back to TV and Jimmy Johnson, after a health scare, is back on the bag. Maybe he can exhale and play golf now. Claims he loves Winged Foot and the challenge it presents so that’s more than half the battle this week. Sits 2nd SG: Total but his US Open record, minus the 63 at Erin Hills is sparse.

Xander Schauffele (14-1): He’s played in three of these and his worst payday is T6 to go along with T5 and T3. It’s obvious he’s wired for USGA set ups and it doesn’t hurt to have his tool box either. He’s 11 of 12 in all majors with four top fives and eight top 25s. Sits 3rd SG: Total but hasn’t won this season.

Rory McIlroy (16-1): New dad at least is trending in the proper direction (T8-T12) in his last two. Needs to put four rounds together and I’m not sure this is the best track to “fix” what might be broken. The talent isn’t the issue.

Collin Morikawa (16-1): He’s 1-for-1 in majors as a professional so there’s no point arguing with whether he’s ready or not haha. If the greens at Winged Foot are as legit as everyone says this is my only concern for him this week. It’s surely not the ball-striking but navigating unknown, brutally difficult greens could be the kryptonite.

Bryson DeChambeau (25-1): On paper, he should be good. Upstairs, I wonder if the calculator can keep up with all of the variables. On a normal TOUR stop, I’m guessing there is ONE THING each week that gets his full attention. I’d treble that number at Winged Foot. Being a super putter in 2020 could be the ace up his sleeve if everything else computes.

Webb Simpson (25-1): I was high on him on Bermuda in Atlanta after his rest. Swing and a big miss as he didn’t get out of neutral until the weekend. Worst two results in 2020 were on Bent/Poa greens in Mexico (T61) and Memorial (74-76, MC). Didn’t play well at TPC Harding Park either. Hairs are split.

Hideki Matsuyama (28-1): Monster tee-to-green and can make omelettes around the greens. He’ll be one that hopes the brutal green complexes reduces the emphasis on putting this week as he checks in at No. 170 in the SG department.  Three rounds under par at Olympia Fields caught my attention.

Next Tier (30-1 or worse)

Jason Day: I’m having a hard time getting off of him this week. If the rough isn’t as dense as it seems, he’ll have short irons in his hands most of the week. We know how good he is on and around the greens as well plus he seems healthy. He’s cashed in seven of nine US Opens and five are top fives. Included.

Patrick Reed: Winner previous at Bethpage knows what it takes to navigate Tillinghast. Very similar to Day in the power/short game department plus both already have a major (no pressure). Reed loves a grind and tough courses so check both of those boxes. Yep.

Tony Finau: Of his last eight major appearances four have gone for T8 or better. Where Day and Reed might gain a few shots on and around the greens, Finau will gain his tee to green. Solo eighth at Memorial, T4 at PGA and solo fifth at BMW stands out. Yep again.

Tommy Fleetwood: T3 in Portugal was a nice rust buster last week. When Fleetwood arrived after the break he stopped at National Golf Links, Shinnecock and Friar’s Head to knock the rust off. T29 was his best TOUR result following. He’ll enjoy the breezy weekend and cool temperatures.

Matthew Fitzpatrick: Time to believe in the sprinkler line making a difference! Oh, and he’s an excellent putter as well. 3rd at Memorial, T6 in Memphis and Chicago suggest big fields and big ballparks don’t bother him. Never MC in five US Open visits as a pro or amateur. Nibbles.

Daniel Berger: Beat Morikawa in a playoff to kick off the restart and hasn’t slowed down since. Of his last eight seven are T25 or better with four podium finishes. Only MC was Memorial. Best US Open T6 Shinnecock.

Tyrrell Hatton: Another who cashed T6 at Shinnecock has proven he can handle tough courses and tough conditions. Made 11 cuts in majors and five are T10 or better. 8th SG: Total and was second to Schauffele at East Lake (10-under) in the gross division.

Patrick Cantlay: Not as sharp in the return as many (see: Me) expected but his last run, T12 BMW, was the best of the bunch. Plenty in the bag (10th SG: Total) as evidenced by 12 paydays from 13 majors in his career including four-for-four at the US Open.

Longer Shots

Gary Woodland: Lost a few pounds in quarantine but started strong before fading after Memorial. Defending is never easy unless your name is Strange or Koepka.

Louis Oosthuizen: T23 or better in five straight US Opens. I know a guy who can break that streak for him!!! He’s 7 of 10 lifetime with six top 25s. Hard to ignore.

Harris English: Season of heat should result in his first top 25 in a US Open. He’s never missed in four tries and is 13 of 16 in all majors. LOOK AT HIS METRICS.

Matthew Wolff: T4 in his first major. Scared of what? Reminds me of a young Jason Day and that’s not bad this week. Nibbles.

Adam Scott: The 40-somethings gained another in the Aussie this year. Lightly raced like Tiger Woods, asking his body and mind to flip the switch for four rounds is some ask. Gamers think since he could do it at Riviera he could do it again. Fool me once…Now, is he on for a made cut and a weekend moving up the board. That’s not ridiculous.

Martin Kaymer: Quick, name his last win ANYWHERE. Too long. If you answered the 2014 PLAYERS followed by the 2014 US Open at Pinehurst No. 2, you may spin again. He couldn’t handle Jon Catlin at Valderamma down the stretch but he’s hit the podium in Europe in his last two outings.

Jordan Spieth: Since his 2015 victory handed to him by Johnson at Chambers Bay, Spieth has produced T37-T35-MC and T65 last year. Not much different than his starts recently on TOUR. Only the contrarian will believe Winged Foot will the tonic.

Abraham Ancer: Oh, hey, hello. I remember T16 at Bethpage in the PGA  Championship in 2019. 16th in scoring average, 20th in SG: Total so if it’s between him and Spieth, well…

Billy Horschel: The harder, the better and this qualifies. 27th SG: Total for +11000.

Brendon Todd: HUGH ESSAY Matt Fitz? Tons of fairways and tons of putts made. T17 at Harding Park and T8 at Olympia Fields suggests his lack of firepower isn’t terminal. Very tortoise in a field of hares. Nibbles.

Si Woo Kim: Making plenty of cuts, 10 straight, so there’s that.

Rank Outsiders

Will Zalatoris: Hot golf is hot golf regardless of where it’s being played. 11 straight top 20s on the KF Tour for the former Wake Forest standout.

Rasmus Hojgaard: Speaking of hot, the 19-year old returned to action with solo second, T6, solo third, WIN and T31. Future is bright.

Mackenzie Hughes: No offense to the kids right above him but the Canadian is a TOUR winner and is one of few to hit the top 10 at both Memorial and BMW this year. Toss in 8-under at East Lake and we’re past fluking it. Bigger fields, bigger stakes = best results. Yep.

Erik van Rooyen: T8 at Bethpage last year highlights 5-for-5 in majors for the South African. Hasn’t broken into the top 20 recently but is 6th SG: Off the Tee.

Cameron Smith: Made the cut in seven straight majors so remember that at +17500. Super short game, like most Aussies too.

Brandon Wu: Lived around here for a bit so that plays since Winged Foot doesn’t get tricked out for this event. Went to Stanford finishing school for golf so he’s played big events and big courses in his young career. Won the KF Tour Championship and was T2 at Albertsons. T35 last year at Pebble Beach.

Sergio Garcia: Prefers when par is a great score as he’s made 17 of 20 with five top 10s and 11 top 25s career in this event. Like van Rooyen hit it well last week but missed by a shot so he should be in game-shape. T5 Oakmont doesn’t hurt but his recent form doesn’t inspire.

Branden Grace: One of the last men in the field, also T5 at Oakmont and could have won Chambers Bay. Didn’t register a top 50 in four majors last year. T29 last week at Safeway best in the restart.

Kevin Streelman: Loves the part of the country and loves Bent/Poa. If he was in the top choices last week (T3), I surely can’t leave him out this week.

Steve Stricker: He’s been too busy helping Tiger wrap his putter this week to be distracted by Winged Foot. At 53 he shouldn’t be in the conversation but his T18 at Memorial reminds us that slow and steady can race. T6 in 2006 and he wasn’t long then either.

Jason Kokrak: He’s played three US Opens and two were at Oakmont so he shouldn’t be bothered by what he finds at Winged Foot. Comfortable and strong off the tee plus 41st Tee-to-Green equal lovely sleeper. Closed 69-66 at BMW for his third consecutive top 15. Go time.

Brian Harman: Fell short of East Lake but not because of T11 at TNT and T12 at BMW. T2 at Erin Hills followed by T36 at Shinnecock Hills in his last two.

Sami Valimaki: Hot before COVID break. Hot after COVID break. He’s 22 in his first major. Arrives T10-2nd-T6 and won in Oman earlier in 2020.

Connor Syme: Scot is also hot with three straight top 10 and four of seven since the restart.

Old Glory

Tiger Woods: Plenty of time off. Plenty of time to activate glutes. Plenty of time to re-grip the putter. Some will believe he can contend this week while others will believe he’s tuning up for Augusta in November. My tiebreaker with him is to lean on tracks where he’s done the business. This doesn’t qualify.

Phil Mickelson: +11000 should tell you all you need to know. If Disney has a sense of humour he’ll allow at least Thursday or Friday to grab headlines. Classic Phil last week said he is hitting it terrible (T44) and would just be happy to be at Winged Foot. Father time is too strong and his tee shots too wayward.

Bubba Watson: Maybe, just maybe, the green complexes will transport him to Augusta. Sadly the rough will remind him it’s a US Open where he has made just five weekends from 13 starts.

Jimmy Walker: Former Tillinghast winner at Baltusrol has struggled, sadly, with Lyme disease.

Matt Kuchar: All of his best US Open work has been in California. No heat either, just one top 20 since the restart.

Rickie Fowler: Remember when he was going to win one or two of these?  One top 10 in 14 starts in 2020. Speaking of 14, his streak of cuts made in majors ended at 14 with MC at Harding Park.

Olde English 800

Paul Casey: All 14 clubs includes the putter. 1 top 10 in 16 tries.

Justin Rose: 2013 winner at Merion ditched his coach, clubs and gear earlier in the year. He didn’t qualify for the BMW or East Lake so that should tell you how that’s going. T3 at Colonial and solo ninth at Harding Park couldn’t even save it. Last eight are four top 25s and four MC. Gulp.

Lee Westwood: First US Open since Erin Hills but he’s 15 of 18 lifetime. He was also a bit younger then; he’s older than that now. He’s also 0-82 in majors so if he gets near it on the weekend, my goodness what pressure. Trending nicely in Europe but the last of four was just T10.

Danny Willett: 3 straight MC to being the restart, T4, T32, T69 in the middle and 3 straight MC to wrap. Best US Open was T12 last summer off of T8 the previous week at RBC Canadian Open.

If you have any questions, don’t hesitate to reach out through Twitter or email me mikeglasscott@gmail.com.

2 thoughts on “Preview: 120th US Open

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