Winged Foot is proving to be its challenging self and is producing everything needed for a classic US Open golf Championship. The 120th US Open teed off on Thursday at the Winged Foot West course in Mamaroneck, New York. Due to the Covid-19 pandemic, it has been moved to its unusual September time slot.
It is so tough that the US Golf Association (USGA) has described it as a national championship that is a “searching test” of every aspect of a player’s game. Without any gimmicky set-up strategies, it will be up to the course to determine the championship.
“We will let Winged Foot be Winged Foot,” said John Bodenhamer, USA’s head of championships. He added he was inspired by comments from AW Tillinghast, course architect, who was asked if the USGA would try to toughen up the course for the 1921 US Open.
“We’re not going to outfit Miss Winged Foot in any different way than she would otherwise be,” Tillinghast said at the time. “No fancy clothes, no special jewellery . . . Just wash her face up for the party and she’ll be good enough”.
Winged Foot is rough
“This place tests every single aspect of your game,” golfer Rory McIllroy said of Winged Foot. “It is all pretty tough. It’s hard, obviously, but I think it is very, very fair. Something would have to go seriously wrong to get into the realms of goofy golf”.
McIlroy said he arrived at winged Foot, primed by stories of Opens past: the 1974 “Massacre at Winged Foot,” which was won by Hale Irwin. And, of course, the 2006 meltdowns of Phil Mickelson and Colin Montgomerie that opened the door for Australian Geoff Ogilvy to walk away the winner with a five-over par total.
While Mike Davis, USGA chief executive, admitted officials had even looked at ways to make the golf course a little bit easier, straying from the fairway will be castigatory. There will be no spectators to trample down the rough or give hints to the whereabouts of wayward balls, with only volunteer marshals on the watch.
“So, beware, if you get outside the rope lines this week, it’s going to be significant,’ Bodenhamer warned. And, true to form, Winged Foot challenged golfers to the max, particularly Tiger Woods and Phil Mickelson, on day one of the US Open.