Winged Foot Golf Club in Mamaroneck is again hosting the U.S. Open championship, which gets underway on Thursday and concludes on Sunday. The event is normally played in June, but had to be postponed and will be contested without spectators.
Here are some of the details that will keep all upcoming conversations about the 120th U.S. Open going:
Winged Foot Golf Club was founded in 1921 by a group of New York Athletic Club members whose goal was to build two exceptional golf courses and host championships. The founders did not skimp. A.W. Tillinghast was commissioned to design the courses. Clifford Wendehack designed the clubhouse.
History is well-preserved inside the iconic gates.
“Winged Foot is one of the greatest clubs on the planet with two incredible courses,” said Gary Player, who tied for eighth in the 1974 U.S. Open.
The club has more than 600 members and recently completed a large-scale capital building and restoration plan.
“It’s clearly a very golf-centric, golf-loving, golf-enthused membership,” said longtime general manager Colin Burns.
This will be the sixth U.S. Open (1929, 1959, 1974, 1984, 2006) contested at Winged Foot, which has also hosted the PGA Championship (1997), U.S. Amateur (1940, 2004), U.S. Senior Open (1980), U.S. Women’s Open (1972, 1957), Walker Cup (1949) and U.S. Amateur Four-Ball (2016).
The West Course
This famed Tillinghast design opened in 1923 and ranks among the most complete and difficult tests of golf in the country. A meticulous restoration by Gil Hanse was completed in 2017. That project was guided by Tillinghast’s original design and brought 22,211 square feet of putting surface back into play.
“It was really hard,” Justin Thomas said to Golfweek following a round with Tiger Woods last month. “I absolutely loved it. … It’s right in front of you. It’s not tricked up.”
A number of subtle changes will provide a different test than 2006. It’s now a 7,477-yard par 70. There are several new tees in place, most notably at No. 10, a par 3 that requires more club at 214 yards, and No. 17, a par 4 that has been stretched to 504 yards. There is a reversal on the front nine with No. 5 now playing as a 502-yard par 4, and No. 9 now playing as a 565-yard par 5.
There will be a few pin locations that were not feasible in 2006, as well.
Geoff Ogilvy won by a stroke in 2006, posting a 5-over total of 285. He made clutch pars on the final two holes, including a chip-in on No. 17 while Phil Mickelson (double bogey) Colin Montgomerie (double bogey) and Jim Furyk (bogey) came famously undone on the 72nd hole.
Fuzzy Zoeller carded a record-setting 67 in 1984 to dismiss Greg Norman in an 18-hole playoff after they finished at 4-under. Norman made a 45-foot putt for par on the 72nd hole to get into the playoff.
Hale Irwin played with great patience and survived the Massacre at Winged Foot in 1974, winning the U.S. Open with the high score in relation to par since 1963, 7-over. Forrest Fezler was two shots back. Tom Watson came into the final round with a one-shot advantage, but shot a 79 and tied for fifth place.
Billy Casper one-putted 31 times, holding off Bob Rosburg in 1959 to win by a shot. He three-putted just once during the championship. Ben Hogan was also in the hunt, but a final-round 76 dropped him into a tie for eighth.
Bobby Jones won his third U.S. Open crown in 1929, getting up and down from a greenside bunker to finish with a 6-over total of 296 then defeating Al Espinosa in a 36-hole playoff. He dominated the playoff, carding rounds of 72 and 69 to win by a remarkable 23 strokes.
The original two-handled cup was presented at the initial U.S. Open in 1895 and was to be displayed at the winner’s home club. It was destroyed by a 1946 fire at Tam O’Shanter near Chicago following Lloyd Mangrum’s win. A full-scale replica was produced and handed out the following year. That championship trophy was permanently retired to the USGA Golf Museum in 1986 and replaced with another replica that stays in the possession of the winner for a year.
It was a dry, hot summer, but the last few weeks have been ideal for growing healthy grass and the rough is thriving at Winged Foot.
And the USGA strives for the firm and fast setup.
There will be graduated cuts on some of the holes, but any drive that gets loose or approach that misses left, right or long will likely end up in tangled mess that measures at least 5 inches.
“Well, I think they will learn real quick,” NBC on-course reporter Roger Maltbie said of the players. “They will learn in practice that this rough means something.”
During the restoration, the greens were also rebuilt to USGA specifications and have underground SubAir technology in place, which restores firm and fast conditions following a rain event. All of the bunkers were redone and no longer wash out.
There’s a five-line irrigation system in place, as well, ensuring the rough will thrive even under tree lines.
With traditional qualifying canceled due to the coronavirus pandemic, the 144-man field is comprised entirely of exempt players. Normally, 156 players compete at the U.S. Open, but when the championship was postponed, accommodations had to be made because there are fewer daylight hours in September.
There are two players with Westchester County roots. Brandon Wu is a Korn Ferry Tour player who lived in Scarsdale when he wasn’t at Deerfield Academy or Stanford. Danny Balin is the head professional at Fresh Meadow Country Club and lives in Valhalla.
It’s yet to be determined, but last year there was $12.5 million up for grabs. The winner got $2.25 million along with a 10-year U.S. Open exemption and invitations to the next five Masters Tournaments, PGA Championships, Open Championships and Players Championships and exempt status on the PGA Tour for the next five seasons.
The smattering of applause
There will some bus and shuttle traffic between Winged Foot and parking lots at Harbor Island and Playland, but the remainder of the hustle and bustle was canceled when the state announced spectators would not allowed inside the gates.
According to the USGA, only 2,000 people will be onsite most days.
The list of essential personnel includes players, caddies, staff, volunteers, security, media and food service workers.
Knowing somebody isn’t going to help, unless it’s a homeowner along the back nine of the West Course with a rooftop deck. Fans can make all kinds of noise, though, on front of their flat screens as NBC provides some 11 hours of coverage a day across its platforms.
A lot of behind the scenes maneuvering went into finding a workable date, but everything fell into place when the Open Championship was canceled. The last time the U.S. Open was not contested in June was 1931 at the Inverness Club in Toledo, Ohio. The last time the championship was played in September was 1913 at the Country Club in Brookline, Massachusetts.
Mike Dougherty covers golf for The Journal News/lohud.com. He can be reached at email@example.com or on Twitter @hoopsmbd and @lohudgolf.