It's hard to think about a U.S. Open at Winged Foot without images of 2006 flashing across your mental screen. It's impossible to imagine a final hole offering more changes in fortune than the 18th at Winged Foot did that year, with Phil and Monty both double bogeying the hole on the way to destroying their U.S. Open dreams. In 2020 the U.S. Open heads back to Mamaroneck, New York and the famed venue that has hosted 5 previous U.S. Open championships. Although wreckages of 2006 comes to mind, one cannot forget the 1974 fight for survival, "The Massacre at Winged Foot," won by Hale Irwin at +7. That score is still the highest winning score in almost 60 years, +14 earned a hard fought T10 in 1974.
So it's back to Westchester County in 2020, just 25 miles from the town that never sleeps, and a golf course that offers no rest for weary. Winged Foot's West Course, designed by A. W. Tillinghast and managed by Golf's first family, the Harmon's, for better than 30 years, will once again offer golf's sternest challenge.
The course setup will once again be at par 70, but it remains to be sees how far the layout may be stretched. The 2015 U.S. Open at Chambers Bay had 4 monster par 4s, and the 16th at Pinehurst in 2014 stretched to 528 yards. For some time the par 4 9th at Winged Foot had been the longest Par 4 in major golf history at 514 yards, so we will see if the USGA looks to have #9 regain its title.
Longest U.S. Open Par 4s
- 14th at Chambers Bay (2015): 546 yards
- 11th at Chambers Bay (2015): 537 yards
- 13th at Chambers Bay (2015): 534 yards
- 16th at Pinehurst #2 (2014): 528 yards
- 18th at Chambers Bay (2015): 525 yards
- 9th at Winged Foot (2020): TBD
Another hole to watch for its setup will be #12, the par 5 that played at 640 yards in 2006.
Longest U.S. Open Par 5s
- 12th at Oakmont (2016): 684 yards
- 16th at Olympic (2012): 667 yards
- 9th at Congressional (2011): 642 yards
- 5th at Southern Hills (2001): 640 yards
- 12th at Winged Foot (2020): TBD
It's likely that the USGA will have Winged Foot ready to present a formidable challenge after Gary Woodland shot -13 in 2019 at Pebble Beach. The USGA doesn't like scores like -13 and -16 that Brooks Koepka shot at Erin Hills in 2017 so expect a winner over par in 2020. The rough will be up, the greens will be "stimping" out at 13+ and the premium on precise iron play will be paramount as too many downhill putts at Winged Foot will have you trunk slamming on Friday evening. In 2006 the green at #1 was so fast and steep that a Stimpmeter reading wasn't even taken as there were no flat areas big enough to get an accurate measurement.
At the 2006 tournament, where there were just 12 rounds under par for the week, the fairways were 24-26 yards wide with 6" (minimum) deep rough not far off the fairway. Players hit just 50% of the fairways that week and just 51% of the greens. And missing a fairway was a 1/2 shot penalty when all was tallied at week's end. The interesting part of the 2006 tournament, and something we may see again in 2020, is that it wasn't necessary the straightest drivers that excelled. Jim Furyk and Monty faired better than most, but Mickelson had a chance to win standing on the 72nd tee after hitting just 2/14 fairways that Sunday. And Ogivly won hitting just 57% of the fairways for the week. The real shots were gained with putting and scrambling in 2006
There is no question that 2020 will see a wicked Winged Foot, ready to pounce on every shot gone awry. While hitting fairways will always be an advantage at Winged Foot, the 2020 winner may be the player that best manages their misses, puts the ball in the right spots on the greens and putts well. It's more than likely that the winning score will be at least +5.