Words by Jason Butler – BGB
The second Major of the coronavirus interrupted season – the U.S. Open – gets underway this week at the famed Wingfoot layout in New York. All the leading lights of world golf will be present, led by World Number One and FedExCup champion Dustin Johnson, who recently added the accolade of the PGA Tour players Player of the Year to his ever growing list of achievements. Defending champion Gary Woodland will be seeking to go back-to-back having broken his Major duck at Pebble Beach last year. One player noticeable by his absence is multiple Major winner Brooks Koepka who dropped out last week due to injury.
Winged Foot Golf Club is a layout steeped in history. Designed by A. W. Tillinghast, the New York club opened its doors back in 1923. The West course was given an overhaul by Gil Hanse in 2017 but the treacherous rough, narrow fairways and slippery undulating greens synonymous with the original design were retained. The layout last hosted the US Open – its fifth – back in 2006 when Aussie Geoff Ogilvy won with a score of five-over par! Indeed only one US Open winner has ever broken par (Fuzzy Zoeller, who defeated Greg Norman in an 18-hole playoff in 1984). The West course will be playing to a length of 7477 yards this week and a testing par of 70.
Pebble Beach was the venue for Gary Woodland’s breakthrough Major at last year’s US Open. The American carded a 69 to reach 13-under par and hold off the challenge of Brooks Koepka; post a three shot winning margin, and in the process deny Koepka’s three successive US Open titles. The leading duo finished six shots clear of a group of four, including Jon Rahm, Chez Reavie, Xander Schauffele, and Justin Rose.
Purse – $12,500,000 (THB390,342,775)
ONES TO WATCH:
Dustin Johnson is without question the form player heading into this week’s US Open. He knows how to close out this Major having won back in 2016 at Oakmont. And two wins and two runners-up in his last four outings point towards a man with the golfing world at his feet. Johnson’s power off the tee could well come in useful at Winged Foot, although it will need to be harnessed with accuracy – and a hot putter – to have a chance of a second Open title.
Marin Kaymer has been plying his trade over on the European Tour post-lockdown, and the German has displayed a return to the form that earned him two Major titles, one of which was the US Open back in 2014. He has gone winless since his lifting the trophy at Pinehurst. But a second at his last outing, the Andalucia Masters, which followed a tied third at the UK Championship points to the Kaymer that hit the top of the world. Ranks in the top-20 on the European Tour for both greens in regulation and putting, two facets of the game most tested at Winged Foot.
Tommy Fleetwood returned to European Tour action at last week’s Portugal Masters and immediately found form with a tie for third spot. The Englishman has a soft spot for the US Open, having finished in the top five on two occasions. Indeed he has yet to miss a cut in 12 Major outings. Tied 29th at the season’s opening Major, the PGA Championship, and surely it’s just a matter of time before he transports his European Tour form onto the US mainland.
Rory McIlroy (2011) at Congressional and Brooks Koepka (2017) at Erin Hills hold the tournament record at 16-under par 268.