USGA Says It Tried to Make Winged Foot 'A Little Bit Easier' for 2020 US Open

Blake SchusterAnalyst IIISeptember 17, 2020

Tiger Woods watches his shot off the fourth tee during practice before the U.S. Open Championship golf tournament at Winged Foot Golf Club, Wednesday, Sept. 16, 2020, in Mamaroneck, N.Y. (AP Photo/John Minchillo)
John Minchillo/Associated Press

Fans who have been keeping an eye on the course at Winged Foot Golf Club have no doubt found themselves awed by the slickness of the greens and the depths of the rough and bunkers.

It turns out the difficulty of the course intimidated the USGA a bit ahead of the U.S. Open, too.

"We kept looking at ways [to] make the golf course a little bit easier because this is such a great test," USGA CEO Mike Davis told ESPN's Nick Pietruszkiewicz Wednesday. "It puts the premium on everything."

The U.S. Open has a long history of trying to break the focus and composure of the field.

After Gary Woodland won the tournament at 13-under par in 2019—the second-lowest score in the tournament on record—the USGA is returning to form with a setup sure to see some high rounds. Especially in the opening days.

"When you think about some of the great U.S. Open players of all time—Bob Jones, Ben Hogan, Jack Nicklaus, Tiger Woods—you never heard them complain," Davis said. "They accepted the challenge. They knew—in fact, in some ways, they knew when others were complaining, it gave them an advantage. Part of the lore of a U.S. Open is it's a very tough golf course, hopefully set up in a fair but a stern manner."

Calling Winged Foot "stern" is rather a mild sentiment in itself.

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When Geoff Ogilvy won the last U.S. Open held on the course in 2006, he did so at five over par. Woods infamously missed the cut that year after posting back-to-back rounds of 76 to finish at 12 over par.

Of the five previous U.S. Open tournaments held at the New York course, four saw the winner finish over par.

The 2020 major could bring more of the same.

John Bodenhamer, USGA senior managing director, put it simply when speaking to Pietruszkiewicz.

He wants to let Winged Foot be Winged Foot.