US Open 2020: Will Winged Foot Produce One of the Most Unpredictable Majors Yet?

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Geoff Ogilvy won the US Open 2006 with one shot to five over par

Whether it's the first hole or the 72nd of a major championship, Winged Foot & # 39; s West Course can eat you.

Of the five US Men's Opens held at the New York site, only one of them has produced a winning score below par.

Billy Casper, champion in 1959, thought it appropriate to finish in third par three in all four rounds.


In 1974, during what the & # 39; Massacre at Winged Foot & # 39; was mentioned, the great Jack Nicklaus started his week rolling a birdie putt off the first green.

Geoff Ogilvy was the last man standing when the US Open last visited in 2006.

The Australian's winning score was five above par but a sensational finish saw both Phil Mickelson and Colin Montgomerie card double bogeys on the latter when Pars would have seen them win.

Ogilvy expects it to be even more difficult when the tournament starts on Thursday this year.

"At some point in 72 holes, it's going to get you," he tells BBC Sport. "Below average after 72 holes would be a great performance.

"I hear it's very hard to set up right now, so this year could be really hard."


What makes it so difficult?

Colin Montgomerie and Phil Mickelson both double bogeyed in the last hole in 2006

"What are you trying to do, the best players in the world to embarrass? ”Sandy Tatum, then chairman of the USGA & # 39; s Championship Committee, was asked after Hale Irwin won seven above par in 1974, the second highest winning total since World War II.

"No, we're trying to identify them," was Tatum's famous answer.

A decade later, in 1984, Fuzzy Zoeller became the only man to enter the US Open. to be won with a sub-par score at Winged Foot on a slightly easier set-up, although only he and Greg Norman ended up in the red.

"The USGA usually puts a difficulty layer on top of these courses , so wherever you go, it will take a few more shots just because of the length of the roughness, the solidity of the greens and the tough pins, ”explains Ogilvy.

"Winged Foot just got 18 really insidious crazy greens. They are really wild and you couldn't build these kind of greens until so long ago – they had these crazy slopes."

Architect AW Tillinghast was nicknamed Tillie the Terror, and a spot in the World Golf Hall of Fame, for creating a daunting portfolio of courses with Winged Foot, which opened in 1923.

"It has narrow fairways, long, rough and really hard greens," recalls Ogilvy, who ranks the first green, the scene of Nicklaus' infamous four-putt, as " one of the most difficult in the world ".

"It just starts on the first hole and then you go …"

It was a fear of bogey, or even worse, by missing the 216-meter par three with his tee shot that convinced the 1959 winner to lay up Casper every time. He made four pars and won with one shot.

"When you get out of trouble, you lose all control, and if you miss the greens in the wrong place, you just can't get it up and down," says Ogilvy.

"All your mistakes are made worse because the greens are so hard.

" If you hit him in a good spot on the greens, is that okay, not too difficult. But it's really hard to hit him in the right place on the greens. "

How will it play in 2020?

Ogilvy, the only non-American who won the US Open at Winged Foot has only been back on the Mamaroneck course once since his 2006. triumph and the Australian was eager to return this year had the coronavirus pandemic not disrupted the course of events.

He keeps an eye on the location's West Course and says delaying the Major from June to September will likely change the way he plays.

"The raw is very healthy," said Ogilvy, who now lives back home in Melbourne after two decades in the US

"They've had less play, so the course is really good. It's later in the year so they can emphasize the greens a bit more as it won't be that hot.

"There's a little bit more coolness at night so the greens can get faster than last time because of the date difference, which would be a bit crazy."

It will look a little different from the last major scene that was held there 14 years ago too, with extensive work on the bunkers and greens in 2017, along with tree removal

And then there's the absence of the rowdy New York fans.

Ogilvy remembers the spectators as "not only cheering, but chirping", although he managed to stay out of the spotlight on his final lap in conjunction with England's Ian Poulter.

"Poults have done me the greatest favor ever," laughs the 43-year-old former number three in the world.

"This was the period when Poults was a bit of a peacock – he was in baby pink from head to toe; hat, shirt, pants, shoes, belt, head covering, the whole thing.

"On Sunday, on Father's Day in New York, nobody even noticed me in the group because everyone just wanted to chirp on Poults. "

What does it take to win at Winged Foot?

Ogilvy beat the last four holes on Sunday to win with one hit

Bobby Jones finished with six, beating Al Espinosa in a playoff in 1929, Bi lly Casper won with two over in 1959, Hale Irwin with seven in 1974 and Fuzzy Zoeller, despite having one white towel waved in sham surrender when he thought Greg Norman had shot last, defeated the Australian in a play-off after both finished at four in the bottom in 1984.

In 2006 Ogilvy suggested set the clubhouse goal of five over par and saw Mickelson hit a six on the final par-four hole to lose by one, while fellow countryman Jim Furyk missed a par putt that would have put him in a play-off. Montgomerie, who seemed to be approaching his first major, a six herself.

Irish Padraig Harrington carded three consecutive bogeys to win back two.

Ogilvy started off the pace on the second day and took the time of his Sunday morning preparation to see Australia face Brazil at the World Cup.

"It was the first World Cup we made in my life", he says. "How am I missing that ?! It was probably perfect, because it distracted me a little from the wave. "

He took the lead briefly, but was back two more after the 14th. Then caddy Alistair suggested Matheson for making a par on the last four holes might be enough.

That went according to plan until Ogilvy found the trees at the age of 17, in the rough and then the green with his third shot.

"I chipped it," he says of the par-saving fourth shot. "At that point, I immediately had the feeling of & # 39; wow, people who win tournaments do something like that & # 39 ;.

"It was such a ridiculous par, such a wonderful chip-in, the way I played the hole, I really had the feeling & # 39; there something's right with me right now & # 39 ;.

Ogilvy & # 39; s tee shot on 18th landed in a grassy field to leave a tough approach that repelled by the green.

"I had to do a really good up and down par and then hope Phil would take care of me with the last in the group behind me, and he did it , "he recalls.

" The shot at 17 was incredibly lucky. It was a good lie, it was a relatively easy shot, but incredibly lucky to get it off and hole it. But 18 was like a 9/10 difficulty, close to the best shot I've ever taken, considering all the circumstances. "

Ogilvy had to watch his victory unfold on the screen from the scorer's hut.

" I was very lucky, "he says." Right place at the right time. I talked to Phil a little bit right after that on the 18th green, he was kind of in shock.

"I have stories for life, to the others it's just another tournament and they don't want to remember it."

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