2020 U.S. Open – Course setup and what the results show so far

Subtle changes to a challenging layout make all the difference

USGA
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Peter Koutroumpis

editor@trianglesportsnet.com

MAMARONECK, N.Y. – What fans viewing the 2020 U.S. Open being played at Winged Foot Golf Club can’t see on TV is how difficult the playing conditions are.

The shot-making required during the third round of play would be even more critical for those who made the cut following opening rounds that saw a big difference in rounds-under-par from Thursday through Friday and into Saturday.

A look at the USGA’s notes on course setup told part of the story as play continued.

Coming into it, native North Carolinian from Raleigh, and 2012 U.S. Open champion Webb Simpson stated of Winged Foot on Wednesday, the day before play began:

“It’s in phenomenal shape, it’s firm, I know there hasn’t been a whole lot of rain up here lately. It’s just hard. It’s really hard. I know they have cut the rough the last few days, but I played in the U.S. Amateur here in 2004, I remember thinking this is a really hard golf course, but it’s very fair.

“This is the epitome of a golf course where it’s just hard, it’s kind of in your face all day, especially that finish, where the best golfer will win this week. I think there have been setups in the past where you could argue that a great golfer with a good amount of luck won that week, but you’re not going to have that here at Winged Foot. It’s going to be whoever wins on Sunday is the best golfer here for the week.”

U.S. Open Leaderboard (usga.com)

What a difference a day makes

According to the USGA’s notes, putting green speeds on Thursday were set in the upper 12-foot speed range on the stimpmeter and expected to settle in the mid to low 12’s as the day progressed.

Greens were single cut and rolled in the morning with the exception of the 1st green, which, due to the unique contours of the green, was maintained to a slower green speed.

Normal watering was applied to maintain turf health.

Course yardage was set at 7,416 yards – 3,637 yards on the Front 9 and 3,779 yards in the Back 9 playing from the Primary tees.

Round 1 yielded an unprecedented 21 sub-par scores with Justin Thomas carding a 65 to lead the field, the lowest score posted in a U.S. Open played at the famed venue.

However, just six golfers were still in red figures after 36 holes on Friday night as leader Patrick Reed sat at -4 following another impressive putting performance.

Though he hit only half the greens in regulation, his short game made the difference in placing him in the lead.

It wasn’t a surprise that he led the field in average putts (1.39), rolling 25 and 29 putts respectively during the opening two rounds of play.

Making the cut

Friday’s average green speed in the morning was measured at 13 feet and expected to settle to the mid 12’s as the day went on.

Like Thursday, greens were single cut and rolled in the morning with the exception of the 1st green, which, due to the unique contours of the green, was maintained to a slower green speed.

Water was applied to putting greens as needed to maintain turf health.

Course yardage was set at 7,458 yards – 3,678 yards on the Front 9 and 3,780 yards on the Back 9 playing from the Primary tees, except the par-3 third tee was set at 220 yards.

Slightly lower temperatures, more wind (10-15 miles per hour with gusts up to 20) and challenging hole locations restored the 7,458-yard, par-70 layout back to its anticipated challenge.

Scoring average from Thursday to Friday dropped from 72.56 – the second-lowest first-round average in a U.S. Open behind only Baltusrol in 1993 – to 75.25.

That increase of 2.69 strokes from Round 1 to Round 2 was the largest in U.S. Open history.

Pinehurst in 1999 was the previous high at 2.58.

Notable major champions Tiger Woods and Phil Mickelson missed the cut, among others, including last year’s U.S. Open champion Gary Woodland.

The course left its mark on many.

“Oh, it definitely got a little faster and a little more crisp,” Woods said following his round of 77 on Friday that left him at +10 overall and over the cut line.

“I haven’t seen the board, but I don’t think there was many low scores, obviously. The way this golf course is changing and the way it’s gotten faster and it’s cooler, drier, the greens got a little more bumpy, you know, it’s going to be a hell of a test this weekend.”

“I enjoyed the week and I enjoyed the challenge that this golf course provides,” Mickelson noted after also missing the cut at +13 (79, 74).

“I think it’s always one of the hardest tests that we play but one of the most fun challenges because of the… gosh, the character of the course all throughout, from shot-making to putting and short game. I think it’s a terrific place to play golf and I’m appreciative of the opportunity to have been able compete here and I’m disappointed I didn’t play better.”

The move to Sunday

The USGA reported that for Round 3, the average green speed was 13 feet in the morning and would settle to the mid to upper 12’s as the day went on.

No different than the previous two days, greens were cut and rolled in the morning with the exception of the 1st green, which, due to the unique contours of the green, continued to be maintained to a slower green speed.

Water was applied to putting greens as needed to maintain turf health.

Slightly shorter, the course yardage was set at 7,441 yards – 3,675 yards on the Front 9 and 3,766 yards on the Back 9 playing from the Primary tees.

With only three scores under par posted by the time Reed teed off at 2:25 p.m., the course was holding steady in its defense as the majority of the field continued to grind away at it.

As has happened many times before, don’t be surprised on Sunday at the U.S. Open to witness the lone survivor at the top joined by few in red numbers.

Notables: No bogey-free rounds were recorded over the opening 36 holes, matching 2018 at Shinnecock Hills, and most recently before that, 2013 at Merion Golf Club…Woodland became the first defending champion to miss the cut since Dustin Johnson in 2017 at Erin Hills. Woodland carded rounds of 74-74…The 36-hole cut to the low 60 and ties came at 6-over 146. Past U.S. Open champions to make the cut included world No. 1 Johnson, Lucas Glover, Rory McIlroy and Simpson. Some other major champions playing into the weekend included Adam Scott, Jason Day, Zach Johnson, Louis Oosthuizen and Bubba WatsonOther notables to miss the cut in addition to Woods and Mickelson included past U.S. Open champions Jordan Spieth, Tiger Woods, Justin Rose, Martin Kaymer and Graeme McDowell…Another Raleigh native Chesson Hadley made the cut at +6 overall, playing in his third U.S. Open. He finished Round 3 at +13 overall, following a tough day, carding a 77 heading into Sunday.

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