Brutal US Open test lies ahead at Winged Foot
They’ve won 20 majors between them but Tiger Woods, Justin Thomas and Rory McIlroy are well aware of the job that faces them as they tee it up tonight at the US Open.
Carnage and massacre aren’t the words you’d normally associate with a golf course but New York’s Winged Foot is known as one of the toughest courses in the world.
Justin Thomas practices alongside Tiger Woods at the 2020 US Open (Credit: USGA)
The combination of impossibly fast greens, narrow fairways and punishing rough will see some of the world’s top players brought to their knees.
It was here at Winged Foot that Hale Irwin won the 1974 US Open with what still remains the highest winning score in a major in relation to par at 7-over.
“We’re not trying to humiliate the best players in the world,” said the-then USGA president Sandy Tatum. “We’re simply trying to identify them.”
Tiger Woods knows all about how tough it is around the West Course having missed his first cut ever in a major at the last US Open here in 2006…albeit following the death of his father Earl.
Back-to-back rounds of 76 saw Woods miss the weekend by three strokes.
When asked about Winged Foot ahead of this week’s tournament, the former World No.1 was quick to place it amongst the toughest in the world.
“Well, I think it’s right up there next to Oakmont and I think Carnoustie as far as just sheer difficulty without even doing anything to it,” he said.
The three-time US Open champ (2000, 2002 and 2008) joined Justin Thomas in taking an early look at the course following the recent Northern Trust.
“I was able to come up here right before I played in Boston, take a look at the golf course, and I was able to get my sight lines,” he said.
“This golf course is going to be one of the more difficult ones. The winning scores here have never traditionally been very low. I don’t see that changing this week.”
World No.3 Justin Thomas has played in just five US Opens with his best result coming in 2017 with a share of 9th place and the year he won the PGA Championship.
Despite his lack of US Open success, his recent trip here alongside Woods has him excited about his prospects.
“It’s incredible. I absolutely love it. It’s probably one of my favourites I’ve ever played, to be honest,” said Thomas.
“It’s hard, so it’s a different kind of fun, but it is fun. It’s nothing tricky, nothing crazy. You need to play well and have control of your golf ball, otherwise you’re going to get pretty exposed.”
“It’s a U.S. Open. You know it’s going to be tough, and you know par is a really, really good score… but I might not think the same at the end of the week,” smiled the 27-year-old.
For new dad, Rory McIlroy, this marks his 12th U.S. Open and with over 20 majors since McIlroy last tasted success, the 31-year-old is keen to turn that around.
“If you’ve looked at my major championship performances over the last few years, I’ve just gotten off to slow starts and it’s just put a little too much pressure on myself going into tournaments,” he said.
“And from there, shooting a bad score on the first day and putting yourself under even more pressure from there to just make it to the weekend, and then to try to play catch-up. I think that’s been the big thing.”
McIlroy will tee it up alongside Adam Scott and Justin Rose while Woods and Thomas will be joined by the 2020 PGA champion, Collin Morikawa.