An eight-over par Winged Foot massacre!
That’s the winning score being predicted by those charged with setting-up and maintaining next week’s U.S. Open host venue on the famed Winged Foot course.
If so, the world’s best, including a trio of Irish, could be headed for a highest winning score in a major championship, since Paul Lawrie’s six-over winning total in capturing the 1999 Open at Carnoustie.
That’s also a shot more than the ‘1974 U.S Open Massacre’ when Hale Irwin won at Winged Foot at seven-over.
Next week’s 120th staging of the U.S. Open was all set for June but due to the Coronavirus, it was put back two months.
There had been four years of preparation for this year’s hosting of the championship but then there were four more agonising months of uncertainty for the historic Long Island club, including whether or not the USGA would move the championship outside of the New York region that continues to be hard hit by the Coronavirus.
The U.S. Open had been postponed in early April and it was not until late July that New York Governor, Andrew Cuomo gave the go ahead but without the noisiest spectators in the sports world not allowed to be in attendance.
Steve Rabideau is Director of Golf Courses at Winged Foot and he spoke during a recent pre-U.S. Open media outing.
He said: “Keeping the morale of my team up was probably the hardest thing we did.
“The agronomics, we fight every summer. It’s what we do. We’ve had guys here for five, six, seven, eight, nine years all building toward June 14. There were a lot of late nights, but we were building toward something. And then that something was nearly stripped away.”
The COVID-19 lockdown in New York State suspended all work that comes with hosting a major sporting event and with the announcement of no spectators, it did help in that the vast number of grandstands that were to be built, did not need to be erected.
It’s been 14-years since Aussie Geoff Ogilvy captured the U.S. Open with a five-over par total, the same major championship where Colin Montgomerie let slip victory after being ‘put off’ on the 72nd hole by the time taken by playing partner, Vijay Singh in seeking a ruling.
Monty was slap-bang in the middle of the fairway with Singh well off to the left and the delay in Singh getting a ruling clearly threw doubt into Monty’s mind as to what club to pull.
Had Monty said to Singh: ‘Vijay? I’m going to play up so are you okay with that’, the Scot could have become a major winner. Instead, Monty played a wayward 7-iron second shot that led to a double-bogey and missed out by a shot to the Aussie.
And while Ogilvy won at five-over, American Hale Irwin posted a seven-over tally in winning the 1974 U.S. Open at Winged Foot.
And under USGA guidance, Rabideau and his Winged Foot greens team have been responding to ‘What will be the four-round total?” with replies of: “Plus eight! Plus eight!
“A plus 8 winning score would cap a very difficult summer, and my guys know that’s what I’ve been thinking.
“Basically, the one thing we have left is showcasing Winged Foot, showcasing the golf course.
“That’s been driving us to make this one of the hardest U.S. Opens they will ever play.”
Irwin recalled that week in winning what was the first of three U.S. Open triumphs for the now 75-year old.
He said: “There was nothing but doom and gloom in the locker room for several days prior to the tournament.”
Jeff Hall, and the USGAs managing director of rules, added: “We’re going to let Winged Foot be Winged Foot”.