U.S. Open: New-Era Golfers Prepare to Be Humbled at Winged Foot


MAMARONECK, N.Y. — In the 14 years because the United States Open was final held at Winged Foot Golf Club, which might be probably the most feared course to host a serious championship, expertise and superior energy coaching have revolutionized the sport. Tee photographs routinely soar 50 yards farther than they did even a decade in the past.

With the U.S. Open returning to Winged Foot on Thursday, some within the golf neighborhood marvel if the fashionable golfer’s cutting-edge arsenal may be the system for taming, or at the very least mitigating, the membership’s rigorous problem of slender fairways, ankle-deep tough and dastardly sloped greens.

Jon Rahm, the world’s second ranked golfer who’s simply 25 years outdated, scoffed at such conjecture.

“Like Mike Tyson said, ‘Everybody has a plan until they get punched in the face,’” Rahm stated. “It’s the same thing here.”

Most on the planet {of professional} golf are as a substitute bracing for one more 4 days of Winged Foot humbling the sphere. As David Feherty, the previous tour skilled and present NBC golf analyst stated: “I expect a lot of whining.”

Indeed, the new-era gamers who are actually the face of the game appear to be making ready themselves for a 97-year-old golf course that mocks their modern techniques.

“You just have to embrace it,” Justin Thomas, ranked third on the PGA Tour, stated. “Otherwise, it’s going to eat you alive. It’s the hardest golf course I’ve ever played.

“But I’m not scared. I think it’ll be fun — maybe, you know, a different kind of fun.”

Credit…Hilary Swift for The New York Times

Thomas made these feedback on Tuesday. With a smile he conceded: “I might not think the same way at the end of the week.”

One illuminating train within the lead-up to the championship has been asking gamers what they assume the winner’s closing rating might be. The consensus was about 4 photographs over the course’s par of 70. It is an enchancment on the most effective rating from 2006 when Gregg Ogilvy’s five-over-par efficiency was ok to hoist the U.S. Open trophy. But it’s additionally a far cry from Dustin Johnson’s profitable rating of 30-under-par on the PGA Tour’s Northern Trust about three weeks in the past.

And, as many gamers famous, the United States Golf Association, which conducts the championship and revels in devising the sternest take a look at in golf, is properly conscious that final 12 months’s U.S. Open was gained with an unusually low rating of 13-under-par.

Rahm stated of the united statesG.A.: “They’re going to make some extra effort to be over par knowing this golf course and the history. They have a reputation to maintain.”

Already, in observe rounds, there have been amusing outcomes as gamers do battle with the luxurious, verdant tough — a lot of it simply inches from the devilish, sharply breaking greens.

Credit…Hilary Swift for The New York Times

During a observe spherical this week, the defending U.S. Open champion Gary Woodland held a ball waist-high and dropped it into the tough to observe his restoration method. The ball disappeared and he and his caddie spent 5 minutes searching for it.

“It was right in front of me,” Woodland stated. “But we didn’t find it until we stepped on it.”

The U.S.G.A. has recruited further on-course marshals, and even veteran Winged Foot caddies, for the championship to help find errant photographs. The assist is required greater than in previous years. Since this 12 months’s U.S. Open is being contested with out spectators, a wayward shot not lands in a crowd — or on grass trampled down by tens of hundreds of followers. The scores of large hospitality tents are lacking, too, which was typically a bonus to the gamers since they might get a penalty-free drop from a ball near a tent.

And whereas the tough has been getting many of the consideration this week, probably the most daunting a part of the Winged Foot structure reveals itself as soon as a participant reaches the distinctive greens conceived by course designer A.W. Tillinghast, which had been restored lately by the golf architect Gil Hanse utilizing a treasure trove of archived, 1920s-era photographs.

Those photos proved that over time, Winged Foot’s greens had shrunk considerably. Hanse’s renovations enlarged the inexperienced surfaces by about 20 % and introduced again the rolling, multitiered greens of Tillinghast’s vivid creativeness.

The result’s placing surfaces that make even the most effective photographs come up wanting. As Collin Morikawa, who gained the P.G.A. championship in August, stated Tuesday: “You can be pin high and not have a putt at the hole.”

Credit…Hilary Swift for The New York Times

Hanse was requested to call probably the most troublesome shot on the course and answered: “Your third putt on the first hole.”

The take a look at that Winged Foot is anticipated to precise on the world’s finest golfers is so nice, the united statesG.A.’s management has talked about softening the potential ordeal. Mike Davis, the group’s chief government, stated that even in 2006 they searched for tactics to “make the golf course a little bit easier.”

He additionally recalled that the gamers of 14 years in the past didn’t complain a lot, regardless of the excessive scores. Could the identical factor occur this 12 months?

Davis grinned.

“Listen, the players haven’t put a pencil in their hand yet,” he stated, referring to the act of writing the variety of strokes wanted to finish every gap on a scorecard.

“So we’ll wait and see,” Davis added.