For the first time in its history, the rescheduled 2020 U.S. Open takes place in September rather than its customary June date. In these Covid-19 times, the United States Open Championship will be the second golf Major Championship of the year and is being hosted, if circumstances allow, at Winged Foot Golf Club, a 45 minute drive outside of Manhattan in Mamaroneck, New York. Gary Woodland defends his U.S. Open title that he won at Pebble Beach, looking to match Brooks Koepka who won consecutive US Open titles in 2017 and 2018.
The 120th edition of the U.S. Open takes place from Thursday 17th September 2020. Now into our 11th season, Golf Betting System will as ever be hunting for profit with our US Open tips from Paul Williams and Steve Bamford. Golf Betting System has full 2020 coverage with US Open tips, long-shot and alternative market selections, a full range of free course and player statistics, plus of course our famous free statistical Predictor Model. You can also listen to our weekly Golf Betting System podcast which is also available on Apple Podcasts, Spotify and on our YouTube channel.
Recent US Open history features a new breed of Major winners. Gary Woodland captured his first Major victory at the iconic Pebble Beach last year. Off the back of consecutive PGA Championship top-8 finishes, Woodland delivered a masterclass of long, straight driving and elite level ball-striking at Pebble, holding off modern day U.S. Open king Brooks Koepka.
Brooks triumphed at both the 2017 and 2018 renewals held at the contrived Erin Hills and the classical faux-links at Shinnecock Hills. He hits the ball a mile, but has the patience, approach play and short game to tame tough golf courses. Before Brooks, 2016 saw the buccaneering Dustin Johnson show huge mental resolve to capture his first Major despite being told on the 12th tee of the final round that he was being assessed for a one-shot penalty sustained for his ball moving on the 5th green as he was addressing his putt.
2015 saw 21 year-old Jordan Spieth win back-to-back Majors at a versatile Chambers Bay course which split the opinions of both players and the wider golfing public. 2014 saw Martin Kaymer in a class of his own as he made playing Pinehurst Number 2 look unnaturally easy on his way to winning his 2nd Major title. 2013 saw Justin Rose capture his first Major Championship with an emotional victory at Merion Golf Club. These victories followed on from first Major wins for Webb Simpson (Olympic Club 2012), Rory McIlroy (Congressional 2011), Graeme McDowell (Pebble Beach 2010) and Lucas Glover (Bethpage Black 2009).
So just who will be the 2020 U.S. Open champion at the classical, parkland test that is Winged Foot?
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US Open Insight and Tips Research
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Since the first round of golf was played at Winged Foot in 1923, the A. W. Tillinghast designed West Course has hosted five U.S. Opens (1929, 1959, 1974, 1984, 2006), the PGA Championship (1997), and the U.S. Amateur (1940, 2004).
The West Course at Winged Foot is a classical, parkland golf course, which is arguably the most important inland golf course in the United States. One of the stalwart courses that the USGA showcase regularly, it’s certainly iconic. Winged Foot is undoubtedly famous for its contoured green complexes, but the West Course truly is a typical U.S. Open venue. Freshly extended to circa 7,450 yards which will play as a Par 70 (Oakmont in 2016 was a 7,255 yard Par 70), the West Course features tight fairways, tough U.S. Open graduated rough and amazingly undulating putting surfaces which, in the main, canter from back-to-front.
Described as giant mushrooms, the outside contours of which repel errant approach shots, most greens have false fronts that send balls scurrying into collection areas. To make matters even more specialised, the green complexes also feature fast Poa Annua, which we know many professional golfers fear.
Winged Foot Golf Club, Mamaroneck, New York: Designer: A.W. Tillinghast 1929 with Gil Hanse Restoration 2016-2017; Course Type: Classical; Par: 70; Length: Circa 7,477 yards; Holes with Water In-Play: 2; Fairways: Poa Annua with Bentgrass; Rough: Perennial Rye with Kentucky Bluegrass and Poa Annua 3.5-5″; Greens: 6,600 sq.ft average Poa Annua 80% with Bentgrass; Tournament Stimp: 13ft. Course Scoring Average 2006 U.S. Open: 74.99 (+4.99), Rank 1 of 55 PGA Tour courses.
Gone are the Norway Spruce that gave every hole a very claustrohphic feel, but the freshly Gil Hanse restored West Course at Winged Foot will still be long and very tight. With fairway widths as narrow as 25 yards surrounded by lengthy graduated rough, this will be a real test – especially as the course is likely to play firm and fast in mid-September. Allied to only 2 par-5s and a length of over 7,400 yards playing as a Par 70, the USGA won’t have to do too much to make Winged Foot a tough test.
Following the restoration, the main focus of which was to get the course as close to how it played when it opened in 1923, holes are still tree-lined, but the course is now much more open and playable. Over 250 yards of length was added so as to make it more 2020-proof from a distance perspective, but along with the added length, many of the tees have been lowered to their original heights, again giving players the view that Tillinghast intended from off the tee.
The West Course is undoubtedly tight – it also features very little water – but Hanse actually added width to a number of the holes so that fairways now wrap into bunkering. As classical courses often feature, many holes also feature dog-legs and there are a number of punishingly long, 450+ yard Par 4s to contend with.
Furthermore, as part of the restoration, Hanse restored the green complexes and approaches into their original sizes and shapes as he also modernised the putting surfaces. SubAir systems have been added to all green complexes, with sand and gravel below the putting surfaces replacing clay, so drainage is now USGA standard. In all, controlling green speeds now will be far easier than it was back in 2006.
In terms of their severity, most greens are so severely canted that the rule at Winged Foot always has been to keep approach shots below the hole. Playing short of mid to back of the green pin positions brings the steep front slopes into play, particularly if approaches have any kind of backspin. The result can be a lot of uphill 50-footers from the front fringe. So the bolder, but maybe smarter play is to land pin-high or even a bit beyond, seeking a chance at a swifter, sharply breaking putt of shorter length.
Below are some revealing comments from the 2006 U.S. Open hosted here:
Geoff Ogilvy: “I still am not the straightest hitter in the world. My short game is pretty decent. I’ve been getting it up and down from everywhere this week, which you have to. Your best day you’re going to hit 12 greens out here probably. I’ve been making a few more putts, I guess. Whenever anyone starts playing a little bit better, you’ve always got to look at they’re probably holing one more nine footer or one more 12 footer, and that’s four shots, and that’s quite a lot. Mentally, every time you have a nice round in a major or a nice result, you get a bit more confident the next time you play..”
Phil Mickelson:“Comparing Baltusrol to Winged Foot, they are very similar with bunkering, very similar shot values, the way the holes move, the challenge on the greens, very similar. They’re both very difficult golf courses. I think that the PGA, which ran Baltusrol, did not have the rough to the extent that we have it here, and I think that that could be a slightly larger penalty. But Baltusrol was very tough to play under par, and I think we’ll expect to see the same at Winged Foot. Probably it’ll be a great score again.
There are a lot of holes where you can move it either way, and right to left shots fit fine on this golf course. Left to right shots fit fine on this golf course. There are two holes where I’ll be hitting a draw, the 8th hole and the 17th hole. It doesn’t have to be a big draw, it just has to softly turn to the right. But other than those two holes, I’ll be fading it off most every tee. For me what it does is makes it a softer cut, takes out some of the roll and when it hits the fairway it’s more inclined to stay.
Well, I took my 3 wood out because I didn’t really need a 3 wood. I hit a lot of 4 woods. So there’s a 4 wood tee shot on 11, there’s a 4 wood tee shot maybe on 15, but I didn’t need any 3 woods. So I took that out and put the 3 iron in because there’s a lot of 3 iron shots. I think I’ll be using 3 iron on hole No. 5, possibly into No. 5 and a bunch of the par 4s. No. 9 there’s a lot of possible 3 iron shots out there, a lot more than 3 wood, so I added that. I added another wedge. After some preparation, I went back and worked with Roger Cleveland and Callaway on a new 64 degree wedge to help get it out of this rough with a lot less bounce and to help me hit higher, softer bunker shots. Because the bunkers are so deep here and there’s so much undulation on the green, I want it coming in as soft as possible.”
Luke Donald:“Boy, I think everyone is so wound up thinking about the rough, they do forget about the greens a little bit. But they are quite slopey in places, I think the first few greens especially. I just played the front side this morning, and the first green it’s hard to see four pin placements on there. It’s pretty slopey. You really do have to think about where you want to position your second shot into the green because the greens are that slopey, usually from back to front, which makes it tough. You can’t be too aggressive out there. You really have to place the ball underneath the hole to give yourself a good chance if you want to make a birdie, otherwise you’re going to struggle to two putt.
You know, it’s a little bit different to Pinehurst last year. I think Pinehurst, the little bit of trouble was around the greens where the greens were sitting up a little bit higher and everything rolled off the greens. The greens here seem to be the opposite; they all seem to be sectioned in towards the middle of the green, which in a way makes it a little bit more difficult playing into the green. If you’re slightly off line, it might catch a slope and come back towards the pin.”
Jim Furyk: “I think both golf courses (Olympia Fields and Winged Foot), the way they’re set up, probably suited my game as far as not being a power hitter. It’s really although this golf course is very long on the card, the power really isn’t even probably one of the top two or three important things on this course. It’s all about getting the ball in play and putting the ball in the right spots and thinking your way around the golf course. You know, a golf course like Bethpage was a lot more about power when we played there.
You know, 16, 17, and 18 could be the holes we were talking about that had the wind switched around because they’d all be into the wind and then they’d be brutal. But we’re playing 1, 2, 3 and 4 into the wind or into and left to right. They’re all very long, 450, 450, we’ve been playing the up tee on 3, and it’s still tough, and No. 3 has got to be over 450, too. You’ve got a lot of long holes playing into the wind. 1 and 2 are some very difficult greens, also, some of the tougher greens on the course. Yeah, it’s tough to get off to a good start. You know, you’ve got to go out there and grind it out. And the nice thing is you turn around and you have 5, which is a reachable sometimes 5 plays the same distance as some of those par 4s.”
Ernie Els: “There’s a lot going on out there. These greens, if you’re talking about Augusta’s greens, these greens, some of them are smaller, they’re much more undulating. Like the first green, it’s hard to try and see where they’re going to put the flags. Well, No. 1. I don’t know what the pitch is on No. 1, but it’s got to be like 6, 7 percent. That’s 1. The first four holes, if you get them through at level par, you’re smiling, believe me. That’s like being 2 under par.”
Tiger Woods: “This golf course is very difficult. You’ve got to be very patient, hit the ball really solid off the tee, but also position your irons well. You can’t have one part of your game missing; you’ve got to have everything come together.
These greens are some of the most severe greens you’ll ever face. I practice my putting quite a bit. I’ve done quite a bit of practicing with my putting and my speed and my line and working on my fundamentals again, just making sure you roll the ball correctly at the correct pace here, because bad pace here, you’re going to be punished because of the slopes of these greens.
But there are a lot of holes where I’m hitting 3 wood because of the doglegs. I run out of room hitting a driver and I have to shape it around the corner, which really makes no sense because the fairways get so narrow. So I’ll probably hit about four or five 3 woods out there. 6 could be a 4 iron, 3 iron or driver.A lot of the 3 woods are only just because of the angle of the doglegs. I just run out of room. If you’ve got to hook a corner and take it over the doglegs, then you run the chance of it hitting trees over the corners. That to me is there’s really no need to take that risk because most of the holes that I do hit 3 wood on, I’m still hitting between 9 iron and 6 iron into the greens. So it doesn’t really change a whole lot by hitting driver except for bringing more trouble into play.”
Winged Foot: A long, classical parkland test
Classical, Long, All-Rounders
Lets take the final skill statistics from both Davis Love III and Geoff Ogilvy who won the 1997 PGA Championship and 2006 U.S. Open, both held at Winged Foot. This gives us a little more insight into the requirements for this test:
1997 – Davis Love III (-11). 307 yards (1st), 73.2% fairways (21st), 69.4% greens in regulation (12th), 59.2 % scrambling (4th), 1.60 putts per GIR (2nd), 4th Total Driving, 4th Ball Striking, 1st All-Round.
2006 – Geoff Ogilvy (+5). 306 yards (6th), 57.1% fairways (21st), 58.3% greens in regulation (13th), 69.6% scrambling (5th), 1.79 putts per GIR (34th), 2nd Total Driving, 3rd Ball Striking, 3rd All-Round.
Tournament Skill Averages:
Driving Distance: 4th, Driving Accuracy: 21st, Greens in Regulation: 13th, Scrambling: 5th, Putting Average 18th, 3rd Total Driving, 4th Ball Striking, 2nd All-Round.
Now it’s clear that the West Course test will be different in 2020 from that the world’s best players saw in 1997 and 2006. Longer, yes, and with much bigger putting surfaces, but in essence the original A.W. Tillinghast design has been brought back to life, with a focus on making the course U.S. Open tough. So it’s well worth recapping what skill sets were key at the last 2 Majors hosted here.
Both Love III and Ogilvy drove the ball beautifully long all week ranking 1st and 6th for Driving Distance plus 4th and 2nd for Total Driving. 3rd (Love III) and 4th (Ogilvy) for Ball Striking was equally as impressive, but as ever at Major Championships, a hugely impressive scrambling game was on view from both champions. It’s also worth recognising on a course where greens are renowned for being undulating, that putters came to the fore at the 2006 U.S. Open. Green complexes were described in 2006 by Luke Donald as, “slopey, usually from back to front, you can’t be too aggressive out there. You really have to place the ball underneath the hole to give yourself a good chance, otherwise you’re going to struggle to two putt.”
Gil Hanse’s renovation has made the greens larger, but has kept what many describe as A.W. Tillinghast’s finest set of green contours. Winner Geoff Ogilvy (19th SGP), and runner-ups Jim Furyk (4th SGP) and Phil Mickelson (40th SGP) all ranked within the top 40 Strokes Gained Putting in 2006.
Correlating Course Form
Linking the last 3 Winged Foot winners Fuzzy Zoeller (1984), Davis Love III (1997) and Geoff Ogilvy (2006) across 3 decades isn’t the easiest task in the world. But there is some PGA Tour course crossover where they have performed well at:
Kapalua – Love III 2 Top 5 + 2 Top 10; Ogilvy 2 Win.
Torrey Pines – Zoeller 1 Win + 1 Top 5; Love III 1 Win + 3 Top 5; Ogilvy 9th (2008 US Open).
Pebble Beach – Zoeller 1 Win + 1 Top 5; Love III 2 Wins + 3 Top 5; Ogilvy 14th.
Riviera – Zoeller 2 Top 5 + 6th (1983 US Open); Love III 3 Top 5; Ogilvy 19th.
Bay Hill – Zoeller 1 Win + 1 Top 5; Love III 4 Top 5; Ogilvy 14th x 2.
Augusta National – Zoeller 1 Win + 1 Top 5; Love III 2 Top 5 + 4 Top 10; Ogilvy 4th.
Harbour Town – Zoeller 2 Wins + 2 Top 5; Love III 5 Wins + 4 Top 5; Ogilvy 3rd.
Colonial – Zoeller 1 Win + 1 Top 5; Love III 4 Top 5; Ogilvy 7th.
Muirfield Village – Zoeller 3 Top 5 + 1 Top 10; Love III 2 Top 5 + 3 Top 10; Ogilvy 2 Top 10.
Summerlin – Zoeller 1 Win + 1 Top 5; Love III 1 Win + 4 Top 5; Ogilvy 4th.
The most obvious crossover has to be at Harbour Town on Hilton Head Island, South Carolina which hosts the RBC Heritage these days. A relatively short, tree-lined, Par 71, the course features some of the smallest greens on the PGA Tour. It’s closing holes are on the coast, but the course is predominantly a Carolina-type affair, where positioning, great iron play and razor-sharp short game is required to triumph. With Fuzzy Zoeller winning there twice (1983 and 1986), Davis Love III winning there 5 times (1987, 1991, 1992, 1998 and 2003), and Geoff Ogilvy finishing 3rd there (2003 a shot behind Love III), a good record on this course has to be taken as a real positive.
Zoeller and Love III also share wins across Torrey Pines (Zoeller 1979, Love III 1996), Pebble Beach (Zoeller 1986, Love III 2001 & 2003) and TPC Summerlin (Zoeller 1983, Love III 1993). Classical, coastal courses featuring Poa Annua greens in the case of Pebble/Torrey and a desert golf course, where accurate approaches are critical in terms of TPC Summerlin.
Strong records across Riviera Country Club, Augusta National, Colonial Country Club and Muirfield Village also share a pattern of old-style, classical golf courses with Bentgrass a component of the green complexes.
North Eastern United States Major Championship Experience
Another intriguing aspect to the last 3 winners of Major Championships held at Winged Foot is shared experience of Major success in the North Eastern United States. Fuzzy Zoeller’s first top-10 finish in a Major came at the 1978 PGA Championship, held at Oakmont Country Club, Pennsylvania. 6 years later he captured the 1984 U.S. Open here at Winged Foot.
Davis Love III had a breakout season in 1995, finishing 2nd at The Masters, but also finishing 4th at the U.S. Open held that year at Shinnecock Hills, New York. He waited just over 2 more years for his first and only Major victory, capturing the 1997 PGA Championship, held here at Winged Foot.
28 year-old Geoff Ogilvy finished 6th in the 2005 PGA Championship, held at the A.W. Tillinghast designed Baltusrol, in New Jersey. 2005 had also seen the talented Australian, capture his first Major top 5 finish at St Andrews. Ogilvy had to wait only 10 months to capture the 2006 U.S. Open at Winged Foot – showing his clear liking for tough, north-eastern Tillinghast golf courses.
Below you’ll find the top-10 finishers across the last 6 Majors played across New York, New Jersey and Pennsylvania, since 2013.
2019 PGA Championship – Bethpage Black Course, New York
1st Brooks Koepka; 2nd Dustin Johnson; T3 Patrick Cantlay, Jordon Spieth, Matt Wallace; 6th Luke List; 7th Sung Kang; T8 Matt Kuchar, Shane Lowry, Adam Scott, Erik van Rooyen, Gary Woodland.
2018 U.S.Open – Shinnecock Hills. New York
1st Brooks Koepka; 2nd Tommy Fleetwood; 3rd Dustin Johnson; 4th Patrick Reed; 5th Tony Finau; T6 Daniel Berger, Tyrrell Hatton, Xander Schauffele, Henrik Stenson; T10 Justin Rose, Webb Simpson.
2016 PGA Championship – Baltusrol Golf Club, New Jersey
1st Jimmy Walker; 2nd Jason Day; 3rd Daniel Summerhays; T4 Branden Grace, Brooks Koepka, Hideki Matsuyama; T7 Martin Kaymer, Henrik Stenson, Robert Streb; T10 Paul Casey, Tyrrell Hatton, William McGirt.
2016 U.S. Open – Oakmont Country Club, Pennsylvania
1st Dustin Johnson; T2 Jim Furyk, Shane Lowry, Scott Piercy; T5 Sergio Garcia, Branden Grace; 7th Kevin Na; T8 Jason Day, Jason Dufner, Zach Johnson, Daniel Summerhays.
2013 PGA Championship – East Course, Oak Hill Country Club, New York
1st Jason Dufner; 2nd Jim Furyk; 3rd Henrik Stenson; 4th Jonas Blixt; T5 Scott Piercy, Adam Scott; 7th David Toms; T8 Dustin Johnson, Zach Johnson, Rory McIlroy.
2013 U.S. Open – Merion Golf Club, Pennsylvania
1st Justin Rose; T2 Jason Day, Phil Mickelson; T4 Ernie Els, Billy Horschel, Hunter Mahan; T8 Luke Donald, Steve Stricker; T10 Nicolas Colsaerts, Gonzalo Fernandez-Castano, Rickie Fowler, Hideki Matsuyama.
Key Player Statistics To Look Out For
In this day and age of statistics, it’s interesting to look at what inbound player skill strengths, if any, are particularly shared by U.S. Open winners. Naturally this cannot be an exact science as the U.S. Open moves from course to course, with venues changing in terms of key requirements required by the eventual winner. Nothing highlights that more than the difference between Erin Hills, Shinnecock Hills and Pebble Beach over the past 3 U.S. Open renewals. However there are definite patterns which are not exact, but certainly highlight trends.
For instance, 9 of the last 13 winners of the U.S. Open ranked in the top-13 in the All-Round skill category in their last appearance. It’s also fact that no U.S. Open winner over the same timescale has been outside the top-18 for Greens in Regulation in the week they won. Naturally hitting your irons and approaches well is a huge upside.
But if we are looking for strong skill sets in a winner’s previous appearance, we actually need to look for top-level driving. In Brooks Koepka (twice), Dustin Johnson, Jordan Spieth, Martin Kaymer and Justin Rose we have 5 players who ranked 25th, 1st, 1st, 16th 1st and 8th for Total Driving in their previous appearance. For Martin Kaymer that happened to be at Wentworth, so he has to be excluded from the Strokes Gained stat angle, but that Total Driving number also translates very well to Strokes Gained Off the Tee. Koepka (5th), Koepka (2nd), Johnson (4th), Spieth (5th) and Rose (13th) clearly had real confidence with the driver when they arrived at Shinnecock Hills, Erin Hills, Oakmont, Chambers Bay and Merion respectively. If the European Tour had a consistent Strokes Gained Stat back in 2014, Kaymer would have been very close to the top of it at Wentworth as well.
If we go back to 2010 and look at Graeme McDowell’s lead-in to his U.S. Open victory, he played the Wales Open on the European Tour, which he won. That week he topped Greens in Regulation at 80.6%, was 15th for Total Driving and was 2nd in the All-Round category.
No mention here yet of 2019 U.S. Open champion Gary Woodland and that’s for a good reason. 52nd in his previous appearance at The Memorial Tournament showed absolutely no hint of a Pebble Beach victory, but even with Woodland the All-Round, Total Driving and Strokes Gained Off The Tee angle works when you extrapolate a little. Prior to Muirfield Village, Gary had finished 8th at the PGA Championship – that was his second Major top-10 in his last 3 attempts. At Bethpage Black he’d ranked, 4th for All-Round, 7th for Total Driving and 7th for Strokes Gained Off The Tee. So, all-in-all, this definitely suggests that punters keep a close eye on player performances across late August and early September in the build-up to Winged Foot in 2020.
Key US Open Statistics
US Open Winner
All Round Rank
SG Off Tee
Be Extremely Wary of Backing the World Number 1
Tempted to get on the World Number 1 at the Winged Foot-hosted U.S. Open? OWGR No.1 Dustin Johnson has just won the FedEx Cup and a cool $15 million into the bargain. Powered by 2nd at the PGA Championship, 1st at The Northern Trust, 2nd at the BMW Championship and his win last week in the Tour Championship, DJ is undoubtedly at the peak of his powers right now.
However, fact is that a player going into the U.S. Open as the World Number 1 has only won the title once in the last 17 attempts, and that was Tiger Woods who had won at Torrey Pines 6 times prior to his 2008 U.S. Open victory there.
US Open OWGR Ranking
US Open Winner
This is Steve Bamford’s pre-event preview, his final US Open Tips for 2020 will be published on the Monday before the event.