For a while back in the spring it seemed that Winged Foot would not host their sixth US Open.
USGA CEO Mike Davis revealed Wednesday, the eve of the first round, that the organization was ready to move its historic championship away from Winged Foot because of the severity of the COVID-19 crisis.
“In March and April, we were very skeptical that we were going to conduct this,” Davis said. “Certainly, when you think about the magnitude of the virus, and the epicenter was literally a couple of cities from there. [New Rochelle], and it wasn’t until weeks later that we decided we could actually go back to Winged Foot.
“And to be very transparent with you, we thought we were going to play at the December U.S. Open in Los Angeles. We were so close. It wasn’t really until the day before we were released with the schedule that we realized that the [British] Open could not be played in September, which gave us the opportunity to play in September at this beautiful historic golf course. “
The USGA has been criticized more than once over the years for passing the top with its course configuration (see Shinnecock in 2004 and 2018). Rory McIlroy, for one, believes he won’t be going to Winged Foot this week because nothing needs to be done to make it harder than he already is.
“Something would have to go seriously wrong to get into the realms of goofy golf,” he said. “I think good shots here seem to be rewarded. I think the Oakmont setup is normal right on the edge, and if you go a little further away from that, it can start to get a little awkward. But that doesn’t seem to be happening.”
There are 13 amateurs on the field of 144 players, the eighth consecutive year 10 or more amateurs are competing. Andy Ogletree, the 2019 American Amateur Champion, and James Sugrue, who won the 2019 Amateur Championship, directed by R&A, are among the amateurs.
It will be the 73rd USGA Championship held in New York and the 20th US Open held in the state. The number of USGA championships is third behind Pennsylvania (87) and California (83). In 2026, the U.S. Open will be played again at Empire State at the Shinnecock Hills Golf Club.
Steve Stricker, 53, (born February 23, 1967), is the oldest player on the field this year. Stricker won the 2019 US Senior Open at Warren Bay in Notre Dame, South Bend, Ind. Preston Summerhays, who won the 2019 Junior Amateur Championship, is the youngest at 18 years old (born July 22, 2002).
There are nine players on the field who will be 21 years old or younger when the first round begins. Summerhays and Rasmus Hojgaard, who won the ISPS Handa UK Championship of the European Tour on 30 August, are under 20 years old.
There are 25 players on the field who are 40 or older. Tiger Woods, 44, won three U.S. Opens, in 2000, 2002 and 2008. Lucas Glover, 40, and Graeme McDowell, 41, won the 2009 and 2010 U.S. Open titles respectively. Justin Rose, 40, won the 2013 U.S. Open. The average field age of 144 players is 31.19.
Danny Balin, the head of Fresh Meadow Country Club in Lake Success, is one of three club teachers in the field. Gene Sarazen won the 1932 US Open in Fresh Meadow at his former location in Queens, where Sarazen had also served as a professional. Balin, who was runner-up in the 2019 PGA Professional Championship, has previously worked at Westchester Country Club, in Rye, NY, and Sunningdale Country Club, in Scarsdale, NY
Another player with local knowledge this week is Brandon Wu, who lived in Scarsdale, 4¹ / ₂ miles from Winged Foot. Wu shot a final 65 rounds to win the Korn Ferry Tour Championship on August 30 and tied for second at the Albertsons Boise Open two weeks earlier.
Wu, who tied for 35th as an amateur at last year’s U.S. Open in Pebble Beach, helped Stanford University win its ninth NCAA championship and third consecutive Pac-12 crown in 2019.