Wednesday, September 16, 2020

What To Look For: 2020 US Open

 The US Open comes to September and the return of Winged Foot:

The club was founded in 1921, by a group largely made up of members of The New York Athletic Club, and opened in June 1923. Winged Foot's name and logo are taken directly from a sculpture in the lobby floor of the New York Athletic Club in Manhattan.[3]

Winged Foot was designed by AW Tillinghast and is just another masterpiece in his collection of designs.  The West Course will play to 7,447 yards...but at a par-70.

The feedback I've received from the players is that they respect the course and it's a great course, but they wouldn't want to play it more than once a year due to the incredible difficulty.  And the course conditions are not ridiculous either.

The big thing about the course as like Bethpage Black, the fairways are very narrow.  They usually run about 67-70 feet wide.  A typical PGA Tour stop will have most fairways at 84-90 feet wide and on the LPGA it's closer to 90-99 feet wide.  Combine that with heavy rough that makes getting from tee-to-green very difficult.

But then you have the wicked greens which they renovated back in 2017 as shown in the video above. Making the +5 over par winning score in 2006 look very optimistic.

I get into debates with golfers on what courses and what conditions favor certain types of players.  Typically, dry and firm courses favor short hitters and soft courses favor the long hitters.  But, as with anything in life, there's always exceptions.

For instance this year Muirfield Village was so firm and fast, but it still favored long hitters.  The reason being was that many of Muirfield Village's fairways were so wide that it was still easy for a long hitter to find the fairway either with the driver or laying-up.  And then they could use their ability to produce more spin with longer approach shots to their advantage. 

But the other part of the equation was that there were some holes at Muirfield Village that had such a low hit fairway percentage that finding the fairway off the tee was more luck than predictable skill.  And thus even short, but accurate golfers were still finding the rough and thus the advantage went more to the longer hitter.

From gathering data at Winged Foot the course is more biased towards the latter scenario.  One can benefit by having superior driving skill, but much of the time the ability to find the fairway will come down more to luck, particularly if the course gets firmer.  If the course gets softer, then better drivers of the ball who do it thru accuracy, will be at the advantage.

Having said that, this is a 2nd and 3rd shot course.  Lots of greens are likely to be missed and those that can avoid missing greens are at an advantage, but that advantage can be taken away if they cannot get up-and-down when they do miss greens.  And my theory is that this even will likely be won by a player that is better than the tour average in Strokes Gained - Putting.  

Putting is the least reliable metric when it comes to projecting a winner on Tour.  But the courses where putting skill tends to carry over into tournament play are places like Pebble Beach and Torrey Pines...both very undulated green complexes just like Winged Foot.

The final Critical Hole will the the 498 yard par-4 16th hole, appropriately labeled 'Hells Bells':

It's a dogleg with a fairway about 72-feet wide with a tree on the left that helps block the green.  Golfers are forced to hit driver for the most part.

Projected Winning Score: +1


Dustin Johnson +800
Jon Rahm +950
Justin Thomas +1,200
Collin Morikawa +1,600
Webb Simpson +2,500
Daniel Berger +2,800
Patrick Cantlay +2,800


Tony Finau +3,300
Tyrrell Hatton +4,000
Brian Harman +25,000


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