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US Open: New-Era golfers prepare to be humiliated at Winged Foot

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MAMARONECK, NY In the 14 years since the United States Open was last held at the Winged Foot Golf Club, which is arguably the most feared course to host a major championship, the Technology and advanced strength training have revolutionized the game. Tee shots are steadily rising 50 meters further than they did ten years ago.

With the return of the US Open to Winged Foot on Thursday, some members of the golf community are questioning whether the cutting edge arsenal of modern golfers could be the formula for taming, or at least alleviating, the rigorous challenge of fairway clubs. narrow, rough to the ankle and dastardly sloping greens.

Jon Rahm, the second-largest golfer in the world who is only 25, scoffed at this conjecture.

As Mike Tyson said, everyone has a plan until he’s punched in the face, Rahm said. It’s the same thing here.

Rather, most players in the professional golf world prepare for four more days of Winged Foot to humiliate the field. As David Feherty, former tour pro and current NBC golf analyst, said: I expect a lot of whining.

Indeed, the new age players who are now the face of the sport seem to be bracing for a 97-year-old golf course that pokes fun at their contemporary tactics.

You just have to accept it, said Justin Thomas, ranked third on the PGA Tour. Otherwise, it will eat you alive. It is the most difficult golf course I have ever played.

But I am not afraid. I think it might be fun, you know, a different kind of fun.

Thomas made the comments on Tuesday. With a smile, he conceded: I might not think the same at the end of the week.

An enlightening exercise in the run-up to the championship was asking players what they thought would be the winners’ final score. The consensus was about four shots on the course par of 70. This is an improvement over the best score of 2006 when Gregg Ogilvys five on the par was good enough to hoist the US Open trophy. . But that’s as far as Dustin Johnsons took a 30-under-par score at the PGA Tours Northern Trust about three weeks ago.

And, as many players have noted, the United States Golf Association, which runs the championship and looks forward to designing the toughest test in golf, is well aware that the US Open was won last year with an unusually low score of 13 below par.

Rahm said of the USGA: They’re going to go the extra mile to be above average knowing this golf course and its history. They have a reputation to maintain.

Already in the practice laps there have been some fun results as players grapple with the lush, verdant rough, inches from the devilish and sharply brittle greens.

In a practice round this week, defending US Open champion Gary Woodland held a waist-high ball and dropped it into the rough to practice his recovery technique. The balloon disappeared and he and his younger brother spent five minutes looking for it.

It was right in front of me, Woodland said. But we only found it when we walked on it.

The USGA has recruited additional field marshals, and even veteran Winged Foot caddies, for the championship to help find stray shots. Aid is needed more than in previous years. Since this year, the US Open is contested without spectators, a capricious shot no longer arises in a crowd or on the grass trampled by tens of thousands of fans. Dozens of massive welcome tents are also missing, which was often an advantage for players as they could get a penalty free drop of a ball near a tent.

And while the rough has received the most attention this week, the most intimidating part of the Winged Foot layout is revealed once a player hits the distinctive greens designed by course designer AW Tillinghast, which have been restored these years by golf architect Gil Hanse using a treasure trove of archived photos from the 1920s.

These images proved that over the years the greens at Winged Foots had shrunk considerably. The Hanses renovations have enlarged the green areas by about 20% and brought rolling and multi-level greens back from Tillinghasts’ vivid imagination.

The result is to put surfaces that make you want the best shots. As Collin Morikawa, who won the PGA Championship in August, said on Tuesday: You can be very high and not have a putt at the hole.

Hanse was asked to name the most difficult stroke on the course and replied: Your third putt on the first hole.

The test Winged Foot is expected to perform on the world’s best golfers is so great that the USGA leadership has spoken of softening the potential test. Mike Davis, the organization’s chief executive, said that even in 2006, they looked for ways to make the golf course a little easier.

He also recalled that players from 14 years ago weren’t complaining much, despite the high scores. Could the same happen this year?

Davis smiles.

Look, the players haven’t put a pencil in their hand yet, he said, referring to the act of writing the number of strokes it takes to complete each hole on a scorecard.

So wait and see, Davis added.

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