Safeway Open Wrap-Up
Last Week concluded the Safeway Open, where Stewart Cink mounted a come from behind victory to take the title. Cink shot a final round 65 (-7), and birdied three of his last four holes to defeat Harry Higgs by two strokes. This was his first tour win in over 11 years, the last victory coming at the 2009 Open Championship where he defeated golfing legend Tom Watson in a playoff (Watson was attempting to become the oldest player ever to win a major at nearly 60 years of age). With the rise of so many young guns on the PGA tour, it was nice to see a 47-year old veteran bring home the title. It was also something of a family affair for Stuart, with son Reagan on his bag and wife Lisa following them closely throughout the day. Cink later said that Lisa’s fortitude in her battle to overcome breast cancer had been a tremendous inspiration as he worked to get his game back to championship caliber.
2020 U.S. Open
This week begins the second major of the year, the 2020 U.S. Open at Winged Foot Golf Club. The U.S. Open is known for being the toughest test in golf, with the USGA striving each year to assure that their championship is one where shooting even par is an extremely good score. And when Winged Foot is the venue, their efforts are almost always rewarded. The legendary Bobby Jones won the first U.S. Open played at Winged Foot in 1929, shooting a score of 6 over par. In 1959, Billy Casper won at Winged Foot with a score of 2 over and in 1974 Hale Irwin recorded a 7 over total to take the championship. Fuzzy Zoeller is the only player to win the U.S. Open at Winged Foot with a score under par (-4). The last U.S. Open at Winged Foot was won by Geoff Ogilvie in 2006 at 5 over par. The U.S. Open has traditionally been played in mid-June, when the rough is heaviest and most difficult. Due to COVID-19, the USGA was forced to delay the Open until September—but you can be assured that Winged Foot will still present one of the ultimate tests in golf. In addition to the deep, thick rough, Winged Foot will also challenge the players with severe and lightning fast greens, as well as very tight fairways. Regardless of whether the USGA can set up the course for maximum difficulty, this year’s Open at Winged Foot is bound to be one of the best weeks of the year—as it always is.
As you would imagine, the field for this year’s Open is phenomenal. Dustin Johnson, FedEx Cup Championship trophy in hand, headlines a star-studded group of the elite names in golf. Justin Thomas, Jon Rahm, Rory McIlroy, Tiger Woods, Bryson DeChambeau, defending U.S. Open champion Gary Woodland, and 23-year old PGA champion Collin Morikawa will all be teeing it up. Unfortunately, 2-time Open Champ Brooks Koepka was forced to withdraw due to a lingering knee injury, so we’ll have to wait for next year to see if he can add a third trophy to his mantel. With the depth of talent on tour right now, there are a number of other players to keep an eye on as well. Winged Foot demands ball striking, and Tony Finau can hit it with anybody—so don’t be surprised if this is the week when he breaks through for his first major win. Patrick Reed is another outstanding ball striker, and he certainly has the nerve to stand up under U.S. Open pressure. And then there is Phil, coming off a win in his first Champions Tour event. Though unlikely to contend according to the experts, he has had some success at Winged Foot and if he keeps it in the fairway and his putter heats up—maybe this will be the week that he finally lands an Open after so many runner-up finishes. As for Tiger, he has not had much success on this course (missed the cut at Winged Foot in 2006), but he is still Tiger and anything is possible.
Winged Foot Golf Club has two eighteen-hole major championship caliber courses, the East and the West. The West course has traditionally been chosen to host big events, and it will be again for the 2020 U.S. Open. Founded in 1923, Winged Foot is one of the most prestigious golf clubs in the world. Both courses were originally designed by A.W. Tillinghast, and the West course has been updated over the years by legendary architects including Robert Trent Jones, Sr., Dick Wilson, George Fazio, and Tom Fazio. In recent years, the architectural integrity of both courses has been maintained under the guidance of Gil Hanse, renowned for his work with classic designs. Winged Foot gained immediate notoriety for both its beauty and toughness, with narrow fairways, heavy rough, and severely undulating greens that could test the greatest golfers in the world, and was chosen by the USGA to host the 1929 U.S. Open only 6 years after opening. Since then, Winged Foot has hosted 5 additional U.S. Opens (1959, 1974, 1984, and 2006), as well as the PGA Championship (1997), 2 U.S. Amateurs (1940, 2004), 2 U.S. Women’s Opens (1957, 1972), and a U.S. Senior Open (1980). Winged Foot is also known for its iconic clubhouse, which was designed by world renowned architect, Clifford Wendehack. The West course is currently ranked 11 and the East is number 52 among the Golf Digest top 100 courses in the U.S. Listed in the 2019 edition of the National Register of Historic Places, with peerless tradition and excellence, Winged Foot Golf Club stands at the top of what American golf and the USGA represent. What a week we have in store—enjoy it.