It’s hard to believe we will be playing a fall-like U.S. Open golf tournament – but 2020 has been unlike any year we’ve had in quite awhile. I’m just grateful we’ll be able to witness an event.
This year’s tournament will likely provide one of – if not the – toughest test pros / amateurs will see all year. With tight fairways and deep rough, accuracy and ability to save par will be paramount.
Only one champion from the past five U.S. Open’s held at Winged Foot has been under par (Fuzzy Zoeller in 1984). And, it wasn’t by much with a winning score of -4. Beside it’s lone PGA Championship in 1997 (which tends to offer less penal setups), Winged Foot has proved to be a U.S. Open-type test.
Eight years ago, a Titleist article wrote about how Geoff Ogilvy won the 2006 Open at Winged Foot with scoring well from 100 yards and in. He admitted he hadn’t driven it well – but managed to get up and down from this distance to win.
While accuracy is desired at an U.S. Open, Ogilvy’s win showed you can do it without being number one. Add to that 2006’s runner-up finisher, Phil Mickelson, who has never been known for his driving accuracy but his wedge play and short game (Mickelson had a one-shot lead going into 18 and only needed to secure a par to win by one – but failed to do so when he chose to be aggressive off the tee).
So who is going to win this year’s U.S. Open?
You don’t generally win any tournament putting poorly. And you need a load of confidence / trust in your abilities entering the event to play well (as you’ll likely get knocked down a few times during play).
Given driving is an asset – but not necessarily the key to winning at Winged Foot – I am going to analyze players who are leading with proximity to the hole from 75-100 yards in.
From the 2020 season, the top 5 players leading this category were:
- Justin Rose
- Sam Burns
- Nelson Ledesma
- Tony Finau
- D.J. Trahan
Of note on this list is Justin Rose – who is a former U.S. Open champion. He hasn’t been playing particularly well since the restart of the 2020 season having missed as many cuts as he’s made.
A couple others who stick out from this list is Sam Burns and Tony Finau. Burns just finished T7 at the Safeway Open. His putting is top 35 and is a strong driver of the ball.
Finau on the other had has been red-hot since The Memorial having only two finishes outside of the top 10 (in seven events). I’m a big fan of Finau’s – his attitude, way with the fans and media and golf abilities. Also, his best finish in a major has come at a U.S. Open (tying for 5th in 2018).
And just outside the top 10 on this list is another player to be on the watch for. Doug Ghim, who tied for 11th in proximity from 75 to 100 yards, had a good finish at Safeway and is coming into the Open hot.
There aren’t a lot of players who win U.S. Opens at their first attempts. So, I would look for experience to reign supreme at this years event.
You also cannot overlook Dustin Johnson, Collin Morikawa or sentimental favorite, Mickelson. Proven winners who – all but Mickelson – are playing well.
My pick to win: Finau or Morikawa.
Who do you think will take home the trophy?