Written by Jesse Rice - DF Insider on September 15, 2020

In what has been the most convoluted season in PGA Tour history, and a week after the start of the “2021” season, now the time is upon us for the second major championship of the year and our national championship – the United States Open, held this year at the famed Wing Foot Golf Club West Course, in Mamaroneck, New York.

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Established in 1923, Winged Foot was designed by noted architect A.W. Tillinghast, one of the pioneers of modern golf course architecture, and provides one of the stiffest tests of golf to be found anywhere in the world. It has been home to six previous U.S. Opens, one PGA Championship, as well as two U.S. Women’s Opens, one Senior Open, and two U.S. Amateurs.

The West Course, while usually a Par 72, will play as a Par 70 for this major, and logs in at a stout 7,477 yards this week. In four of the five previous U.S. Opens held on this track, the winning score has been above Par, so we know that we are in for a very stern test of golf this week.

We need just heed the words of Steve Radibeau, the director of golf courses at Winged Foot. According to The Journal News, he kept saying, ”Plus 8, plus 8, plus 8,” indicating that would be what they think is going to be an ideal winning score to ”cap a very difficult summer.”

Winged Foot is difficult as it is, but by all accounts is in store to play even tougher than normal, with the rough surrounding the narrow fairways said to be some 11-12 inches deep, where wayward tee shots will most likely come with a stroke penalty if found in the deep stuff.

Approach will be key, as these will be some of the wildest, craziest greens the players have ever seen. If you miss your spot on approach, the undulations and tiers will punish even the slightest of wayward shots.

The weather looks to be a tad cool in New York this week as well, other than Thursday, Which looks fine enough with sunny spells and temperatures reaching 78°F. The change will come Friday as it is set to be cloudy with the occasional rain shower, with the temperatures around 66°F. The weekend shows no more signs of improvement, with thick cloud and temperatures remaining much the same. The wind speeds are fairly settled at 9-12 mph.

All in all, this is going to be an exciting tournament, as the cream of class will surely rise to the top in conditions as tough as these, where Par is a bonus and bogeys will be happily made and moved on from. The course itself is a beauty, hiding the diabolical nature of its layout, and surely a worthy champion will be crowned on Sunday as the 120th champion of the U.S. Open.

Must-Have #1: Paul Casey

There are few operators in the game that, when they have it all working, can match this Englishman’s tee to green prowess, and when confronted with a test as stern as Winged Foot, those golfers who have consistently exhibited a penchant for world-class play are high on the list this week.

Casey’s a grinder who typically rates well in Greens In Regulation and Scoring Average, as well as Bogey Avoidance (which will be very, very key this week). Over the last 24 rounds, Casey ranks 3rd in the field in Bogey Avoidance, 9th in 3-Putt Avoidance, 14th in SG: Off The Tee, 23rd in SG: Approach, and 38th in Fairways Gained. If he continues to shine in those categories, he should be able to navigate the treacherous doglegs and green complexes at the West Course.

He’s coming off a season in which he made 18/20 cuts, but was atypically void of the consistent Top-10 finishes we are used to seeing from this Arizona State alum. In fact, his only Top 5 on the season was a runner-up finish at the PGA Championship at Harding Park, where he came up just short in his bid to Collin Morikawa. That was Casey’s tenth Top-10 in a major, so obviously when the grind gets going it often brings out the best in him.

He’s played US Open setups well, with six Top-25 finishes in his last twelve attempts, and 9/12 cuts made since 2006.

Must-Have #2: Louis Oosthuizen 

Much of what can be said about Casey can also be applied to this diminuative and affable South African; a former major champion at The Open and also four-time major champion runner-up, including once at the U.S Open in 2015.

In fact, “Oosty” has felt quite at home here in the domestic championship, making 7 out of his last 8 cuts since 2011, with four Top-10s, and a formline that reads an encouraging 7-16-23-23-2 in his last five attempts at the U.S. Open.

A smooth operator with a solid tee to green game, Oosthuizen is also a grinder who knows how to get things done in tough conditions, as evidenced by his Open win, and Top 10s at courses such as Congressional and Chambers Bay.

Since the restart from Covid-19, he has turned in solid results, making 7 of 8 cuts, but only just recently has seen his game elevate to the level we are accustomed to, going 25-13-33-3 in his last four starts leading up to this week.

He ranks a solid 18th in the field in his last 12 rounds Off The Tee, 6th in Bogey Avoidance, 38th in Approach, 42nd in Fairways Gained, and 45th Around the Green. With his seeming uptick in form these past few weeks, and in tough conditions, we think Oosthuizen should be in for another solid U.S. Open finish.