Tiger Woods has seen his share of heavy golf courses over the years. He didn’t hesitate when asked where Winged Foot Golf Club, a US Open site, ranked this week.
“Well, I think he’s right there next to Oakmont and I think Carnoustie is just a pure hardship without even doing anything to him,” Woods said during a pre-tournament press conference on Tuesday. “I think these three golf courses, they can host big championships without ever doing anything to them.
“This one or Oakmont here is one or two.”
Carnoustie is the venue for the Open in Scotland, where Francesco Molinari won in 201
Woods missed the cut, doing it for the first time in a major championship as a professional. Woods was ranked 29th in the 1997 PGA Championship, played at Winged Foot.
The course in Mamaronek, New York, has long had a reputation for being difficult. When Ogilvy won in 2006, his winning result was 285.5 above face value. When Hale Irwin won with 287 in 1974, the tournament was called the Winged Foot Massacre.
Measuring 7,477 yards, the Winged Foot is a par-70 with only two par-5s. It has a brutal finishing stretch of five straight par-4s, no less than 425 yards.
“There are no tricks here; you just have to step up and hit good shots, “said Gary Woodland, who won last year’s US Open at Pebble Beach. “The key this week is that you have to drive a ball in the fairway. If you don’t do this, you’ll push yourself out and try to hit the wedges up close, because you won’t be able to take it too far from the rough.
“For me this week, and what I’ve been emphasizing about being home for the last few weeks is driving a golf ball, and that’s definitely going to be key this week.”
Ah, roughly. It always causes problems with Winged Foot. Woods wondered if he could be cut before the start of the tournament, given how wet it was now. Woodland said that without spectators, it can be difficult to find a ball that goes rough. He played his first practice round on Saturday and said he couldn’t find a ball when his caddy just threw it to him while he was working on his chip.
“We didn’t find it until we stepped on it,” he said. “The golf ball can disappear pretty quickly.
“I spoke to USGA [officials]; I was glad that marshals were being taken out yesterday. There was talk of a lack of marshals during the first pairs of drills. The training tours would be 10 hours here to find golf balls.
“The fact that we have marshals will help. Usually, if you hit him off the ropes, you hit him in the crowd and you have crushed lies. We don’t benefit from that this week. So you’re going to have to drive a golf ball in a game.”
“It looks very, very difficult so far,” said Johnson, the world’s No. 1 player. “One of the hardest I’ve ever played. But it’s honest. There’s nothing really complicated about that. You just have to hit good shots.”
None of this suggests particularly well to Woods, who at least three weeks ago felt the conditions of the US Open at Olympia Fields, the site of the BMW Championship. This course was very similar to the US Open, but Woods only managed a draw for 51st place. He made only nine birds a week and struggled with his placement.
After the restart of the PGA Tour in June, Woods played only four events, his best finishing a draw for 27th place in the PGA Championship. During that time, he had only four rounds in the 1960s and did not draw in a single round at Olympia Fields. Woods, who won his 82nd event on the PGA Tour last October, dropped from sixth place in the world earlier this year to 21st this week.
“I really didn’t play as well as I wanted this year, and when I made a few swinging mistakes, I missed it in the wrong places,” he said. “It simply came to our notice then. Here and there I have combined mistakes that ultimately did not make me able to steam or run like a bird, and therefore I did not compete to win events. “