Rough at Winged Foot could be 6 inches by the weekend

Dustin Johnson was seen searching for a lost ball in the rough three swings into a practice round at Winged Foot Golf Club on Monday.

Bring an extra sleeve.

Players filed in and were taking a look at the famed West Course from every angle ahead of this week’s U.S. Open.

“The rough is going to be difficult,” said Rickie Fowler, who played nine holes before a work session in the practice area. “The rough off the tee is deep, so if you aren’t driving the ball well, it’s going to be a long day. I’ve gotten two looks at the course so far, and it’s hard.”

While there was a buzz on the grounds, the level of traffic was anything but normal.

Only essential personnel are being shuttled into Winged Foot, so the atmosphere was almost casual. The players and their entourages were able to move about without interruption. Nobody is allowed on-site without first testing negative for COVID-19.

The staff, volunteers and media also have to pass a health screening prior to boarding a shuttle.

Rory McIlroy hits from the rough along the eighteenth fairway during a practice round for the 2020 U.S. Open golf tournament at Winged Foot Golf Club – West. Brad Penner-USA TODAY Sports

After dealing with a postponement that became necessary with the pandemic forcing the region to lock down and months of uncertainty, this was a moment to celebrate.
“We reached a point in March where everyone here was thinking, ‘No way is there going to be a U.S. Open this year,’ ” longtime Winged Foot general manager Colin Burns said. “The first call I took about us hosting was in 2012, so we’ve been getting ready for a long time. It was a pretty dramatic turn of events. So the fact we are hosting is awfully special. And while 50,000 people will not get to see Winged Foot in person, 50 million people will get to see the golf course in a way they have not seen it ever. There are no tents, no bleachers. It’s spectacular to see the push-up greens and rolling fairways without any of the infrastructure disrupting that beautiful view.”
Gary Woodland hits from the third tee during a practice round for the 2020 U.S. Open golf tournament at Winged Foot Golf Club – West. Danielle Parhizkaran-USA TODAY Sports

Players began to show up on Saturday to get acquainted with the redesigned West Course.

Rory McIlroy and Fowler were up and on the course early. Defending champion Gary Woodland and Johnson played together after lunch.

Phil Mickelson remained under the radar.

“It’s absolutely impeccable,” Winged Foot head professional Mike Gilmore said of the current setup. “It’s going to be a memorable championship. The fairways, the tees, the greens, the rough – everything is in perfect condition right now. I think it’s just going to be an old-fashioned, challenging U.S. Open, the kind we watched when we were kids.

“I like plus-six to win. They have to be careful it doesn’t get higher than that. If we get windy conditions and the course begins to get crusty, who knows what could happen.”
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