2020 U.S. Open Live Updates: Follow Phil Mickelson’s opening round at Winged Foot
It’s all happening three months after it was originally scheduled to take place, but it’s happening nonetheless. The 120th U.S. Open is finally here. Golf’s national championship kicks off early Thursday morning at Winged Foot in Mamaroneck, N.Y. The first tee times are at 6:50 a.m. ET, and there’s no shortage of storylines.
Here’s what you need to know for Thursday’s first round. (This page will be updated frequently throughout the day with highlights, developing stories and analysis. Refresh the page for the latest.)
Thursday’s U.S. Open quick links
Day 1 wrapping up
As the sun sinks toward the western horizon over Westchester County, Round 1 of the U.S. Open is wrapping up.
Justin Thomas, Rory McIlroy and Patrick Reed got out early and posted solid numbers in the morning, and as the afternoon wave played on, it became apparent that Winged Foot lacked the fire many had expected. Matthew Wolff joined the party at the top of the leaderboard by day’s end as more player’s broke par today than in all four rounds combined at the 2006 U.S. Open.
Old stalwarts Tiger Woods and Phil Mickelson were not able to take advantage of the soft conditions during Round 1, as they posted 73 and 79 respectively. Woods still has a shot to make the cut and chip away on the weekend, while Mickelson looks like he will have to wait another year for his bid at capturing the elusive grand slam.
Check back here tomorrow for all the updates on the action.
Jordan Spieth’s struggles continue
Jordan Spieth opened his U.S. Open with a three-over 73. He lost a ball in a tree. (Or the rough? Who can say!) He battled his swing all day, which should come as no surprise, because he appeared to be battling his swing on the driving range on Wednesday, too, and at last week’s Safeway Open, and generally at most golf tournaments over the past two to four years.
Over that time period, Spieth has had plenty of success, too, but nowhere near the success we’d grown accustomed to from the Golden Child, the World No. 1, the Grand Slam threatener. We’ve continued to root for him to regain some of that youthful superstardom, because he’s immensely talented and he tries very hard and because he seems like a very nice guy. The rooting and the attention has not necessarily helped.
Let’s talk through the experience of watching Jordan Spieth play golf these days. It looks hard. You can see the work. He talks through the process of a shot, to himself and to his caddie, Michael Greller, and then he talks to his ball while it’s in the air, and then he talks to himself again after the shot. He’s pushing. Birdies coming in bunches, and double bogeys lurk around every corner. On Thursday, he bogeyed No. 1, made a lost-ball double at No. 2, then reeled off three birdies in a row — and none of it felt even remotely surprising, neither to us nor to Spieth.
Unlikely players emerge from afternoon wave
While the morning wave saw multiple top-10 players rise to the top of the leaderboard, the afternoon wave saw some low-profile players put themselves into contention. Thomas Pieters and Rafa Cabrera Bello (who are both fine players, but lack the resume that others near the top boast) both got themselves into the top 10 as the afternoon wave as Winged Foot lacked the teeth that were promised coming into the week.
Pieters posted a smooth 66 and even noted in his post-round interview how surprised he was at the setup. Cabrera Bello’s day was more eventful as he made two bogeys and a double, but he also carded an eagle and four birdies to get into the house at two under par.
Follow along on with all the scores here.
It’s been a long time since Phil hit a Winged Foot fairway
Phil Mickelson has missed his first six fairways at Winged Foot, which has contributed in part to his three-over start through 10 holes, and in whole to the most mind-boggling stat you’ll hear all day.
Mickelson has hit in the neighborhood of 14,480 tee shots since his last made fairway at Winged Foot, on the 9th hole of the 2006 U.S. Open. Included among those 14,480 tee shots? Mickelson’s missed fairway on the 18th in the 2006 U.S. Open led to his squandering the tournament to Geoff Oglivy.
Here’s to hoping Phil splits the fairway soon and ends one of the craziest streaks in recent memory.
Afternoon groups charge, Duval comments on Spieth struggles
The afternoon groups are making the turn on Thursday with a head of steam. Joaquin Niemann is one stroke off the lead and four under through nine holes. Rickie Fowler (-3) is two strokes back through only seven holes, while Bryson DeChambeau and Jon Rahm each sit at two under. It appears what little wind existed this morning at Winged Foot has died down, leaving players with plenty of attackable pins.
But, for everyone going low, one of the players who isn’t in the red on Thursday is Jordan Spieth. After an up-and-down, three-over 73, Spieth is eight strokes off the lead. Spieth’s struggles are hardly news — he’s gone a little more than three years without a win and has struggled tremendously to find consistency over that stretch. And while everyone has had their say on how they’d fix the 26-year-old’s struggles, David Duval offered a different kind of swing advice.
“I sometimes wish he would just go hit balls alone. He’s playing golf swing right now. He needs to go out and play golf,” Duval said on Golf Channel’s Live From. “It’s a lack of comfort. It’s a lack of decisiveness to what you’re doing and frankly, it’s removing all reaction to your target.”
Phil Mickelson, Bryson DeChambeau off to quick starts
Phil Mickelson has arrived at Winged Foot looking to avenge his 2006 U.S. Open demons — and in style. Mickelson, who was one of the first players to tee off in the afternoon, is one under after two holes despite missing a pair of fairways to open the round. He’s part of a grouping of big-name of players who have gotten out to quick starts in the afternoon (Jon Rahm and Rickie Fowler among them).
Bryson DeChambeau is one under through four holes. DeChambeau, who’s employing a bomb-and-gauge strategy through the conditions at Winged Foot, hasn’t had to worry much about the West Course’s tangled rough. DeChambeau has hit 2/3 fairways and 3/4 greens in the early going.
Meanwhile, the conditions at Winged Foot have already raised a few eyebrows, but perhaps not for the reasons fans were hoping. After those around the tournament widely predicted a toothy, old-school U.S. Open setup, we’ve seen quite the opposite — 28 golfers are under par as of 2:30 p.m. ET.
Tiger stumbles to the finish line in round 1
An up-and-down opening round for Tiger Woods ended in frustrating fashion, with Woods making a double-bogey 6 on the 18th after chunking a chip from just feet off the green. Woods finished the day with five birdies, six bogeys and a double-bogey en route to a three-over 73, eight strokes behind the leader, Justin Thomas, after the first portion of the day.
Tiger’s biggest concern heading into the week, his putter, wound up serving him well throughout the round. He rolled several long putts for par and birdie saves, and looked to have regained the touch he struggled to find at the PGA Championship in August. Ultimately, it was his play off the tee — a consistent right miss with his driver leading to only six of 14 fairways hit — that contributed to the majority of his struggles. Woods tees off in Friday’s second round at 1:27 p.m. ET.
Tiger Woods heating up at Winged Foot
Tiger Woods had trouble in the rough on 8 and made bogey, but he rattled off birdies on 9, 10 and 11 to jump back up the leaderboard and into a tied for 7th. He almost made it four straight birdies on 12, but he lipped out his birdie try and settled for a tap-in par. Woods is one under.
Justin Thomas, who is playing with Woods, leads at four under.
How different is Winged Foot’s U.S. Open setup versus normal member play? We asked Winged Foot club champs
Dylan Dethier, GOLF: What is the biggest difference between the day-to-day conditions at Winged Foot and the conditions that guys will see for the U.S. Open?
Eddie Bugniazet (1984, 1994, 1997 club champ): I think the rough is really the easy answer, and then narrowing the fairways. Last week I lasered the 6th fairway, which looks like a ribbon right now, at 23 yards wide. Normally that fairway’s probably 30-35. But I think just with what I saw this weekend and the last two weeks, the rough. The greens are always tough, and if they’re rolling 11+, to everybody’s point, there’s a comment about Winged Foot that the closer you get to the hole, the harder it gets. So the shots out of the rough are going to really turn. So I think the rough is really the biggest change factor, because we play it pretty tough generally.
Jeff Putman (2009 club champ): I concur, the rough is the difference. But we play this golf course like this pretty much since the last Open [in 2006]. They didn’t really widen the fairways back out much. They had narrowed them, and they didn’t really widen back out. You look at 4 and 15, I mean, they didn’t move. So yeah, the rough is definitely more difficult but everything else is pretty much the same. I swear we could have the U.S. Open with a week’s notice any year, any time of year.
Here’s what happens if players lose their golf balls in the rough at the U.S. Open
In case you haven’t heard, Winged Foot’s rough is thick. And not just normal thick. More like have-to-be-standing-on-top-of-it-to-see-it thick. With rough so gnarly, and no fans on site, there are sure to be balls lost just outside the short grass during this week’s U.S. Open.
Jordan Spieth met that fate on his second hole of the day during the opening round. He pushed his tee shot just right of the fairway only for the ball to never be found. Not exactly the way you want to start your U.S. Open.
And while you and your buddies might just throw down a ball for a one-shot penalty during your weekend games, that’s not how the Rules of Golf work. Even though it might seem unfair to lose a ball in a seemingly un-losable spot, you’ve still got to play it by the book.
Under Rule 18.2a, “your ball is lost if not found in three minutes after you or your caddie begin to search for it.” It might seem harsh, but that’s the rule. If 180 seconds pass by and your ball isn’t found, it’s time to take the penalty.
Jordan Spieth’s day is off to a roller-coaster start
Jordan Spieth, still looking for his first win since the 2017 Open Championship, has had quite the morning so far. Spieth bogeyed the first hole, made double on the second (and had to take a golf cart back to the tee to re-tee) and got his first par on the 3rd. After that? Birdie, birdie, birdie. He’s even through six holes and T15.
Tiger Woods’ U.S. Open is off and running
Tiger Woods is off and running. Woods, playing alongside Justin Thomas and Collin Morikawa with an 8:07 a.m. ET tee time, found the fairway on the par-4 1st hole. Thomas also found the fairway, while Morikawa, the defending PGA champion, hit his tee shot into the left rough.
At the same time, Rory McIlroy, Justin Rose and Adam Scott teed off on the 10th hole. McIlroy made birdie on the 10th and is one under after three. Woods is even after two holes, with Tyrrell Hatton leading at two under through four.
Round 1 U.S. Open tee times
Tiger Woods gets an early start on Thursday, teeing off at 8:07 a.m. ET in a powerhouse grouping with PGA champion Collin Morikawa and PGA Player of the Year Justin Thomas. They’ll tee off immediately after Hideki Matsuyama, Patrick Reed and Jordan Spieth at 7:56 a.m.
AskAlan mailbag: Is brutal U.S. Open rough a crime against golf, or a worthy tradition?
In this installment of the #AskAlan mailbag, GOLF senior writer Alan Shipnuck answers all your questions about this week’s U.S. Open at historic Winged Foot Golf Club.
Three inches of rough is very penal; 5 inches of rough is a crime against golf. Can you change my mind, or do you concur? — @CountDownDave
I have mixed feelings about this. It’s true that tangly, hack-out rough takes a lot of skill out of the game: there is little hope for daring recovery shots or artistry around the greens. Fifty-one weeks a year I’m not a fan of brutally penal rough, but this is the U.S. Open — there should be pain and suffering and a premium on precision.
Even big, bad Winged Foot is laughably short for modern pros so the rough has to be extra gnarly for par to have any meaning. Again, in other weeks I don’t really care about the winning score, but this is the national championship and par has always been a historically important measuring stick. To summarize: I don’t like 5” rough but I love it this week.
Over/under the age of the winner is 26? — @TStavely13
Hmm, the under includes Rahm, Morikawa, and Sungjae. The over is JT, Rory, DJ, Webb, Cantlay, A. Scott, Berger, Tommy Lad, Abe Ancer and plenty of others. (X and Fitzpatrick are 26.) Gotta take the over.
‘This is a nightmare’: Reliving Phil Mickelson’s 2006 Winged Foot meltdown with those who saw it up close
THE SCENE: On the tee of the 450-yard, par-4 18th, Mickelson stands over his ball.
Dan Hicks: I remember thinking to myself, How in the world does Phil Mickelson have a chance to win the U.S. Open with a par, after hitting just two fairways all day in the final round? There was a lot happening down the stretch. A lot of guys were still in it, and a lot of guys were melting down. We got to Phil’s tee shot at 18 just before he hit it. We were live on air with it.
Johnny Miller, from NBC’s live broadcast: “This better be a 4-wood.”
Roger Maltbie: Phil pulled a driver, which surprised me. The 18th at Winged Foot is a dogleg-left, with a huge stand of trees on the left. You have to keep the ball right-center of the fairway, which isn’t very wide. I didn’t think driver was the right play, and Johnny certainly didn’t think it was the right play.
Hicks: Phil was on an absolute roll, going for three major titles in a row. But something in the back of my mind was telling me, You tempt Winged Foot this many times without finding the fairway, you’re gonna pay the price. Of course, it wasn’t a 4-wood, and Phil bounced his drive off a hospitality tent.
Winged Foot club champions reveal their secrets to winning
Dylan Dethier, GOLF: Let’s start with a simple question — endless answers, but a simple question. What, in your mind, is the key to winning at Winged Foot? Eddie, we’ll start with you.
Eddie Bugniazet (1984, 1994, 1997 club champ): It’s pretty easy. Every hole, play to the outside of the dogleg. It’s really that simple. You play the outside of dogleg, you have an approach to every green. Obviously not the par-3s, but if you can accomplish that, it gives you plenty of room off the tee. Even if you’re off the fairway, you have an angle to the front edge of every green and you can chip and putt there, at least have a putt for par.
Jeff Putman (2009 club champ): The two things you always have to think about, especially on a Tillinghast course and especially at Winged Foot: Always below the hole and never short-side yourself. There are places on that golf course where I don’t care how good your short game is, you can’t get up and down for par or whatever it is. So those are my two cardinal rules: Never go over on any hole. And there are a few holes that are just — they’re death. So just stay short and never short-side yourself.
Brandel Chamblee: 2 ‘huge hurdles’ Tiger Woods must overcome to win U.S. Open
With one day to go until the beginning of the postponed 2020 U.S. Open, there’s a lot of talk about host club Winged Foot, its history, its past champions, and its daunting rough and green complexes.
There has not been much talk about Tiger Woods, the reigning Masters champion, which is understandable given his lack of results on Tour lately. But on Tuesday night, Golf Channel analyst Brandel Chamblee took the opportunity to explore Tiger’s chances this week at Winged Foot. And it’s clear he’s not confident a 16th major win is imminent.
Appearing on Golf Central Live with a darkened Winged Foot as his backdrop, Chamblee discussed where Tiger’s game is at heading into the second major of the year, and identified two major areas he needs to improve to have any chance of lifting a fourth U.S. Open trophy on Sunday, namely, his driving accuracy and putting.
“To have any chance this week he has to drive it straighter. Has to, to have any chance,” Chamblee told fellow host Justin Leonard. “To have a decent chance, he has to putt decent. And he’s been near the bottom of the stats in the last four events coming in here. So these are two huge hurdles for him to get over.”
The Meaning of Winged Foot: The club’s exceptional courses aren’t the only thing that set it apart
We all get bit by the bug in different ways and most of us can remember how. Maybe 46 years from now somebody will type up a report on how they fell into golf’s spidery web during the Pandemic of ’20 and never looked back. As I have written too often — but also not enough — I was introduced to golf in an eighth-grade gym class at a public school in Patchogue, on the south shore of Suffolk County, on Long Island. That was in the spring of 1974, two score and six years ago. The U.S. Open that June was at Winged Foot, in Westchester County. Winged Foot was 60 miles and a world away. My first major.
I don’t remember if I watched the tournament on TV. I definitely followed it in our morning newspaper, dropped on our gravel driveway right about sunrise. Dave Anderson and Red Smith, New York Times sports columnists, were already heroes to me. I remember, through the gift of spilled ink on newsprint, player complaints about how hard Winged Foot was. That was the year Sandy Tatum of the USGA said, “We’re not trying to embarrass the best golfers in the world, we’re trying to identify them.”
Many years later, Sandy became, I would like to say, something like an intimate friend, though many would like to say the same and we can’t all be right. People were drawn to his sturdiness. The man as oak. He was the USGA. Winged Foot was the USGA. The name made you take notice. Winged Foot. Greek gods swooping in from on high, with sails for arms.
I recall, loosely, a quote from Trevino about the Winged Foot rough in ’74: “Your caddie would put the bag down to look for the ball and you’d lose the ball, the bag and sometimes the caddie.” Perfect. (Except for height, Trevino had every kind of gift a person can have, including the gift of hair.) I’ve often wondered how that quote settled in me. Via Red Smith? Or maybe Dave?
I made my first trip to Winged Foot a decade later, invited there for an offseason lunch/job interview. Probably in January or February 1985. I had never seen anything in golf like Winged Foot or its clubhouse, the scale of it all, the church-like sobriety. The clubhouse was thick. Not just the walls, everything. It was all mahogany and brass and the lunch beverages were served in glasses not designed for grandma.
I knew about Tillinghast, Winged Foot’s godfather, because of Frank Hannigan’s landmark piece about him in the USGA magazine, Golf Journal. “Give us a man-sized course,” the founding members told the architect. I wasn’t there to play on that winter day. I was an unlikely candidate to ever play Winged Foot. I mean, I barely got through the lunch. If Winged Foot doesn’t intimidate you the first time you pass through the gate, check your pulse. Westchester County has laws about driving while dead.