US Open at Winged Foot could have gone West

New York (AFP) –


The US Open tees off Thursday at Winged Foot, but there was a time in the pandemic-disrupted year that plans for the 120th edition were looking significantly different.

"To be very transparent with you, we thought we were going to be playing the US Open in December in Los Angeles," US Golf Association chief executive Mike Davis said Wednesday of the turmoil created by the deadly coronavirus pandemic. "We were that close."

Winged Foot, in Mamaroneck, New York, was originally scheduled to host the Open June 18-21.

But the global golfing calendar was thrown into turmoil in March.

The US PGA Tour, the European Tour and organizers of golf's major championships struggled to put together a cohesive response.

And it was not until the R&A announced in June that the British Open would be cancelled -- not postponed -- that the USGA realized they would have a window for the US Open in September.

"It really wasn't until the day before we went public with the schedule that we realized that the R&A's Open across the pond couldn't be played in September," Davis said, "which gave us an opportunity to play in September at this wonderful, storied golf course."

Staging the championship in New York, however, was looking problematic when the state emerged as a virus hotspot early in the year.

"We had some wonderful medical advisors who said: 'Be patient, because what is a hotspot now may not be a hotspot later in the year," said John Bodenhamer, the USGA's senior manager of championships.

"And we followed that, and it paid off."

Until late July the USGA had hoped to welcome at least a limited number of spectators to the course, finally abandoning that plan after consultation with local and state health officials.

"Listen, at the end of it, while we want spectators here, it's the millions of people around the world that have an opportunity to watch this, but it's also those 144 players getting to play for that coveted trophy and that Jack Nicklaus Gold Medal, that's what really counts and that's what history is going to remember," Davis said.