U.S. Open Primer: History, TV, Field, Odds

Dustin Johnson
Dustin Johnson waves to the crowd after making a birdie on the 4th hole as caddie Austin Johnson looks on during the second round of the 2018 U.S. Open at Shinnecock Hills Golf Club on June 15, 2018 in Southampton, New York. (Photo by Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images)

The second major of 2020 – and the first of six over the next 11 months – is upon us, as the U.S. Open gets underway this week at historic Winged Foot in Mamaroneck, New York.

The A. W. Tillinghast masterpiece, with its iconic stone clubhouse, will be hosting its sixth U.S. Open championship.

Trying to tame this venerable monster will be a field comprised of the game’s top superstars, including world No. 1 Dustin Johnson, who enters off a FedExCup title, and Player of the year award.

DJ will be joined in the Empire State by top-ranked stars such as Justin Thomas, Jon Rahm, Xander Schauffele, Rory McIlroy, and Collin Morikawa, the year’s only major winner thus far.

Other familiar names who are considered serious threats include Bryson Dechambeau, Webb Simpson, Daniel Berger, Jason Day, Patrick Reed, Patrick Cantlay, Tommy Fleetwood, Justin Rose, Hideki Matsuyama, and defending champion Gary Woodland among others.

A pair of legendary veterans, Phil Mickelson and Tiger Woods, will also tee it up this week – each offering his own delicious storyline.


Tournament: U.S. Open
Dates: Sep 17-20, 2020
Where: Mamaroneck, N.Y.
Course: Winged Foot Golf Club
Distance: Par 70, 7,264 yards
Architect: A. W. Tillinghast (1923)
Reno: Gil Hanse (2015)
Field: 144 Players
Format: 72-holes, stroke play, 36-hole cut
Purse: $12,000,000
Winning Share: $2,250,000
Defending Champion: Gary Woodland
Marquee Players: Dustin Johnson, Justin Thomas, Justin Rose, Jon Rahm, Jordan Spieth, Rory McIlroy, Rickie Fowler, Jason Day, Hideki Matsuyama, Phil Mickelson, Tiger Woods, Patrick Reed, Webb Simpson, Bryson DeChambeau, Collin Morikawa, Patrick Cantlay


Rd 1, Thursday:
07:30 am-02:00 pm (GOLF)
02:00 pm-05:00 pm (NBC)
05:00 pm-07:00 pm (PEACOCK)
Rd 2, Friday:
07:30 pm-09:30 am (PEACOCK)
09:30 am-04:00 pm (GOLF)
04:00 pm-07:00 pm (NBC)
Rd 3, Saturday:
09:00 am-11:00 am (PEACOCK)
11:00 am-07:30 pm (NBC)
Rd 4, Sunday:
08:00 am-10:00 am (PEACOCK)
10:00 am-12:00 pm (GOLF)
12:00 pm-06:00 pm (NBC)

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Jack Nicklaus US Open
Jack Nicklaus at the microphone after winning the US Open Golf Championship held at the Baltusrol Golf Club in Springfield, New Jersey on June 15, 1980. (Photo by Phil Sheldon/Popperfoto via Getty Images/Getty Images)

It is now one of, if not the, grandest show in golf, but at its beginning, the U.S. Open was just an ancillary tournament to the highly regarded U.S. Amateur.

That inaugural event occurred in 1895, making the U.S. Open the second oldest of the four majors, and was held at the opulent Newport Golf Club in Newport, R.I., the “in” summer hideaway of America’s wealthy and social elite at the time.

Played on Newport’s nine-hole course, the first U.S. Open was held in one day, with each of the 11 golfers in the field playing the course four times. Horace Rawlins, a 21-year-old from England, posted 91-82 to win the tournament by two strokes. He was awarded a $150 share of the $335 purse.

Over time, the tournament developed a reputation for being the most challenging event in golf, allowing it to draw in the best of the best.

The U.S. Open boasts perhaps the most prestigious list of winners of any tournament. That list includes Walter Hagen, Gene Sarazen, Bobby Jones, Byron Nelson, Ben Hogan, Arnold Palmer, Jack Nicklaus, Gary Player, Lee Trevino, Tom Watson, Tiger Woods, Rory McIlroy, Dustin Johnson, Jordan Spieth, and Brooks Koepka.

Hogan, Jones, Nicklaus, and Willie Anderson all share the tournament record for most wins, with four apiece. Tiger and Hale Irwin are next with three victories, followed by two apiece for Alex Smith, John McDermott, Hagen, Sarazen, Ralph Guldahl, Cary Middlecoff, Julius Boros, Billy Casper, Trevino, Andy North, Curtis Strange, Ernie Els, Lee Janzen, Payne Stewart, Retief Goosen, and Koepka.

A testament to just how difficult the U.S. Open has played historically: In 119 editions of the tournament just four players have finished double-digits under par, Tiger Woods (-12) at Pebble Beach in 2000, Rory McIlroy (-16) at Congressional Country Club in 2011, Brooks Koepka (-16) at Erin Hills in 2017, and Gary Woodland (-13) at Pebble Beach in 2019.

Even that 2000 event was brutal, as the two runner-ups, Els and Miguel Angel Jimenez, finished at 3-over, 15 strokes behind Tiger’s unforgettable one-man show.


2019: Gary Woodland (-13)
2018: Brooks Koepka (+1)
2017: Brooks Koepka (-16)
2016: Dustin Johnson (-4)
2015: Jordan Spieth (-5)
2014: Martin Kaymer (-9)
2013: Justin Rose (+1)
2012: Webb Simpson (+1)
2011: Rory McIlroy (-16)


(268) – Rory McIlroy (2011)
(-16) – Rory McIlroy (2011), Brooks Koepka (2017)

(4) – Ben Hogan (1948, 1950, 1951, 1953)
(4) – Bobby Jones (1923, 1926, 1929-30)
(4) – Jack Nicklaus (1962, 1967, 1972, 1980)
(4) – Willie Anderson (1901, 1903-05)
(3) – Tiger Woods (2000, 2002, 2008)
(3) – Hale Irwin (1974, 1979, 1990)


Gary Woodland Wins 2019 U.S. Open
Gary Woodland celebrates on the 18th green after winning the 2019 U.S. Open at Pebble Beach Golf Links on June 16, 2019 in Pebble Beach, CA. Photo by Warren Little/Getty Images

Gary Woodland shot a 2-under 69 on Sunday at Pebble Beach Golf Links to win the 2019 U.S. Open by three strokes over two-time defending Brooks Koepka.

Woodland finished his final day in Pebble Beach with two bogeys against four birdies to reach 13-under par 271.

It was Woodland’s maiden major title, and fourth career PGA Tour victory.

For his seaside triumph, Woodland won $2,225,000 – the biggest payday of his PGA Tour career.

Final Top 5: 2019 U.S. Open

Pos-Player-To Par (Final Rd)
1. Gary Woodland -13 (-2)
2. Brooks Koepka -10 (-3)
3. Justin Rose -7 (+3)
3. Jon Rahm -7 (-3)
3. Chez Reavie -7 (E)
3. Xander Schauffele -7 (-4)


Dustin Johnson Wins FedExCup Tour Championship
Dustin Johnson reacts after making birdie at the 13th hole during the final round of the TOUR Championship at East Lake Golf Club on Sep 7, 2020 in Atlanta, GA. (Photo by Ben Jared/PGA TOUR via Getty Images)

Who plans to seize the moment this week?

It all starts with Dustin Johnson who won two of the three playoff events to secure his first FedExCup, en route to his second PGA Tour MVP award.

DJ enters off two wins and two runner ups in his last four starts. He moved back into the slot as the world’s No. 1 player with his victory at The Northern Trust, and then solidified it with his 23rd career title at the Tour Championship.

With only Tiger Woods (81) ahead of him on the all-time win list for active players (under 50), DJ needs only one more win to tie Gary Player (24) on the all time list.

Still, when it’s a major on the line, you pause before labeling Johnson as your favorite. You remember 2010, when the Open was at one of his favorite courses, Pebble Beach, and he took a three-shot lead into the final round, then imploded with a finishing round of 82.

You also remember the 2015 Open at Chambers Bay, when he three-putted from 12 feet on the 18th green, handing a one-shot victory to Jordan Spieth. In 2018, he held the U.S. Open’s 54 hole lead at Shinnecock, only to see his playing partner (Brooks Koepka) outduel him on Sunday. You also recall his silver medals at the 2019 Masters and PGA. And of course he recently gave up the 54-hole lead at the 2020 PGA.

Even 2016, when he finally broke through and won the Open title at Oakmont, the final day included DJ drama, with the uncertainty if the USGA would penalize him a shot when his ball moved on the fifth green. (It mattered not, as by round’s end, he was four shots clear of his closest pursuers.)

You remember these things, and the question you wonder about is, “Does he?”

It’s not an exaggeration to suggest this is a potentially pivotal week in the 36-year-old star’s career. If he delivers a second Open title, as the clear world No. 1, it could be the catalyst which allows him to string together multiple major titles over the next 12 months – as six majors will be contested in a 12-month span.

Justin Thomas hits his tee shot on the first hole during the final round of the TOUR Championship at East Lake Golf Club on Aug 25, 2019, in Atlanta, Georgia. Photo by Stan Badz/PGA TOUR via Getty Images

Of course, the U.S. Open sets up as being far from a one-man show. You have the only golfer with more PGA Tour wins than DJ (10) over the last four Tour seasons – world No. 3 Justin Thomas, who checks in with two more titles (12) over the 2017-2020 seasons.

Thomas, who finished T3 at the Tour Championship, wrapped up his fourth-straight calendar year with multiple wins, has been remarkably steady all year – posting three wins, five additional top-5 finishes, and three other top-10s.

JT was also the hottest golfer on Tour in July during a three-start stretch where he won and finished runner-up in a playoff loss, which moved him to No. 1 in the world for the second time in his career. Plus, he can draw on the memory of his third round in the 2017 edition at Erin Hills, when he shot 63 to tie the record for lowest score in a single round in U.S. Open history.

Then there’s Jon Rahm, who is easily the best player in the world without a major title. The 25-year old Spaniard enters as the world No. 2, and in top form with two wins and two additional top-6s in his last six starts.

Many have predicted double-digit major titles for Rahm, but he needs to win his first before that kind of talk is taken seriously. However, with six major titles up for grabs over the next 12 months, now is the time to make a legacy.

Xander Schauffele TOUR Championship
Xander Schauffele plays his shot from the 4th tee during the final round of the TOUR Championship at East Lake Golf Club on Sep 7, 2020 in Atlanta, GA. (Photo by Sam Greenwood/Getty Images)

Xander Schauffele continues to shine on the big stage, and is considered (behind Rahm) as the second best without a major. Entering off a top-gross finish at the Tour Championship, the 26 year old American would be one of the least surprising winners this week.

Rory McIlroy and Jason Day are both past major winners and considered top favorites, but both enter in mediocre form.

Collin Morikawa, the season’s only major winner, is another favorite this week. The 23-year old star was somewhat of a disappointment in the playoffs, but still enters off a top-10 and top-20 in his last two starts.

With all that said – yet again, so many eyes will be focused on a now 50-year old Phil Mickelson.

Phil Mickelson is stunned after a collapse in the late stages of the 2006 US Open Championships in 2006 at Winged Foot Golf Club. File Photo AP

Could Winged Foot be the U.S. Open course that finally rewards Phil with the missing piece to his career grand slam? Most fans are familiar with the fact that he’s finished in second place an excruciating six times in previous national Opens, but the last Open at Winged Foot in 2006 has to be the most painful on that list.

Lefty teed off on the 72nd hole with a one-shot lead and needed only a par to win his third consecutive major championship (he’d won the 2005 PGA and 2006 Masters), but a stunning double-bogey saw Mickelson finish one back of winner Geoff Ogilvy.

Birdies will likely be at a premium at Winged Foot, as no player broke par back in 2006, but if he’s going to produce the biggest headline yet of his storied career, he’s going to have to find fairways with his driver and return to being the great clutch putter from 10 feet and in that has always been a hallmark of his game.

Tiger Woods during a practice round in advance of the 2018 U.S. Open at Shinnecock Hills Golf Club in Southampton, NY. Credit: Getty Images/Warren Little

As for Tiger Woods, he shot 76-76 and missed the cut in that 2006 Open – his only major MC in what is considered Tiger Prime (1998-2008).

Believe it or not, Tiger is still the reigning Masters champion, and will enter New York in poor form and without a single top-20 finish since last January at the Farmers (T9). Since that top-10, Tiger has played only five times (68, T40, T37, T58, T51) and missed the Tour Championship.

What about Bryson DeChambeau? After lighting the Tour on fire at the beginning of the reset, culminating with a win in Detroit, the enigmatic American struggled badly down the stretch (MC, T30, T4, MC, 50, T25). Ranked No. 9 in the world, with confidence that is never lacking, DeChambeau has the talent to easily bounce back this week.


Dustin Johnson
Dustin Johnson plays his shot from the third tee during the final round of THE PLAYERS Championship at TPC Sawgrass on May 13, 2018 in Ponte Vedra Beach, FL. Photo by Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images

Dustin Johnson (8-1) is the slight favorite over Jon Rahm (9-1) to win his second career U.S. Open title.

Justin Thomas (12-1), Xander Schauffele (14-1), Rory McIlroy (16-1), and Collin Morikawa (16-1) round out the top-5 favorites in New York.

Top-5 Favorites

1. Dustin Johnson (8-1)
2. Jon Rahm (9-1)
3. Justin Thomas (12-1)
4. Xander Schauffele (14-1)
5. Rory McIlroy (16-1)
5. Collin Morikawa (16-1)

Credits: Draftkings, USGA, Getty Images, PGA Tour Media, Joel Cook


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