U.S. Open
September 10, 2020

U.S. Open 2020: Frequently Asked Questions

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David Cannon

The ninth hole ('Meadow') on the West Course with the clubhouse in the background at Winged Foot, site of the 2020 U.S. Open.

The U.S. Open returns to Winged Foot Golf Club for the sixth time, and the first since 2006, under the most unusual of circumstances thanks to the COVID-19 pandemic. Pushed back from its traditional June dates to September and being held without any spectators, the national championship will have a different feel than in any previous year. 

That said, there is still plenty of excitement and anticipation surrounding the event given the plethora of storylines: Can newly-minted FedEx Cup champion Dustin Johnson continue his torrid play and claim an elusive second major title? Will Winged Foot in the late summer play as treacherously as it has in June? How will 50-year-old Phil Mickelson, still needing a U.S. Open title to cap the career Grand Slam, fare in his return to the New York course where 14 years ago he stood on the 72nd hole with a one-stroke lead only to make a double bogey and famously exclaim: “I am so stupid.” Despite the specter of the pandemic still looming, the championship promises to be one of the more fascinating majors in recent memory. Let’s look at some of the frequently asked questions surrounding the USGA’s marquee event.

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When is the U.S. Open played?

Traditionally, the U.S. Open is scheduled every year for the third weekend of June, with the final round planned to be finished on Father’s Day. This year, however, the USGA was forced to postpone the championship until mid-September in response to the COVID-19 outbreak. This year’s dates are Sept. 17-20.

Who conducts the U.S. Open?

The United States Golf Association (USGA) conducts the championship.

When and where was the first U.S. Open? And who won?

The first U.S. Open was played in 1895 at Newport Golf Club in Newport, R.I. At the time, it was a nine-hole course, so the championship was a 36-hole, one-day competition. The winner was an Englishman named Horace Rawlins, a 21-year-old who beat a field of nine other professionals and one amateur. He won with 173 strokes and was awarded $150, a gold medal and custody of the U.S. Open Trophy for one year.

What is the format of the U.S. Open? How many players are in the field?

The U.S. Open is a four-round, 72-hole stroke-play championship, with a cut after 36 holes. Ordinarily, there are 156 players who compete but this year the field has been reduced to 144 give the change in dates and the reduced daylight that comes with playing the championship in September.

If players are tied after 72 holes, how is the winner determined?

Up until 2018, if players were tied after 72 holes of play at the U.S. Open, the winner was determined in an 18-hole stroke-play playoff on the Monday after the final round. The USGA has since changed the format to a two-hole aggregate playoff. If still tied after two holes, players will compete in sudden death until a winner is crowned.

When was the last time an 18-hole playoff occurred?

The last time the U.S. Open went to an 18-hole playoff was in 2008 at Torrey Pines, when Tiger Woods defeated Rocco Mediate on the 19th hole after they were still tied at the end of the playoff.

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Gina Ferazzi

Tiger Woods reacts as he sinks a birdie putt on the 18th hole to force a playoff with Rocco Mediate at the 2008 U.S. Open. Woods would beat Mediate in 19 holes the next day to win his third U.S. Open title.

Where is the U.S. Open being held in 2020?

The 120th U.S. Open will be played at on the West Course at Winged Foot Golf Club in Mamaroneck, N.Y., roughly 20 miles outside of New York City. The West Course, an A.W. Tillinghast design, will play as a par 70 at 7,477 yards.

Has Winged Foot ever hosted the U.S. Open before?

Yes, Winged Foot has hosted the U.S. Open five other times. The first came in 1929, when Bobby Jones won in a 36-hole playoff over Al Espinosa. Since then, Pebble hosted the U.S. Open in 1959 (won by Billy Casper), 1974 (Hale Irwin), 1984 (Fuzzy Zoeller) and 2006 (Geoff Ogilvy). Winged Foot also has hosted the U.S. Women’s Open twice (1957 and 1972), the U.S. Amateur twice (1940 and 2004), the U.S. Senior Open (1980) and the PGA Championship (1997).

5(tie). Winged Foot (West)

Stephen Szurlej

I’ve seen references to a “massacre” at Winged Foot … what’s that all about?

In 1973, Johnny Miller shot the first 63 in the history of the championship in the final round of the U.S. Open at Oakmont to win the title. The next year, when the U.S. Open was played at Winged Foot, the course was set up especially hard, many believe in response to what Miller had done. Think rough, narrow fairways and slick greens resulted in scores well over par being shot the entire week. Hale Irwin would win the championship by two strokes, the first of three U.S. Open titles, with a 72-hole score of seven-over 287. Writer Dick Schaap came up with the description the “Massacre at Winged Foot”, which became the title of a book he wrote about the championship.

What type of course is Winged Foot West? Who designed it?

Winged Foot West is a vintage, tree-lined course designed by famed architect A.W. Tillinghast that opened in 1923. While U.S. Open fans will surely think of brutish rough when they conjure up images of Winged Foot, where the course can really play tricks on golfers is the notoriously undulating greens, restored in 2017 by Gil Hanse to their original size. Hanse also took out many of the Norway Spruce to make the course more open and playable, although we have a feeling players won’t necessarily describe the course as such when they’re frantically trying to find the fairways off the tee.

Isn’t there a second course at Winged Foot?

There is, Winged Foot East, which was also designed by Tillinghast. Unlike many clubs with multiple courses, the members at Winged Foot have an on-going debate on which is actually the better of the two. The East Course has been used to play the two U.S. Women’s Opens at Winged Foot, and the U.S. Senior Open. While the West Course ranks 11th in the latest Golf Digest America’s 100 Greatest Courses ranking, the East Course is 52nd. Golf Digest architecture editor Ron Whitten says that every characteristic of the West Course also exists on the East, which incredibly has been used for parking during recent U.S. Opens. Gil Hanse helped re-establish Tillinghast’s bunkering and greens in 2012, bringing back into play a few “corner-pocket” hole locations.

Is Tiger Woods playing in the 2020 U.S. Open?

Yes, Tiger Woods is in the field for the 2020 U.S. Open.

How many U.S. Opens has Tiger Woods won?

Tiger Woods has won three U.S. Opens, the last coming in 2008 at Torrey Pines. He previously won the U.S. Open in 2002 at Bethpage Black and in 2000 at Pebble Beach, when he set the record for largest margin of victory in major championship history, winning by 15 strokes.

Who has won the most U.S. Opens?

Willie Anderson, Bobby Jones, Ben Hogan and Jack Nicklaus hold the record for most U.S. Open victories, each winning four.

Who won the 2019 U.S. Open?

Gary Woodland won the 2019 U.S. Open at Pebble Beach in California. He won with a total score of 13-under 271, one stroke clear of Brooks Koepka. It was Woodland first major championship victory and the fourth PGA Tour win in the then 35-year-old’s career.

U.S. Open - Final Round

David Cannon

Gary Woodland celebrates holing a long birdie putt on the 18th green to secure his three-shot victory in the final round of the 2019 U.S. Open.

Who are the favorites to win the 2019 U.S. Open?

Coming off his win at the Tour Championship, his third PGA Tour victory since June, 2016 U.S. Open winner Dustin Johnson is the current favorite to win in 2020 according to Westgate Las Vegas Superbook golf oddsmaker Jeff Sherman at 9-to-1 odds. Next is Jon Rahm at 14-to-1, followed by Collin Morikawa, winner of last month’s PGA Championship, at 20-to-1.

How can you qualify for the U.S. Open?

The U.S. Open is open to any professional or amateur with an up-to-date men’s USGA Handicap Index not exceeding 1.4.

Traditionally, the USGA allows eligible players attempt to qualify for the national championship. Qualifying consists of two stages, local and sectional. Local qualifying is played over 18 holes at more than 100 courses around the United States. A total of roughly 525 spots are available to move on to the sectional qualifying round, known as “Golf’s Longest Day.” Sectional Qualifying is played over 36 holes with several sites in the United States, as well as one each in Japan and Europe. Those who qualify after this stage earn a spot in the U.S. Open’s field of 156 players.

However …

This year because of the coronavirus, USGA officials canceled all local and sectional qualifiers, instead creating a list of one-time exemption categories that they hoped would replicate as best they could the diverse field that annual plays its way into the major. Among the exempt categories were money leaders from various worldwide tours, leading club professionals and the top seven amateurs off the World Amateur Golf Ranking.

Has a U.S. Open ever been won by something who earned a spot through sectional qualifying?

Yes. The last time was Lucas Glover at Bethpage in 2009.

Has the U.S. Open ever been won by someone who earned a spot through local and sectional qualifying?

Yes. The last time was Orville Moody at Champions Golf Club in 1969.

Is there an age limit to qualify?

There is not an age limit to qualify for the U.S. Open. The youngest player ever to make the field was 14-year-old Andy Zhang in 2012.

What site has hosted the most U.S. Opens?

Oakmont Country Club outside of Pittsburgh, Pa., has hosted the most U.S. Opens with nine, the most recent in 2016.

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Getty Images

The 18th hole at Oakmont.

What state has hosted the most U.S. Opens?

Adding this year to the tally, New York has hosted the most U.S. Opens with 20. In addition to Winged Foot’s six, Shinnecock Hills has hosted the U.S. Open five times, Oak Hill three times, Bethpage Black two times with Fresh Meadow, Inwood, Country Club of Buffalo and Garden City each hosting once.

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What is the U.S. Open scoring record?

The U.S. Open scoring record is held by Rory McIlroy, who shot a total of 16-under 268 at Congressional Country Club in Bethesda, Md., in 2011.

What is the highest winning score of the U.S. Open?

The highest winning score is held by Fred Herd, who won the 1898 U.S. Open with a total score of 328.

What is the lowest round in U.S. Open history? Highest?

Six players hold the record for lowest round in U.S. Open history with a score of 63. They are: Johnny Miller, Jack Nicklaus, Tom Weiskopf, Vijay Singh, Justin Thomas and Tommy Fleetwood. Thomas’ 63 was the lowest score-to-par (nine under) when he shot the score in the third round of the 2017 U.S. Open at Erin Hills, where he finished T-9. Fleetwood shot his 63 in the final round at Shinnecock Hills in 2018, only the second 63 posted in the final round, along with Miller's in 1973 at Oakmont.

The highest round belongs to J.D. Tucker, who shot a 157 at Myopia Hunt Club in South Hamilton, Mass., in 1898.

Who is the oldest winner of the U.S. Open? Youngest?

The oldest player to win the U.S. Open is Hale Irwin, who won the 1990 U.S. Open at Medinah Country Club in Medinah, Ill., when he was 45 years and 15 days old.

The youngest champion is John McDermott, who won the 1911 U.S. Open at Chicago Golf Club in Wheaton, Ill., when he was 19 years and 315 days old.

Has an amateur ever won the U.S. Open?

Five amateurs have won eight U.S. Opens in history: Francis Ouimet (1913), Jerome D. Travers (1915), Charles Evans Jr. (1916), Bobby Jones (1923, 1926, 1929 at Winged Foot, 1930) and John Goodman (1933).

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Bettmann

Bobby Jones holds the U.S. Open trophy after his 36-hole playoff victory over Al Espinosa in 1929 at Winged Foot.

How many times has an American won the U.S. Open?

Of the 119 U.S. Opens that have been contested, an American has won 84 of them.

When was the last time an International player won the U.S. Open?

The last International player to win was Germany's Martin Kaymer at Pinehurst No. 2 in 2014.

Which countries have produced the next most U.S. Open wins?

Second to the United States in U.S. Open victories is Scotland with 14. Englishmen have won seven times, while South African-born players have won five.

What type of conditions are the U.S. Open played in?

The U.S. Open is typically played under very difficult scoring conditions, where accuracy off the tee is essential. Fairways are often narrow and guarded by thick rough, and the course is generally set up quite long.

What are the confirmed future sites of the U.S. Open?

Future sites have been confirmed through 2027. They are as follows:

2021: Torrey Pines Golf Course, La Jolla, Calif.
2022: The Country Club, Brookline, Mass.
2023: Los Angeles Country Club
2024: Pinehurst (N.C.) No. 2
2025: Oakmont (Pa.) Country Club
2026: Shinnecock Hills Golf Club, Southampton, N.Y.
2027: Pebble Beach (Calif.) Golf Links
2029: Pinehurst (N.C.) No. 2
2035: Pinehurst (N.C.) No. 2
2041: Pinehurst (N.C.) No. 2
2047: Pinehurst (N.C.) No. 2

Martin Kaymer

Jonathan Kolbe

Martin Kaymer reacts to making his putt on the 18th green during the final round to win the 2014 U.S. Open.

How much is the purse of the U.S. Open, and how much does the winner receive?

The USGA has not officially released what the purse will be for the 2020 U.S. Open. The purse for the 2019 U.S. Open was $12.5 million, an increase of $500,000 from 2018 and the largest prize money payout of the four majors. Gary Woodland received $2.25 million for his victory.

How many world rankings points does the U.S. Open Winner get?

The winner of the U.S. Open receives 100 world ranking points.

How many FedEx Cup points does the U.S. Open winner get?

The winner of the U.S. Open receives 600 FedEx Cup points.

Who broadcasts the U.S. Open?

In June 2020, NBC Universal reacquired the U.S. broadcast and media rights for the U.S. Open, taking over the remainder of a 12-year $1.1 billion contract the USGA had signed with FOX Sports that began in 2015 and expires in 2026. NBC had been the official broadcast partner of the USGA from 1995 through 2014. NBC Universal will use its cable arm, Golf Channel, and its new streaming service, Peacock, to show 43½ hours of live golf.

Thursday, Sept. 17
7:30 a.m.-2 p.m., Golf Channel
2-5 p.m., NBC
5-7 p.m.., Peacock

Friday, Sept. 18
7:30-9:30 a.m., Peacock
9:30 a.m.-4 p.m., Golf Channel
4-7 p.m., NBC

Saturday, Sept. 19
9-11 a.m., Peacock
11 a.m.-7:30 p.m., NBC

Sunday, Sept. 20
8-10 a.m., Peacock
10 a.m.-12 noon, Golf Channel
12 noon-6 p.m., NBC