U.S. Open: Winged Foot is an unfamiliar destination for a new generation of stars

Jon Rahm’s prep work for this week’s U.S. Open began with a Google search.

It’s a millennial thing.

Prior to a stopover visit during the FedEx Cup Playoffs a couple of weeks ago, Rahm had never played the West Course at Winged Foot Golf Club. He’s up on the history of the place, though.

“I’ve seen a ton of videos online of the golf course,” said the 25-year-old, who’s not had an opportunity to experience many of the historic venues in the Metropolitan area. “I don’t know what other golf courses are in the area. The only times I’ve come here have been for the playoffs.”

He’s been around Glen Oaks, Ridgewood and Liberty National in New Jersey and Shinnecock Hills and Bethpage Black on Long Island.

“I’m excited to play this one,” Rahm added. “If there’s other good ones worth playing, hopefully at some point in time I can come and play them.”

In the days before Dustin Johnson and Justin Thomas and Rory McIlroy, the PGA Tour had a four-decade run at Westchester Country Club. Players made it a habit to visit other nearby clubs.

“There was a fellow named Chip Weil that I met at my hotel in 1975 after I missed the cut at Westchester,” said Roger Maltbie who won the event a decade later. “We just started chatting and he says, ‘Well, I’m a member at Winged Foot. You want to play tomorrow?’ And I said, ‘Sure. I want to go see Winged Foot. I’ve never played there.’ Chip and I have now been friends for 45 years. Every year I would go there, if I played in the morning we would go over to Winged Foot in the afternoon and play. We would go a lot, either play nine, or if we could, get in 18. I have a real love affair with the place and have for a very long time. So I went over there a lot. I loved every minute of every time I got to go play.”

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Of course, when the PGA Tour relocated what is now the Northern Trust after 2007, the players stopped coming around.

Before the pandemic shutdown, Winged Foot president Brendan Boyle played in the Phoenix Open pro-am and spent time on the course with the likes of Thomas and Jordan Spieth.

Neither of the well-traveled winners had working knowledge of this year’s venue.

“It’s a discussion we had,” Boyle said. “The players in this generation don’t come by as often because Westchester is no longer a PGA Tour stop. There’s nothing until you get to the FedEx Cup playoffs. I used to take off work on Tuesday and Wednesday afternoons before the Westchester Classic because you knew after the practice rounds over there, a lot of players were going to be here.”

There certainly would’ve been a line to get in this spring, but COVID-19 travel restrictions kept most participants away until late August and early September.

Johnson worked up a preliminary game plan after browsing online.

“From talking

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By: Mike Dougherty
Title: U.S. Open: Winged Foot is an unfamiliar destination for a new generation of stars
Sourced From: golfweek.usatoday.com/2020/09/16/u-s-open-winged-foot-is-an-unfamiliar-destination-for-a-new-generation-of-stars/
Published Date: Wed, 16 Sep 2020 11:00:59 +0000

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