By Lenn Robbins
I asked Reid Fowler, PGA Analyst for DraftKings, who’s going to win the 120th U.S. Golf Open which is being played right in our backyard at Winged Foot Golf Club in Westchester County.
In summation, Fowler said:
It was to be someone who is accurate off the tee.
It has to be someone who can be long with his drive because this is a long course.
It has to be someone who handles the first and 18th holes.
It has to be someone who manages the par 3’s.
At this point, I would have withdrawn. When pressed Fowler said, “Webb Simpson.”
Simpson got off to what most would consider to be an excellent start, shooting a 1-over 71 on the daunting par-70, 7,477-yard course. In what is certain to make the folks at the USGA turn blue in the blueblood face, Winged Foot actually played fair Thursday, compared to previous Opens here.
Justin Thomas took the early lead at 5-under, followed by Fowler’s “sleeper” pick, Patrick Reed (plus $3300) at 4-under. Tiger Woods fired five birdies, six bogeys and one double bogey to card a 3-over 73. Consider this: The last time the Open was played here in 2006, Geoff Ogilvy won with a 5-OVER, which was sparkling compared to Hale Irwin’s win in 1974, when he shot 7-OVER. That tournament was remembered as the Massacre at Winged Foot.
“One of my favorite quotes about the Open came before the 1974 Open from Sandy Tatum, a member of the USGA Executive committee,” said Fowler. “He said, ‘What we try to is not confound the best players in the world but try to find out who they are.”
Frankly, I think it’s a little of both.
“I would say we’d be lucky to get half a dozen numbers in the red,” said Fowler. “You’re not going to see a lot of double and triple bogies. It’s death by a thousand different cuts.”
Golf is one of the most fun sports to wager on, especially at a major when the winner can come from off the grid, such as Collin Morikawa’s win at the PGA Championship. There are wagers to be placed on lowest round, lowest 36-hole and 54-hole scores and the final scores.
“The guys that can really grind are going to have the best chance,” said Fowler. “Sooner or later this course is going to force you to do that. You’ve got to play the 1st and 18th holes well. You’ve got manage the par 3’s. You got to be accurate. The rough is so thick you can stand in it and not see your shoes.”
Some rain and stronger winds are forecasted for Friday, which means Thursday might be the day that sees the lowest scores. Even if it does rain Friday, it’s not expected to be a deluge. The conditions will get harder as the week goes on.
Knowing the USGA’s penchant for setting up brutally challenging Open courses, you can bet the next three days will play harder – maybe not a massacre but a lot of thousand different cuts.