US Open: Winged Foot will be tough enough without being 'tricked up', says Nick Dougherty
"It will all come down to how you navigate your way around, how well you hang in there and grind it out, and that's what you want from a US Open test"
Last Updated: 18/09/20 12:34pm
Will the United States Golf Association be tempted into a brutal course set-up after some great scores in the first round at Winged Foot? Nick Dougherty doubts it, and insists the course will be tough enough without interference...
After seeing five under lead the way after round one at Winged Foot, will we see another USGA backlash with the course set-up for the rest of the US Open? They have got previous for brutal set-ups, which have gone wrong at times, but I don't think they will do that this week.
It's what many of us would expect them to do, given their history, but I think Winged Foot will naturally get progressively harder over the remainder of the US Open.
They should be looking at keeping the course in roughly the same condition over the first two rounds so there's no danger of complaints about being on the wrong side of the draw.
Justin Thomas shot 65 and that's just a great score around a very difficult golf course, whatever the set-up. But the greens will firm up over the weekend, and at least that's something the USGA can control - regardless of any change in the weather conditions.
The rough was cut down to four inches from five before play started, but that's still thick enough to cause real problems, particularly when the greens get less receptive.
Tiger Woods was one of many players who said earlier this week that Winged Foot is not only one of his top three toughest courses in major golf, it's also a layout which does not need any alterations to make it a stern examination.
The likes of Jack Nicklaus and Tom Watson have said the same in the past, that there's no need for it to be "tricked up", and the winning scores for US Opens at this venue are testament to that.
In five previous US Opens at Winged Foot, the only winning score under par was in 1984, when Fuzzy Zoeller beat Greg Norman in a play-off after both had completed 72 holes in four under.
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There are no tricks, there are no short-cuts, and it's generally hard, but fair. You know you have to hit the fairways, you know how severe the slopes on the greens are, you know where you can, and can't miss.
The likelihood of Justin Thomas scoring like that for four days is slim. And when you have a tough day here, the course will take a huge chunk out of you.
It will all come down to how you navigate your way around, how well you hang in there and grind it out, and that's what you want from a US Open test.
To me, the score is irrelevant, but that's probably not the case for the USGA. They, and the Winged Foot members, would hate to see a winning score of around 12 or 14 under par - and that's very unlikely to happen.
It's well known that par has always been the target winning score in a US Open, and I'm pretty sure it won't be far away from that come Sunday evening.
Saturday's set-up is critical, and that's the day they might nudge it, but much depends on what happens in the second round. The USGA came in for a lot of flack after the notorious third round at Shinnecock Hills a couple of years ago, and they're surely keen to avoid a repeat of that.
If seven under is leading at halfway, then chances are it could get a little iffy on Saturday. The problem in trying to peg back the leaders is the impact on some of the guys who aren't playing so well, so you could see some really big numbers.
The forecast is for stronger breezes and cooler temperatures over the weekend, so the USGA will also have to bear that in mind.
The other danger is social media. All it takes is for one player to be critical of the set-up, and all of a sudden, people jump on the bandwagon and the USGA are getting slammed for this, that and everything.
Yes, they have made mistakes in the past, but you must expect a US Open test to border on the unfair at times. But, guess what? Golf is unfair! It wasn't meant to be a fair sport.
But when there's a complaint from a player that gets out in the open, it can elevate into a huge story, as was the case on Saturday at Shinnecock. For me, the best set-ups will see the world's best players competing down the stretch.
That's not always the case, obviously, and we've seen a few times that a world No 40 can suddenly find something and play like a world No 1 on any given week.
If we see a repeat of Olympia Fields last month, when it came down to a play-off between the top two players in the world rankings, then it doesn't matter if anyone disliked the test or thought it unfair in any way.
You want the best players going head-to-head down the stretch in a major championship. That's what the majors are all about, and I'm expecting that to be the case at Winged Foot in Sunday.