In finally deciding to host a sixth U.S. Open, Winged Foot Golf Club in Westchester has the feeling that it is returning to familiar, friendly territory. In deciding to bring its greatest championship to the club in 2020, the U.S. Golf Association has that same feeling.
"For a number of reasons, New York is a special place for us," Thomas O'Toole, USGA vice president and championship committee chairman, said at the snow-covered club Monday at the formal announcement of the 2020 Open.
O'Toole cited the historic courses in this area, New York's "participatory" golf fans and its proximity to the heart of corporate America. The association will hold two of its big events, the U.S. Women's Open and Walker Cup, this year in Southampton, at Sebonack Golf Club and National Golf Links of America.
Despite the shared roots, it came as a surprise that Winged Foot agreed to host the Open again on its West Course. Members declined the invitation for 2015 after a memorable 2006 Open (marked by Phil Mickelson's meltdown on the final hole). They cited the invasiveness of the sprawling tournament on the East Course, which was where much of the infrastructure was located.
The club has received assurances that the East will not be as heavily trammeled in 2020, club president John Schneider said. Plus, the members believe that 14 years between majors is enough of a respite. He said Winged Foot's bylaws require it to host competitive events.
" Tillinghast gave us a gift of two championship golf courses. We like to share them with the golf community," Schneider said, referring to the legendary course architect whose credits also include Bethpage Black. The Open was first held at Winged Foot in 1929.
"The USGA is like family. It's like having a friend you've been out of touch with, then you pick up the phone after a year and it's like you never left them," Schneider said.
Said O'Toole, "There are no hard feelings between us and Winged Foot, because we're thankful to be able to come to a storied club like this to have our national championship."
Shinnecock Hills, where the membership also was reticent after the 2004 Open, will host the event in 2018. There are no plans right now to bring the Open back to Bethpage, but the new president of the PGA of America said last month that he is trying to schedule a PGA Championship on the Black Course.