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16 Years Later, 4 U.S. Am Players Return to Winged Foot

September 14, 2020 - 5:16 PM
Brian Harman got a glimpse of Winged Foot's challenge 16 years ago in the U.S. Amateur. (Fred Vuich/USGA)

For a good majority of this week’s U.S. Open competitors, Winged Foot Golf Club’s iconic West Course is a brand-new experience. A handful, however, have seen A.W. Tillinghast’s masterpiece in USGA championship conditions, back in the 2004 U.S. Amateur.

Four competitors – and one current caddie – competed here 16 years ago. All of them made the cut for match play, with Kevin Kisner advancing the farthest (Round of 32). Webb Simpson, who won the 2012 U.S. Open, 2003 U.S. Junior Amateur champion Brian Harman and 2012 U.S. Open co-runner-up Michael Thompson all lost in the Round of 64 in 2004. J.J. Jakovac, a two-time Division II national individual champion at Chico (Calif.) State who now caddies for reigning PGA champion Collin Morikawa, also reached the second round of match play that week.

When Thompson earned his place in this week’s all-exempt U.S. Open field by winning the 3M Open, he told CBS’ Amanda Balionis that Winged Foot was his favorite golf course.

This is the first trip back here since the U.S. Amateur for all four players, as none qualified for the 2006 U.S. Open. (15 players in this week’s field competed in 2006 and two more competed in the 2016 U.S. Amateur Four-Ball Championship).

Although Harman didn’t remember a lot of details during his 18-hole practice round on Monday, he noted that Gil Hanse’s recent renovation significantly changed the look of the West Course. And he recalled who beat him in the Round of 64.

“The only thing I remember from [2004] is I had to play the West Course blind in qualifying,” said the left-hander, who was a co-runner-up with Hideki Matsuyama to Brooks Koepka in 2017 at Erin Hills. “I only got to see the East Course, because Sunday’s [practice round] got rained out. I qualified [for match play] and then lost to Aron Price in 19 holes. I think he gave [eventual champion] Ryan Moore one of his hardest matches of the week (1-up win).”

As for the course itself, Harman added, “There’s nothing silly about this place. It’s just a backbreaker.”

Some aspects of Winged Foot never change.