The most dominant performances at Winged Foot

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In five previous U.S. Opens, the course has made it tough for competitors. 

Winged Foot, site of this week’s US Open, is one of the most frequently visited Open sites. This week’s tournament will be the Open’s sixth visit to Winged Foot; only two courses – Oakmont and Baltusrol – have hosted more.

But Winged Foot probably lays claim to another distinction, the toughest Open layout. During the tournament’s five previous visits to the A.W. Tillinghast layout north of New York City, 311 competitors have completed four rounds of Open play. How many have posted under-par scores?

The answer: Just two. Fuzzy Zoeller won the 1984 Open at four-under, defeating Greg Norman in an 18-hole playoff.

Aside from Zoeller, the next best winning score at a Winged Foot Open was Billy Casper’s two-over 282 in winning in 1959. In 2006 – the last time the Open came to Winged Foot — Geoff Ogilvy won at five-over. Since then, nobody has won an Open with a higher score relative to par.*

In fact, prior to Ogilvy, the last player to win a U.S. Open with a higher score relative to par was Hale Irwin with a plus-seven…at Winged Foot in 1974.

In his design of the West Course, Tillinghast incorporated several challenging features, notably some of the rolling-est greens in captivity. They’re small targets, too, averaging just 5,100 square feet, about two-thirds the size of a typical modern course and well-protected by deep bunkers.

There’s only one water hole even marginally in play – the par-four 15th – and that stream bisecting the fairway is easily navigated by most Open-calibre pros. But Winged Foot doesn’t need water; just combine those greens with notoriously difficult U.S. Open rough and watch the problems ensue.

Here’s a look back at the Winged Foot Opens.

(*Angel Cabrera won at Oakmont in 2007, also at five over par.)

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