Sep 17, 2020
Tough test for tough times: US Open at haunting Winged Foot
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When golfers fall asleep imagining how they’d play this course or that, they’re almost never dreaming about Winged Foot. That includes Tiger Woods. The place is a nightmare for him, too.
Then again, if the aim is to stage the toughest test in golf, in the midst of a pandemic no less, where else would you plant the flagstick? Only two players have finished under par in the five U.S. Opens contested over the century-old design and no one on the ground in Mamaroneck, New York, this week, including the favorites, expects to make a serious dent in that legacy. Just the opposite.
“The viewers at home are going to see some pretty bizarre stuff and probably a lot of putts and chips that make us look pretty bad,” Justin Thomas said.
“If you’re into that stuff,” he added, “then you’re going to like this week.”
Which prompted at least one enterprising fan on Twitter to retort: “Why would I want to watch bad golf when I can do that to myself?”
A fair enough question, but one which the U.S. Golf Association rarely bothers to ask itself. The USGA selects the venues for the national championships and sets them up, sometimes diabolically, happy to let the game’s three other major championships and nearly every week out on tour offer what amounts to a skeet-shoot.
Birdies have been plentiful since golf resumed play back in June. Six players have won with scores of 20 under par or better, including an eye-popping, 30-under-par win by Dustin Johnson, the favorite at tee-off time, at the Northern Trust last month. The low scores could be the result of golfers using the extra time off to practice or just decompress, or maybe even a lack of fans applying pressure on the leader coming down the stretch.
Whatever the reason, don’t expect a lot of red on the board, or conversely, too much complaining by the players this week. It was at Winged Foot, not coincidentally, where the USGA’s rallying cry was made by the late Sandy Tatum, its president at the time, after a particularly brutal opening round in 1974.
“We’re not here to humiliate the best players,” he said. “We’re simply trying to identify who they are.”
Along with Johnson and Thomas, several other guys on impressive runs are being touted by the bookies, few gaining more buzz than Jon Rahm. The Spaniard by way of Arizona State has already notched the two toughest tournaments this year — the Memorial at Muirfield Village and the BMW Championship at Olympia Fields, holding off loaded fields in both — and is poised for his major breakthrough.
With tight fairways, thick rough, slick greens and five closing par-4s of 425 yards and better, Winged Foot places a premium on driving accuracy, distance control with the irons and especially the short game. That could bring young Collin Morikawa, the recently crowned PGA Championship winner, and just-turned-40 Aussie Adam Scott into the mix.
Most of the top 70-ranked players in the world will be on hand, including three-time winner Woods, defending champion Gary Woodland and eight other U.S. Open winners. Missing is Brooks Koepka, who won back-to-back in 2017-18, but will sit this one out due to an injury.
Woods, seeking his 16th major, claimed the 2000 U.S. title at Pebble Beach with a performance that ranks among the greatest four days of golf ever played. Now 44 and day-to-day because of a surgically repaired back, he might have trouble just hanging on into the weekend. When the 1997 PGA Championship was played at Winged Foot, Woods finished T29. In the previous U.S. Open there, in 2006, weeks after the death of his father, Earl, he missed the cut.
Phil Mickelson, the other aging superstar, has an even more tortured history at Winged Foot. Having just turned 50 and dominated in his first Champions Tour start, he’s spent much of the week recounting his improbable meltdown in 2006, one of a half-dozen runner-up finishes he’s collected chasing the one major championship that has eluded him.
But at least he’s having fun with it. In a TV ad running recently, Mickelson promises a free driver to a lucky contest entrant whose favorite Callaway golfer wins the U.S. Open.
“Come on,” Phil says in the promo, “we all know who it’s going to be. When have I ever let you down at Winged Foot?”
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As Tuesdays debate nears, Trump demands Biden drug test
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Insinuating that his Democratic challenger, Joe Biden, was drugged during his sometimes awkward and irregular political debates earlier this year, President Donald Trump has demanded that the former vice president undergo a drug test either prior to or after their presidential debate this Tuesday.In this photo illustration a pencil lies on a U.S. presidential election mail-in ballot received by a U.S. citizen living abroad that shows current U.S. Republican President Donald Trump and his main contender, Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden, among the choices on September 21, 2020 in Berlin, Germany. (Photo by Sean Gallup/Getty Images)
Though it’s not the first time Trump has accused Biden of being on drugs, this most recent accusation comes as Trump continues to fall behind Biden in national polling.
Trump must also confront the possibility of becoming the third U.S. president in the last four decades to lose a bid for re-election for a second four-year term.
Read More: Joe Biden leading President Trump in swing state polls
“I will be strongly demanding a DRUG TEST of Sleepy Joe Biden prior to, or after, the Debate on Tuesday night,” Trump said in a Twitter post today.
“Naturally, I will agree to take one also. His Debate performances have been record setting UNEVEN, to put it mildly. Only drugs could have caused this discrepancy???”
Biden participated in a series of debates with other Democratic presidential nominees that began in late 2019 and extended into 2020. He seemed unsure and somewhat “out of it” when he was up against 10 others and had to stand on the debate stage for long stretches of time.Democratic presidential candidates (L-R) former New York City Mayor Mike Bloomberg, former South Bend, Indiana Mayor Pete Buttigieg, Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-MA), Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT), former Vice President Joe Biden and Sen. Amy Klobuchar (D-MN) participate in the Democratic presidential primary debate at the Charleston Gaillard Center on February 25, 2020 in Charleston, South Carolina. (Photo by Win McNamee/Getty Images)
However, he seemed to have found his voice and gave a strong performance in a one-on-one debate against Vermont Senator, Bernie Sanders last March.
According to VOA, Trump criticized Biden’s debate performances just last month when he said, “I mean, you saw some of those debates with the large number of people on the stage. He was — I mean, I used to say, ‘How is it possible that he can even go forward?'”
“Frankly, his best performance was against Bernie. We’re going to call for a drug test, by the way, because his best performance was against Bernie.”
Read More: Biden says he’s ready to debate Trump: ‘I know how to handle bullies’
Despite 74-year-old Trump’s frequent jabs regarding the mental acuity of 77-year-old Biden, the president doesn’t seem to rattle Biden. The former vice president typically laughs when Trump’s claims he’s “over-the-hill” and promises to match Trump and more in a debate.
After accusing Biden of being on drugs and Bloomberg of bribery, calling for the impeachment of a senator, repeating his usual vague insinuations about ballots and his usual vague promise of an Obamacare replacement, Trump has arrived at his golf club.— Daniel Dale (@ddale8) September 27, 2020
Trump and Biden are scheduled to debate three times in the next month, beginning with this Tuesday’s 90-minute session in Cleveland, Ohio, moderated by Chris Wallace of Fox News.
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