The chances of playing the U.S. Open in New York in the midst of the coronavirus pandemic seemed remote in April, when the tournament was rescheduled from June to September.
But the United States Golf Association is now optimistic about keeping the championship at Winged Foot Golf Club in suburban New York City and remains hopeful that spectators in some limited form will be able to attend.
The organization had been working on contingency plans to move the tournament to another venue, if necessary.
“We are focused singularly on Winged Foot,” John Bodenhamer, senior managing director of championships for the USGA, said in a phone interview Friday. “Once we got the September dates, that was our thinking. Time is on our side. We did look at multiple scenarios, but given the recent news we felt we could focus there.
“Winged Foot is a special place for us. And the golf course will be amazing. And to be able to do this in New York, where things have been so challenging, will put an explanation point on it. We see Winged Foot as our sole focus.”
Winged Foot is located in Mamaroneck, New York, which is in Westchester County, one of the country’s COVID-19 hotspots. But New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo on Friday said New York City will begin reopening on June 8, the first step in ending one of the nation’s strictest lockdowns. Other areas of the state have been opening recently.
Winged Foot, which has staged the U.S. Open five times, most recently in 2006, when Phil Mickelson double-bogeyed the final hole to lose by a shot to Geoff Ogilvy, has reopened to limited play. It first hosted the U.S. Open in 1929, with Bobby Jones winning.
In April, the various governing bodies announced a rescheduling of the major championships, with the Open deciding to cancel, the PGA Championship moving to early August and the Masters to November. The U.S. Open is scheduled for Sept. 17-20 and would be the week prior to the Ryder Cup.
The Ryder Cup has discussed going forward without spectators, as has the U.S. Open, although Bodenhamer said the USGA is doing all it can to see if fans can attend.
“We are cautiously optimistic that we will have spectators,” Bodenhamer said. “I’m looking at it as glass half full. Gov. Cuomo was very encouraging about wanting to reopen sports and we’re going to be respectful of what New York and Westchester County wants us to do. But we viewed those as very positive remarks.
“We feel social distancing can be done in an outdoor arena, and we know it has been the epicenter, so we will be thoughtful about what are more important issues for them. But we’re starting to think about what might be possible as far as fans, volunteers, media, a number of things. We are trying to be nimble.”
The PGA Tour’s first rescheduled tournament is the Charles Schwab Challenge June 11-14 in Texas. If all goes as planned, the U.S. Open would be the 15th week of the new schedule.