While the USGA remains “cautiously optimistic” about the chances of a U.S. Open happening at Winged Foot this fall, the reality is that this year’s championship will be a “scaled-back version.”
Speaking to GolfChannel.com, John Bodenhamer, the USGA’s senior managing director of championships, said the governing body has been in close communication with the CDC, as well as New York and Westchester County state and health officials, as it continues to plan for multiple scenarios, including one without fans and others with varied limited amounts of spectators.
“We’ve developed scenarios to be flexible and nimble so that whatever comes at us we’ll be able to react quickly,” Bodenhamer said. “I think what you will see at Winged Foot, regardless, is a scaled-back U.S. Open. We’re hopeful that we can have some fans, but you won’t see all the infrastructure that you normally see at a U.S. Open.”
That includes the absence of grandstands and other traditional setups, such as hospitality, merchandise tents and concession areas. If fans are allowed to attend – the USGA’s best-case scenario is “maybe 10,000-12,000” daily instead of a typical 30,000-40,000 number – Bodenhamer said fans could expect only grab-and-go food options and in-app merchandise shopping, among other social-distancing measures.
“The way I like to think about it is it will be more like an old-fashioned U.S. Open, where if we are fortunate enough to have fans, you’ll see them along the rope lines,” Bodenhamer added, “almost like a 1960s or 1970s U.S. Open.”
Bodenhamer added that the USGA will be closely monitoring next month’s Memorial Tournament, which will mark the PGA Tour’s first event back with fans in attendance. About 8,000 fans per day are expected to be permitted at Muirfield Village.
“We’ll learn from what happens there and it will make us better,” Bodenhamer said.
Earlier this year, there was talk of the U.S. Open potentially being moved from Winged Foot, but now the USGA remains “singularly focused” on Winged Foot, which has hosted five U.S. Opens, most recently in 2006.
According to the CDC, Westchester County has seen 34,557 cases and 1,415 deaths related to COVID-19. Westchester County moved into Phase III on Tuesday, a day after county officials confirmed 557 active cases, down from 951 active cases the week prior. Specifically, Mamaroneck Village has 14 active cases among its 429 total cases.
On Wednesday, the New York City Marathon, set for Nov. 1, was canceled, while New York, New Jersey and Connecticut announced 14-day quarantines for all incoming travels from current U.S. hotspots, such as Florida.
There have been three confirmed positive tests this week at the Travelers Championship, including Cameron Champ and the caddie of Brooks Koepka, and five players have withdrawn, including Koepka and Webb Simpson.
“The way we’re thinking about it is we’re cautiously optimistic,” Bodenhamer said. “All the metrics are trending positive still, even though there has been an uptick in other parts of the country, and time is still on our side. We hope the trend stays the same. … We’re planning for some fans, but we’ll do what the state says and back up if we have to.”