Winged Foot caddies to work as spotters at U.S. Open

With no spectators at the U.S. Open this week, the USGA has upped the number of spotters it has on the course to help with finding lost balls — including the use of Winged Foot caddies. Credit: Danielle Parhizkaran-USA TODAY Sports

Much has been made this week about the brutal rough at Winged Foot.

That’s always the case at a U.S. Open — something players, caddies and fans always expect. But much like 2020 as a whole, this week is a little different.

Without the droves of people that would typically line the fairways of a major championship, there are likely to be many more lost balls than usual. The USGA has taken a couple of measures in an attempt to mitigate that.

During a U.S. Open press conference on Wednesday, John Bodenhamer, the USGA’s Senior Managing Director of Championships, explained what the Association would be doing during the tournament to help with lost golf balls.

LISTEN: ‘Under the Strap’ podcast with defending U.S. Open champion caddie Brennan Little

“That’s something we thought, put a lot of thought into, and we have — we have got a good game plan,” Bodenhamer explained. “It’s not entirely different from what we normally would do for a U.S. Open with volunteers, and we call them stationary marshals or ball spotters, that will be strategically positioned at certain parts of the course.

“We have done research in the practice rounds leading up as to where balls are going,” he continued. “We have actually charted that. We know where the more difficult areas of some of the rough grass is. So we’re positioning people that way. We have got about a dozen or more bodies on every single long hole. We have got somebody signaling from the tee into the fairway, and we have got people up on the hole. We have even gone to the extent of bringing in some of the wonderful Winged Foot Golf Club caddies who are doing this on a daily basis when they’re here, and they know this golf course better than anybody. We feel great about the opportunity we have given to find golf balls this year, and we’re going to do a great job of it.”

Good news for players and caddies to be sure — especially with Winged Foot caddies helping out.

In our ‘Under the Strap’ U.S. Open preview podcast with caddie Chris P. Jones (on the bag for 2016 PGA Champion Jimmy Walker), it was noted that another difference this year — one that players sometimes used to their advantage to avoid that U.S. Open rough — would be the strategic approach of missing fairways either way left or way right.

Jones explained it was sometimes implemented on courses with severe rough, the thought being that going way wide left or right would lead to a perfect lie on the areas of the course trampled down by spectator traffic.

Unfortunately, that will not be an option this year.

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