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Winged Foot will be a 'fair challenge'

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Rory McIlroy laughs after his shot from the eighth tee during a practice round for the US Open at Winged Foot. Photo: USA TODAY Sports

Rory McIlroy laughs after his shot from the eighth tee during a practice round for the US Open at Winged Foot. Photo: USA TODAY Sports

USA TODAY Sports

Rory McIlroy laughs after his shot from the eighth tee during a practice round for the US Open at Winged Foot. Photo: USA TODAY Sports

Tournament officials insist Winged Foot will present a fair challenge for the world's best players in the 120th US Open.

Australia's Geoff Ogilvy shot five over par to win the last US Open at the venue in 2006, while American Hale Irwin was seven over in surviving the so-called "Massacre at Winged Foot" in 1974.

The United States Golf Association has come in for severe criticism in recent years for their course set-up, but the reaction from the players so far has been positive.

"It's a fabulous US Open venue and requires every facet of a player's game to be clicking at the highest level," John Bodenhamer, senior managing director of championships for the USGA, said.

"The set-up you'll see this week reflects the challenge this golf course presents. We will let Winged Foot be Winged Foot.

"And if you come here next September or if you were here last September, you'll see Winged Foot just about the same way as will the players this week."

USGA chief executive Mike Davis added: "I think that looking back during the set-up in 2006, and I suspect that's probably what we'll do this week, we kept looking at ways (of) how do we make the golf course a little bit easier because it's such a great test. It puts the premium on everything.

"The players haven't put a pencil in their hand yet, so we'll wait and see. And when you think about some of the greatest US Open players of all time - Bob Jones, Ben Hogan, Jack Nicklaus, Tiger Woods - you never heard them complain.

"They accepted the challenge. They knew when others were complaining, it gave them an advantage.

"Part of the lore of a US Open is it's a very tough golf course, hopefully set up in a fair but a stern manner, and we are just poised for a wonderful week here at Winged Foot."

Originally due to be held in June, the US Open was pushed back to September due to the coronavirus and Davis admitted that a change of venue was seriously considered, especially with Winged Foot located in a Covid-19 hotspot during the early days of the pandemic.

"We thought we were going to be playing the US Open in December in Los Angeles. We were that close," Davis said.

"It really wasn't until the day before we went public with the schedule (in April) that we realised that the R&A's Open (Championship) across the pond couldn't be played in September, which gave us an opportunity to play in September at this wonderful, storied golf course."