MAMARONECK, N.Y. – Waiting for the green to clear ahead, Sergio Garcia looked behind him at the five holes he played Wednesday at Winged Foot and recited a list of clubs that rarely come out of his bag.
A 6-iron into the opening par 4. A 5-iron on the next hole. He had just finished the fifth hole, where he smoked a driver and had 4-iron into the green, pin-high and about 35 feet to the left.
That's just getting to the green.
Patrick Reed stood in deep rough about a yard beyond the green on the first hole, hit a gentle flop and watched it roll down a ridge, feed over to another slope and run off the front of the green.
Welcome to Winged Foot, and a U.S. Open that needs no introduction. Narrow fairways. Thick rough. Tough greens. It's a simple formula that for years defined the American championship, one that has been missing in recent years by trying new venues (Chambers Bay and Erin Hills) or getting gentle weather (Pebble Beach).
And there were times when the USGA tried to influence the degree of difficulty, such as the pin positions and green speeds on Saturday at Shinnecock Hills.
None of that appears necessary at Winged Foot, the century-old design that has yielded only two 72-hole scores under par in the five U.S. Opens it has hosted since 1929.
No one expects the winner to break par this week, even with the move from June to September, and no one expects the USGA to have to do much to tinker with the West course.
The final dress rehearsal was Wednesday. Tiger Woods out first in the morning dew by himself, gearing up for a course where he is 18-over par in six previous rounds — four at the 1997 PGA Championship, two at the 2006 U.S. Open, the first time he missed the cut at a major as a pro.
The measure of a difficult U.S. Open for years was how loudly players complained. Jack Nicklaus always talked about ruling players out when he heard them griping about the conditions. But that's the highest compliment Winged Foot can receive. It tends to produce the highest scores and the fewest complaints.
No one is keeping score just yet.
"Listen, the players haven't put a pencil in their hand yet, so we'll wait and see," said Mike Davis, the CEO of the USGA. "I think you go back 125 years, and there's a little bit of history of it being a tough week. And when you think about some of the greatest U.S. Open players of all time — Bob Jones, Ben Hogan, Jack Nicklaus, Tiger Woods — you never heard them complain. They accepted the challenge.
"Part of the lore of a U.S. 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."
The forecast is good, perhaps the coolest U.S. Open outside of Pebble Beach or Olympic Club in San Francisco. The players? Golf is getting so deep that five players have taken turns at No. 1 this year, the most for a calendar year since the world ranking began in 1986. Dustin Johnson occupies that spot now and is the betting favorite.
But the star attraction?
Winged Foot, as always.