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Southern Hills now hopes for U.S. Open return in 2021 or 2022

Around the State
Monday, January 28, 2013

Staff and wire reports

Monday's announcement that the 2020 U.S. Open will be played at Winged Foot was a blow to the folks at Southern Hills Country Club in Tulsa who have been working hard to secure a return of the national championship to the Southwest.

Southern Hills, site of the U.S. Open in 1958, 1977 and 2001, was optimistic it would be hosting its fourth Open in 2020 until news of the announcement leaked out over the weekend.

"It was disappointing," said Southern Hills General Manager Nick Sidorkis. "We knew it was coming down to us and Winged Foot. "They are two great courses with great tradition. Obviously Tulsa is not the same as New York when it comes to corporate hospitality potential, but we know that we can hold a successful championship."

Sidorakis said Southern Hills remains committed to the pursuit of another U.S. Open Championship and is hopeful about 2021 or 2022. He said the club would not give up and pursue other majors or tournaments unless told by the USGA that it was not interested, which has not happened.

"Our endeavor is we want to host the national championship," Sidorakis said. "We're going to continue until they tell us otherwise. We'd like to have it in 2021 or 2022. We were also hopeful to have it in 2020."

Southern Hills  has also hosted PGA Championships in 1970, 1982, 1994 and 2007 and was the site of the 2009 U.S. Amateur, moved to Tulsa when Congressional CC was closed for renovations for the 2011 U.S. Open. Southern Hills has hosted five other USGA championships, including the 1946 Women's Amateur, 1953 Junior Amateur, 1961 Senior Amateur, 1965 U.S. Amateur and 1987 Women's Mid-Amateur.

Sidorakis is set to attend USGA annual meetings in San Diego this weekend and hoped he would get some positive feedback that Southern Hills is still in the running.

"We'll see what comes of it," he said. "One thing you know with the USGA is nothing is firm until an announcement is made."

Winged Foot was designed by A.W. Tillinghast in 1923 and hosted its first U.S. Open six years later, when amateur Bobby Jones delivered one of the biggest shots in championship history with a 12-foot putt on the final hole to force a 36-hole playoff. He won the next day by 23 shots over Al Espinosa.

The most recent trip to Winged Foot was memorable for all the wrong reasons -- not for Geoff Ogilvy winning with a superb up-and-down from below the 18th green, but for Phil Mickelson blowing his best chance ever to win the U.S. Open.

Mickelson had a one-shot lead when his drive bounced off corporate tents to the left of the 18th fairway. He went for the green and his 3-iron struck a tree and dropped straight down, his next shot plugged in a bunker and he make double bogey to lose by one. "I am such an idiot," he famously said that day.

Winged Foot also is where former USGA President Sandy Tatum offered the defining comment for the U.S. Open. "Our intention is not to embarrass the greatest players in the world, but to identify them," he said in 1974, when Hale Irwin won at 7-over 287.

Billy Casper won his first U.S. Open at Winged Foot in 1959. Fuzzy Zoeller won in 1984 in a playoff over Greg Norman, who holed a long putt across the 18th green for par. Zoeller, thinking the Shark had made birdie, jokingly waved a white towel. It only got Norman into a Monday playoff, and the next day, Zoeller won so handily that Norman waved a white towel walking up the final fairway.

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