In order to get some on-the-ground insights into this week’s U.S. Open, we sat down with five Winged Foot club champions to break down a series of questions that only course insiders would really know how to answer. This is the first part of that roundtable.
If the best players in the world came to play a tournament at your golf course, what would you root for? What if your course had a reputation as a brutish test — and the tournament in question was the U.S. Open? When I got the chance to sit down with some of the club’s best players, that was one of the first things I wanted to know: Given Winged Foot’s notorious difficulty, are the members rooting for carnage? Here’s what they said.
Dylan Dethier: What are the Winged Foot members rooting for this week? What are you guys and the rest of the membership hoping will happen?
Eddie Bugniazet (1984, 1994, 1997 club champ): Plus eight. [grins]
Jeff Putman (2009 club champ): High scores.
John Lamendola (2018 club champ): I’ll concur. Over par.
Bugniazet: But I will add: We want a fair test. A very fair test. You don’t want to hear that players — I don’t think people realize that on the West Course, even if we’re playing it as easy as it could be, on an outing day, there’s still really no let-up. And I think in U.S. Open conditions they’re going to realize, when they get to about 13 and they’re even par and they still have to hit a few more shots, they’re gonna go, “Oh boy.”
I guess my point is that it’s a demanding 18 holes and we don’t need to trick it up. Of courses, there’s the rough, and the greens will be quick. But I think it’ll stand for itself.
Putman: I concur with Eddie. I just want to show that the golf course is super fair. It is! You make a mistake and you get punished. If someone rolls one off the green, they’ve hit a bad shot.
So there’s not going to be any of this, “Oh, it’s a Mickey Mouse setup, the greens are unfair.” I think if we hear that commentary it may be from somebody who’s having a really bad day, but tee to green I think it’s all right there in front of you.
There’s no BS out there, no trick shots, no really weak holes, no ridiculous holes. So I just want to hear that it’s fair and hard and demanding and you had to hit every shot just right. So every part of your game had to be really good to win. So unless we get a Tiger-esque U.S. Open from 2000 at Pebble Beach, it’s over par. It’s gotta be.
Robbie Williams (2013 club champ): I think most members are going to say they want a higher score. Frankly, I’d love a scenario where there’s one guy under par. I think 1 or 2 under and he’s the only person who did that, I feel like that would be a tremendous accomplishment. Walk off that 18th green exhausted. It really would show that he was the best player in the world that week and he proved it; he earned it. So I’m rooting for that — but I wouldn’t hate to see plus eight, either.
George Boudria (2019, 2020 club champ): Listen, Jeff [Putman] kind of said it. The beauty of Winged Foot is that it’s all right in front of you. Every tee shot, every pin, you can see from the fairway. I think a fair, just old-school U.S. Open test. You’re in New York and [Winged Foot] hasn’t had it there since ’06. I think the players are going to love it and I know Gil [Hanse] and the club really worked hard on the place for the last five or six years and it’ll be great to show it off and just really challenge all the Tour players.
Check back tomorrow as the Winged Foot club champs predict the winning score and the cut line!