Tuesday, June 13, 2006

Winged Foot: Dripping money, style

This looks like a U.S. Open.

Not that Pinehurst and Pebble Beach and Shinnecock Hills don't have their own distinctive and diabolical charms, but Winged Foot is one of those classic northeastern rich-guy clubs that drip money and born-into-it style.

Winged Foot is the kind of place that separates the merely rich from the wealthy. The clubhouse looks like stately Wayne Manor. The road into the clubhouse -- if you were able to get past the myriad levels of security fanned out around the place -- features two stacked-stone pillars with small bronze plaques identifying it as Winged Foot.

No doubt it looks better without all the white tents and gallery ropes required by the Open but it's still a strikingly handsome place. There are two courses at Winged Foot and the East Course is being used as a parking lot and staging ground -- and it's ranked as the 34th best course in this country.

The West Course, where the Open is being played, is all about big trees, deep rough and greens that move like a churning ocean. Perhaps it's best that Michelle Wie didn't qualify given her trouble holing putts these days. If, by the way, Wie ever figures out how to putt, the possibilities are extaordinary.

Given the USGA's fixation on par, the pre-tournament guessing game always centers on projecting the winning score. Just a guess but somewhere around 2 or 3-under par will probably be good enough to earn someone a dose of golfing immortality.