Home Golf A glitzy U.S. Open arrives with a easy query: Who’s gonna win?

A glitzy U.S. Open arrives with a easy query: Who’s gonna win?

A glitzy U.S. Open arrives with a easy query: Who’s gonna win?


The battle for Los Angeles is on.

Getty Photographs

The U.S. Open’s June return marks its first cease in Los Angeles in 75 years. However the U.S. Open isn’t simply in Los Angeles. The U.S. Open is Los Angeles. That is the Metropolis of Desires and the Metropolis of Damaged Desires, the place starry-eyed hopefuls have flocked for many years, ignoring extremely lengthy odds to chase even the briefest second within the highlight.

It’s unlikely coincidental that this yr’s Open set a document for entries. A exceptional 10,187 golfers signed up for an opportunity to compete within the nationwide championship — this writer included — considering optimistic ideas and visualizing pro-caliber golf pictures, one after the following after the following, all the best way to LACC.

“In Los Angeles,” Denzel Washington as soon as mentioned, “everyone seems to be a star.” Jack Kerouac known as it “the loneliest and most brutal of American cities.”

Perhaps they’re each proper. Extremely, each scratch golfer is simply an utility and three good rounds from enjoying within the U.S. Open, which suggests it’s the event for individuals who dream. However as soon as they’re there? Actuality units in. Rivals face a course pushed to its restrict: the firmest greens, the longest tough, the narrowest fairways, the hardest check. Keep a dreamer too lengthy and also you’ll miss your probability at changing into a contender.

The lead-up to this yr’s nationwide championship has been complicated, to say the least. The way forward for the skilled sport feels prefer it’s in limbo; the PGA Tour’s joint announcement left the golf world with extra questions than solutions. However that is the U.S. Open, which suggests come Thursday the one merger that’ll matter is that between membership and ball and the acquisition on our minds shall be that of that shiny eight-and-a-half-pound trophy.

So who’s more likely to emerge from this yr’s brawl in Beverly Hills? Let’s run by way of the gamers with probably the most compelling circumstances to get you primed for the competitors to begin.


On the Masters, Jon Rahm re-established himself as the usual towards which the remainder of the golf world is measured. The 28-year-old Spaniard already owns a Southern California U.S. Open, due to a jaw-dropping birdie-birdie end on the 2021 version contested down I-5 at Torrey Pines. He owns one other two SoCal wins in 2023 alone, after cruising to victory on the American Specific in Palm Springs and the Genesis Invitational at Riviera, lower than 10 miles from LACC.

Rahm enters this yr’s U.S. Open as a champ in full; he’s now the brand new proprietor of a Masters inexperienced jacket and has a agency grasp on the World No. 1 rating too. Many high execs have a superpower; they’ve made it as a result of they’re elite irons gamers or big-time drivers or ridiculous putters. Rahm has simplified that course of by changing into elite at each aspect of the sport. He’s high three on the PGA Tour in scoring common, in birdie common, in Complete Strokes Gained. Rahm has grown accustomed to scorching begins too — he’s second and first on the PGA Tour in first and second-round scoring common, respectively. He makes use of the weekend for bug-swatting, waving away anybody daring sufficient to nonetheless be hanging round. Assuming he doesn’t get caught in L.A. site visitors, he’ll stroll onto the primary tee among the many event favorites.

However the bookmakers nonetheless have Rahm behind one man: Present World No. 1 Scottie Scheffler. In 2022, Scheffler received 4 instances by mid-April and went on to earn extra single-season cash than any participant in PGA Tour historical past. This yr? The numbers let you know he’s been even higher. He defended his title at golf ’s largest social gathering, the WM Phoenix Open. A month later he received the PGA Tour’s flagship occasion, the Gamers Championship, by 5 pictures. A T10 on the Masters marked his eleventh consecutive worldwide end inside the highest 12, cementing the concept this man simply by no means performs poorly.

He’s performed even higher since then; Scheffler enters this week on the heels of 4 consecutive top-five finishes. In latest weeks the most important query mark has been round his placing, which is truthful — on the Memorial, for example, he was final within the subject on the greens. Early in U.S. Open week Scheffler was noticed tinkering with putters, with weights, with alternate options.

“I imply, generally you simply acquired to carry one other putter round there to make the unique one scared,” he mentioned afterwards.

However considerations about Scheffler’s placing distract from the truth that he’s on a preposterous run of ball-striking. Tee to inexperienced, he’s on a historic heater. Scheffler got here up one shot shy final yr at Brookline; the one shocking factor this yr can be if he wasn’t in rivalry come Sunday afternoon.


On the time, the Tuesday afternoon Masters practice-round pairing of Rory McIlroy and Brooks Koepka was a shock to the system. The de facto PGA Tour spokesman getting chummy with arguably LIV’s biggest asset? On the floor, the cheery Ulsterman and surly Floridian made an odd couple. However their stroll ’spherical Augusta Nationwide was a reminder that they’re an ideal match.

McIlroy and Koepka are the one two males youthful than Tiger Woods to have received 4 or extra main championships. They’re bonded by the pursuit of greatness and the loneliness that comes with attaining some measure of it. Their majors got here in bunches, and after they have been reeling ’em off it appeared like they’d by no means cease. However then they did.

Ultimately yr’s Masters Koepka appeared to backside out, lacking the reduce and admitting he didn’t see how he might grasp with the likes of Scheffler. Simply days after a Fifty fifth-place end on the 2022 U.S. Open — a event he’s received twice since 2017 — Koepka signed with LIV, signaling an unofficial finish
to his stretch atop the sport. As for this yr?

“I really feel like a brand new individual,” Koepka mentioned on Wednesday.

As for McIlroy? This yr’s main season started simply weeks faraway from his newest stint at World No. 1 however the Masters marked a unique form of low level. He’d virtually taken up residence at Augusta within the lead-up to the Masters, intent on a full preparation for his quest to safe the profession Grand Slam. As an alternative his putter betrayed him; he missed the reduce and spent the following a number of weeks safely out of the general public eye. Upon his return he made it clear his focus going ahead shall be extra on his golf sport and fewer on the geopolitical panorama. He opted out of his pre-tournament media availability at LACC, preferring to let his sport do the speaking.

Koepka’s drought was far shorter than McIlroy’s, however when he received final month’s PGA Championship, McIlroy was there to dap him up. Koepka’s fifth main title put him in lofty firm — and little doubt fueled McIlroy to maintain tempo. This week they’ll be in the identical group for the primary two rounds, certain by success and scar tissue, ideas of their respective dwelling excursions and people excursions’ future relationship put aside in favor of the duty at hand.


It’s becoming that America’s nationwide championship returns to SoCal simply as its professional progeny are having a second. Okay, it’s not precisely new for Golden Staters to populate the highest of the World Rating — you’ve doubtless heard of Tiger Woods and Phil Mickelson — however a brand new technology is in its prime. 4 execs who grew up and attended school in California are among the many legit contenders.

Collin Morikawa is the youngest but additionally most embellished of the bunch; the 26-year-old from L.A. County owns a PGA Championship (which he received in 2020 at San Francisco’s TPC Harding Park, nearer to his alma mater Cal-Berkeley) and an Open Championship (which he secured in 2021, although barely farther from dwelling at Royal St. George’s in Kent, England). He known as 2022 “irritating” by his requirements however contended in Hawaii, San Diego, L.A. and Augusta to start his 2023, exhibiting encouraging indicators with a retooled
brief sport. He was in rivalry at Memorial however withdrew earlier than the ultimate spherical with an out-of-nowhere again damage. This week? He says he’s wholesome, if teeing the ball up a bit humorous, in his pursuit of hometown historical past.

Like Morikawa, Max Homa grew up in L.A. County and went to Cal-Berkeley, however he predated his protégé by a half decade and took not less than that lengthy to search out his footing on Tour earlier than an unimaginable ascension to the highest 5 on this planet earlier this spring. The one knock on Homa is that he hasn’t fairly executed it in a serious but; he has no high 10s and only one end higher than T40. The counternarrative is that he hasn’t performed in lots of majors since he grew to become the new-and-improved model of himself; that Homa has been notably unbeatable in California, the place he’s claimed 4 of his six Tour wins, together with the 2021 Genesis, the place he obtained the winner’s trophy from Woods, his childhood hero. Want extra good vibes? Homa owns L.A. Nation Membership’s course document, due to a nine-under 61 he fired as a Cal senior.

Then there’s the pair of Patrick Cantlay and Xander Schauffele. They went to highschool in neighboring counties — Cantlay in Orange County, Schauffele in San Diego — however have since moved east to Jupiter, Fla. They play collectively each Tuesday on Tour. They kind a workforce on the Presidents Cup, the Ryder Cup and even the Zurich Basic. Cantlay has the slightest edge in World Rating (No. 4 to Schauffele’s
No. 6), PGA Tour wins (eight to Schauffele’s seven) and profession earnings (Cantlay’s No. 22 on the all-time cash checklist with $37.5 million; Schauffele’s No. 27 with $34.6 mil), however he’s a yr older too. Each gamers are bursting on the seams with expertise, however neither has a serious championship to point out for it. This might be a becoming week for that to alter.

Scottie Scheffler

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Brady Kannon


We sat down with Matt Fitzpatrick for a discuss, and he thinks that U.S. Open checks have been constructed for a participant like him. “When the climate’s dangerous and the scoring’s not nice, the bogeys begin including up should you don’t modify your sport plan, and quite a lot of guys don’t essentially do this,” he says. That is L.A., so we’re not relying on dangerous climate. However we’re anticipating a troublesome check. Why not the man who, at Brookline in ’22, proved he might ace it?


That was the moniker assigned to Jordan Spieth and Justin Thomas within the first episode of Netflix’s PGA Tour docuseries Full Swing, and with good cause: Whereas JT and Spieth stay shut friends on and off the course, their résumés are beginning to look remarkably comparable as they stare down thirtieth birthdays
and the following decade of their skilled careers.

Spieth owned two majors and 6 PGA Tour victories earlier than Thomas had ever received on Tour. However within the years since securing his third main — the Open Championship in 2017 — Spieth has simply two PGA Tour wins. Thomas has racked up two majors and 11 Tour wins in the identical timeframe.

Nonetheless, Thomas has struggled to search out his footing since final yr’s PGA Championship triumph, whereas Spieth is enjoying his most constant golf in a really very long time. Thomas missed the reduce on the Masters — albeit in horrific situations — whereas Spieth notched a T4 and misplaced in a playoff on the following week’s RBC Heritage, surpassing his pal within the World Rating within the course of. If both of them wins at LACC, he’d regain the higher hand — and possibly have to select up the following dinner verify.


There seems to be some form of uneasy peace on the horizon. However till issues get resolved the golf world stays divided by league, and the 15 LIV golfers at LACC will look to again up robust outcomes from the primary two majors.

There’s Koepka, this yr’s finest main golfer so far, who prefers his identification transcend league.

“There’s 4 weeks a yr I actually care about and that is one in all them, and I need to play properly,” he mentioned.

There’s Mickelson, who spent the week previous the U.S. Open at LACC however skipped out on follow rounds Monday and Tuesday. He’ll hope to come back in underneath the radar. He received’t. Not with, properly, [gestures] the whole lot that’s happening. Plus there’s the matter of his T2 on the Masters and the truth that we’re nonetheless solely two years faraway from his 2021 PGA Championship.

Don’t let the glitz of LACC distract you from the truth that it could demand some grit from contenders; Patrick Reed completed T4 on the Masters and T18 on the PGA, whereas Cameron Smith logged a high 10 at Oak Hill.

Bryson DeChambeau regarded rejuvenated in a T4 end on the PGA, too. And Dustin Johnson deserves consideration at any U.S. Open; he hasn’t performed properly in a serious this yr however did win at LIV Tulsa in Could. Joaquin Niemann blitzed the sector at close by Riviera Nation Membership final yr. And his countryman Mito Pereira brings his top-tier iron sport to Beverly Hills, too.

Some LIV guys, together with Sergio Garcia, punched their tickets by way of Open qualifying. Others — Louis Oosthuizen, Charles Howell III, Ian Poulter, Bubba Watson, Lee Westwood and Matthew Wolff amongst them — didn’t hassle.

LIV execs’ presence on the first two majors felt important. Their presence in addition to their absence at LACC will, too.


There’s a gaggle of execs nonetheless outlined by what we predict they may do relatively than what they’ve already executed. Excellent news: Loads of ’em are in correct kind getting into this yr’s summer time season.

After zero high 10s in his first 12 majors, Viktor Hovland completed T4 on the Open, T7 on the Masters and T2 on the PGA; the following step is profitable a serious. Tony Finau put a cease to any can’t-win chatter with three wins in seven begins to shut out 2022; the following step is profitable a serious. Sam Burns has confirmed he can win
on powerful programs (on the Valspar) and over high competitors (on the WGC-Match Play); the following step is profitable a serious. Sungjae Im has established himself as a mainstay on this planet high 20; the following step is profitable a serious. Cameron Younger has but to win on the PGA Tour, however he’s completed runner-up six totally different
instances, and the U.S. Open is the one main during which he hasn’t contended. Why shouldn’t the following step be profitable a serious?


Title-checking this many gamers will make me look even dumber if I’ve not noted the eventual winner, however that’s actually a risk. Why shouldn’t or not it’s a British breakout victory from final week’s contenders,
Tyrrell Hatton or Tommy Fleetwood? They’d be silly to miss.

What a couple of return to glory for main champs Shane Lowry or Hideki Matsuyama? A comeback-completer for one in all two resurgent stars: Rickie Fowler or Jason Day? A victory for an additional Californian like Sahith Theegala, who was born in Orange County, went to Pepperdine and nonetheless can’t consider he’s right here?

Maybe it’ll even be an open qualifier, propelled by good play and good timing and success. One factor we do know is that by week’s finish we’ll crown a champion. That’s the important thing to the U.S. Open — and to Los Angeles itself. 1000’s will pursue however by no means fulfill their goals. Nonetheless, there’s honor in attempting, in strolling a path of possible failure with the hope that you just’ll be the one to succeed.

The joys of all of it is that somebody will.

Dylan Dethier

Dylan Dethier

Golf.com Editor

Dylan Dethier is a senior author for GOLF Journal/GOLF.com. The Williamstown, Mass. native joined GOLF in 2017 after two years scuffling on the mini-tours. Dethier is a graduate of Williams School, the place he majored in English, and he’s the writer of 18 in America, which particulars the yr he spent as an 18-year-old residing from his automobile and enjoying a spherical of golf in each state.



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