12 Jun 2023

Everything you need to know about the 123rd U.S. Open

This year’s third and arguably the most difficult Major Championship is upon us and it’ll no doubt be another captivating week, this time at Los Angeles Country Club.

2023 marks the 123rd staging of the event, but it’s a new experience for LACC with the venue playing host to the tournament for the first time. With very few players in the field having played competitive golf at the course before too, questions remain as to who the track will suit. Will it be the bombers? Or the short game specialists? Only time will tell.

But once again at a Major, the main storyline will be LIV Golfers teeing it up alongside the rest of golf’s elite in what is – unfortunately – becoming a rare occasion.  Will the winner of this year’s event be a full-time player on the Saudi-backed circuit? It’s definitely possible. Many LIV stars have enjoyed past U.S Open success and three of the last six winners now play on the new breakaway tour – Dustin Johnson, Brooks Koepka and Bryson DeChambeau.

For anyone who hasn’t been fortunate enough to visit Los Angeles itself, the city is a coastal beauty with a warm climate during June. Temperatures historically range between 23-28 degrees Celcius. Reigning U.S. Open Champion Matt Fitzpatrick took an early trip to the course in February, describing the track as “very rugged”. Let’s just say, expect a tough test with firm and fast greens which will no doubt live up to the usual U.S. Open hype of being difficult. Golf fans are in for another great week and we  are set to look back on this year’s tournament as a highlight of the sporting calendar.

Best in the world 

The tournament will take place on the North Course at LACC, a par 71 which underwent huge restoration led by architect Gil Hanse back in 2010. It’s a track that is highly regarded as one of the best out there. In fact, Hanse stated: “This is one of the masterpieces of golf course architecture, not only in the United States but in the entire world.”

The 7236 yard course still has an unusual feel to it with five par threes and three par fives. The threes really do vary in challenge from a 290-yard downhiller on the 11th, to the 124-yard 15th. It’s a demanding test that should live up to the U.S. Open’s reputation as golf’s toughest Major.

Winning score?

LACC hasn’t hosted a U.S. Open, but it’s still staged five PGA Tour events in the past, albeit over 80 years ago. Of those five, only once did the winning score finish under par. That was when Hall-of-Famer Harry Cooper beat George Von Elm by three strokes to secure the Los Angeles Open on seven under par back in 1926.

More recent precedent comes in the form of the 2017 Walker Cup which also took place on the North Course. Scottie Scheffler, Collin Morikawa and Will Zalatoris all played that week as Team USA thumped Team GB&I with a 19-7 victory. Judging by that result, it would be hard to look past another American winner on the 18th on tournament Sunday, but Robert MacIntyre did emphatically beat Cameron Champ 6&4 that same week. There are birdies opportunities aplenty, but dropped shots also lurk at every corner, so don’t expect a super low winning total.

Backing Brooks

Koepka claimed his fifth Major recently, and he’s also a favourite to add another to his name this month. The American remains in fine form following a season that’s included a Major win, second place at Augusta as well as LIV Golf success. As a proven two-time U.S. Open Champion already, he has the credentials and it wouldn’t be a suprise to see him win his sixth career Major title this month at LACC. Only six golfers in the history of the game have managed to win this event three or more times, with the more recent player to do so being – you guessed it – Tiger Woods. The 47-year-old lifted the trophy for a third time back in 2008.

Rory’s case

The 34-year-old’s Major drought is well-documented and nobody would have believed you if you said back in 2014 that Rory wouldn’t win another Major for nearly a decade. He’s played in 32 Majors since his last triumph, and we have to start pondering; will Rory ever actually win a Major again? It seems a daft question to ask considering his level of talent, but one that’s lingering in the background.

However, the Northern Irishman’s enjoyed top ten finishes in each of his last four starts in the U.S. Open so he has that to lean on, as well as romping to an eight-shot victory back in 2011. It’s a tournament that carries positive memories, and that might be the deciding factor in McIlroy finally ending that barren run in the Majors.

LIV latest

We’ve seen evidence in the two Majors so far this year that 54-hole events aren’t limiting performances in golf’s grandest events. Some have even argued it works to their benefit as the players must feel well-rested heading into these pressure-packed events. But could we see back-to-back Major winners from the Saudi-backed circuit? It wouldn’t be a surprise. Bryson DeChambeau and Cameron Smith finished in the top ten at Oak Hill alongside winner Koepka, while the likes of Mito Pereira and Patrick Reed weren’t far behind in the leaderboard. PGA Tour regulars Scottie Scheffler, Rory McIlroy and Jon Rahm will head into the week as the favourites, but Koepka and co won’t be far behind.

Fitzpatrick’s fantasy

Winning the U.S. Open is hard. Winning it twice is almost unthinkable. Only 22 players have triumphed in this event multiple times, and just two British players have ever accomplished that exact task. Scotland’s Willie Anderson and Alex Smith both did so back in the early 1900s, so Matt Fitzpatrick would be creating history if he was to join them. But can he really do it?

Yes, he can. The 28-year-old is one of the finest talents in the game and having already won this season at the RBC Heritage, he’s in great form. Now comfortably a top ten player in the world and a proven Major winner, the Sheffield-born star should be flying high with confidence. Curtis Strange defended his title in 1989, Brooks Koepka did so in 2019, and don’t rule out Fitzpatrick from doing it in 2023.

Mickelson’s mission

It would be a remarkable turn of events for the six-time Major winner to complete the career Grand Slam at 53 years young. The Californian has finished runner-up on six occasions in this tournament, with the most recent instance being back in 2013.

And having famously won the 2021 PGA Championship and more recently finishing T-2 at the 2023 Masters, age clearly isn’t limiting Lefty’s performances on the biggest of stages. Don’t rule out some more Mickelson magic with the veteran aiming to become just the sixth player ever to complete the Grand Slam.

Rahm to reign again

The Spaniard’s domination of the sport continues and it wouldn’t be a surprise to see him claim another ‘W’ here in LA. The 28-year-old enters the week as a former winner while he also now packs a Green Jacket in his suitcase. You can bet your house on the Scottsdale resident triumphing in a Major again at some point in his career.

The World No. 2 became the first player from Spain to ever win the U.S. Open with his stunning display at Torrey Pines two years, and more history beckons if he was to earn victory again this year. Most notably, he would become the first European to win the event twice in more than 100 years. The last to do so was Scotland’s Smith back in 1910.

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