Thoughts from the field ahead of the U.S. Open

The third Major Championship of the year is almost upon as, with LA Country Club welcoming the game’s best players for the toughest test in golf.

There’s plenty of storylines to be told this week, with Matt Fitzpatrick arriving as defending champion, Rory McIlroy chasing a first Major title since 2014, while Masters winner Jon Rahm can close the gap on Scottie Scheffler at the top of the Official World Golf Ranking.

Here, we take a look at some of the thoughts from the field, including Scheffler looking at a potential equipment change as he bids for a second Major title and McIlroy insisting he has made “big steps of progress” ahead of the showdown in California.

Jon Rahm is riding the crest of a wave following his stunning form this year, which saw him slip into the Green Jacket for the first time earlier this season.

“My confidence level is very high,” Rahm said in his pre-tournament press conference.

“You have to have that belief in yourself as a competitor no matter what happens. You stick to the process and that’s basically what I think has happened this year.”

Tommy Fleetwood is hoping to go one better this week after losing in a play-off to Nick Taylor at the Canadian Open.

“Confidence is a very fickle thing, I think I’m pleased with the work we’ve been doing,” said Fleetwood.

“When you have weeks like last week where I felt like I played really really good over the weekend and you’re in contention, those are where you draw your confidence from.

“Overall on a day to day basis I feel like I’m doing a lot of good things. Keep doing that and keep playing.”

Paul McGinley believes Viktor Hovland is trending towards a maiden Major Championship triumph following impressive outings at the Masters and PGA Championship.

“Obviously Hovland would be the one that you would highlight,” said the Irishman.

“This is a Hovland style of golf course – hit a lot of fairways, which he does, because you don’t want to be coming from the rough into these firm, fast greens.

“That’s the strength of his game. His short game is improving, it’s still miles off the very top players, but it is improving. He’s obviously playing very well, a lot of consistency and he’s trending well in these majors. I think four of his last six majors he’s been top 10, including a second place at Oak Hill.

“He’s getting there towards it, he’s a quality player, and if you’re going to use that word ‘trending’, he’s trending towards a major win.”

Max Homa is thrilled the U.S. Open  is being played close to where he grew up. The American holds the North Course record at LACC too, having shot a nine-under-par 61 in the 2013 Pac-12 Championship while playing college golf for the University of California Golden Bears.

“We’ve all had those days in golf where as professionals where just everything is clicking,” Homa said.

“It was just really cool that it happened during the Pac-12 Championship on this golf course.

“It’s nice when those things line up and when they really matter and not when I’m playing my friends who I’m giving six shots to at home and it doesn’t really matter.

“I just remember it all clicking, but it just felt so easy. Then we had to play 18 holes right after that because we had a 36-hole day, and the golf course was not nearly as easy as I remembered it one hour prior, and I just hung on for dear life for three more rounds.”

Brooks Koepka is hoping to grind out another Major victory as he bids for a sixth at LA Country Club following his victory at last month’s PGA Championship.

“I just love when I guess maybe somewhere closer to even par wins,” Koepka said.

“If it’s going to be a birdie-fest where 20 or 21-under wins, that’s really not the style. I really don’t even think I’ve competed in many golf events over my career where that’s happened.

“But if you look at I would say maybe the majority of my wins, they’re all pretty much 10-under and less, which is kind of suited to major championship golf.

“I just feel like I can outlast everybody when it comes to having to par things to death or just kind of wearing guys out on the golf course and just mentally beating you and knowing when it’s my time to kind of take that opportunity and go with it.

“I think being patient is a big thing with that, as well, and just knowing when to go after a flag or when to play cautious.”

With Tiger Woods still recovering from surgery earlier this year, two-time Major winner Collin Morikawa spoke about the influence the former World No.1 had on his career.

“I think a lot of us here today in the field and a lot of us even in this room owe a lot to Tiger, why we got involved in the game,” Morikawa said. “Maybe not the sole reason, but for me growing up that’s all I cared about.

“It’s been amazing to get to know guys like Rory [McIlroy] and Jordan [Spieth] and [Justin Thomas] and all these guys, but I didn’t care about them when I was growing up…I only cared about Tiger.

“I think he’s always missed, but he’s always going to impact this game in ways that we can’t even describe, in ways that we don’t even know.

“It was amazing at least my first couple years getting to play with him a few times, getting some pairings with him. That’s the coolest thing you can dream of.”

Scottie Scheffler looks at potential equipment switch in bid to end putting struggles. The World No.1 sits 148th in strokes gained putting on the PGA Tour this season and has been experimenting with using a different flat stick this week.

“I don’t ever take decisions on switching equipment lightly,” Scheffler said in his pre-tournament press conference. “I think it’s strange that I’ve been struggling the past few weeks with my putter.

“The PGA [Championship] I actually felt like I rolled it pretty good, just a few putts here or there that lipped out that should have gone in.

“Memorial [Tournament] obviously had an off week on the greens or probably would’ve won that one. I mean, sometimes you just got to bring another putter around there to make the original one scared.

“I’ve never really been one to try and overthink things, so I try and keep things as simple as possible. I looked at that one that’s a little bit bigger and I still am kind of undecided on what I think of it.”

Rory McIlroy believes he has made ‘big steps of progress’ in his game ahead of his latest bid to end his nine-year major drought at the 123rd US Open.

“I would say I’m building towards something,” said McIlroy. “I’m certainly feeling a lot better coming into this major championship than I was going to Oak Hill.

“I sort of pieced it together around Oak Hill and did okay, but the last two performances – minus the two Sundays – have been really big steps of progress and it’s just about trying to build on that.

“I’ve sort of had my ups and downs in this tournament as the years have gone by, but I feel like I’ve figured it out. I’ve started to figure out how to handle US Open conditions and tests and I think there’s certainly a lot more patience in my game than there used to be.”

Former champion Justin Rose, who is enjoying his best stretch of form since he was World Number One, spoke of how special Major Championship golf is.

“The fact you are tied to the greats of the game on one particular trophy is something that can’t be taken away,” said Rose.

“They can’t etch out my name from that trophy. That is something that lasts forever.

“It is why these championships are so special. That is what it is all about. It is about being part of the history of the game. That comes from all the players that have gone before you.

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