LACC is hosting its first U.S. Open. Trust me, I have played there, it will be a real test. And that USGA rough will be crazy this year! Like you wont be able to see the color of your shoes crazy in some spots!
Let’s face it – The golf world has already been turned upside down this month, and there are undoubtedly more fireworks to come this week with the third men’s major of the year, the U.S. Open.
In the wake of last Tuesday’s shocking announcement by the PGA Tour that it is combining commercial operations with the Saudi Arabian Public Investment Fund (which funds LIV Golf) and DP World Tour, the best golfers in the world — including LIV’s finest — head to Hollywood for golf’s toughest test on a mostly unfamiliar venue in Los Angeles Country Club.
Storylines will abound this week, but here are seven of the best we’ll be closely following.
1. Pro golf’s future…ad nauseam
The U.S. Open is not run by either the PGA Tour or LIV Golf, but you can bet those two tours will be discussed at length this week. The Open will be the first gathering of players from both tours since the stunning deal was unveiled. Relations had somewhat normalized four weeks ago at the PGA Championship where Brooks Koepka became the first LIV Golf major champion. But no one — save for PGA Tour commissioner Jay Monahan, PIF Governor Yasir Al-Rumayyan, and their respective inner circles — could have foreseen the circumstances surrounding the game’s third major. The arrangement is not finalized and the US Senate has just opened an inquiry on the nature of the deal…so there are still many unknowns about what pro golf might actually look like next year. Expect many of the players who have yet to weigh in to be peppered with questions about it early in the week. Get your popcorn ready!
2. A different kind of U.S. Open venue
Now to the birdies and bogeys. Los Angeles Country Club will play host to its first-ever U.S. Open and its first PGA Tour event since the 1940 Los Angeles Open. Needless to say, LACC’s North course has changed a good bit in the past 73 years, especially since a 2010 Gil Hanse-led restoration of the George Thomas design. The club has typically been one of the more reclusive and exclusive in the country; until recently, the membership has been less reluctant to show off the course.
The course will still feature brutally long U.S. Open rough, but this will be Bermuda rough (a first at the U.S. Open since 2005) and there won’t be quite as much of it. Wide fairways will force pros to get strategic as they plot their way around. There are two par-3s that may play as long or longer than the par-4 6th. The U.S. Open is typically the hardest of the four majors — and that should still be the case this year — but just in a different way.
3. Can Phil Mickelson complete the Grand Slam?
Are we crazy for rating this the third-biggest storyline? Maybe. But Phil Mickelson made us all think twice about his major prospects when won the 2021 PGA Championship. Then LIV Golf happened and he put together a number of poor showings. But at Augusta in April, he redefined everybody’s expectations once again by rallying for a Sunday 64 and a T2 finish. He made the cut and finished back of the pack at the PGA Championship last month, but even as he celebrates his 53rd birthday Friday, is it that outrageous to think he could contend again? While I am sure there is some gas left in the tank, and he is a so cal guy, my money is on a missed cut. Sorry Phil, just gotta shoot ya straight. I hope I’m wrong, but this course is a different and unfamiliar beast.
4. When will Rory McIlroy win another major?
With the weight of his “PGA Tour spokesperson” role theoretically lifted, can McIlroy finally win a major after nine years? That’s right read that again – It’s been over 3,000 days and 35 Major chances without taking home the hardware. He shockingly missed the cut at the Masters after finishing in the top 10 in every major in 2022. At the PGA, he was solid but recorded a distant T7, seven strokes behind Brooks Koepka. He’s been near the lead in each of his last two PGA Tour starts only to fade out of contention on Sunday. Not only is he seeking to end his major drought, but he also has yet to win on the PGA Tour this season. McIlroy was in a similar position in 2022 before winning in Canada the week before the U.S. Open and later claiming the FedEx Cup. He finished T-9 last week at the RBC and will be paired with Keopka in the first 2 rounds of the U.S. Open this year – That is must-see TV
5. Who is No. 1?
McIlroy may have begun 2023 with the No. 1 ranking, but Jon Rahm quickly asserted himself as the world’s best golfer by winning four times, including the Masters. But after two wins, including the Players Championship, Scottie Scheffler enters the year’s third major as the World No. 1. Scheffler’s struggles on the greens have been well documented but his otherworldly ball-striking has carried him to a T2 at the PGA, and T3s in his last two starts on Tour (he finished a shot out of playoffs each time). Rahm, meanwhile, has been quieter since his Masters win but is no doubt still poised to collect a second U.S. Open title. Of course, neither player won the PGA Championship. That accolade went to Koepka, who also finished T2 at the Masters and is looking very much like his 2017-19 World No. 1 self. Koepka is built to win majors and this course sets up great for him – I like his chances to give it a run on Sunday.
6. California King Max Homa returns home
You may have heard Max Homa owns the LACC North course record. Then a senior at Cal, Homa fired a nine-under 61 in the opening round of the 2013 Pac-12 Championships. Fast-forward 10 years and Homa is now a six-time PGA Tour winner with all but two of them coming in his home state. But Homa has still yet to record a top-10 in a major championship. He will no doubt have his attention divided this week with all the friends and family around. But there’s no better opportunity for him to get in contention at a course he might know better than anyone else in the field. I love the chances of a Top-10 run and maybe even a chance to hoist a trophy come Sunday Evening.
7. Will an amateur contend?
The first two majors both thrilled fans with underdog stories. At the Masters, it was U.S. Amateur winner Sam Bennett who played his way into the final group Saturday and ultimately finished as low amateur with a T16. Last month’s PGA Championship saw club pro-Michael Block come from nowhere to hang around the lead all four days and eventually finish T15 and earn his way back to the tournament next year. While Bennett is playing his second tournament as a pro this week and Block just missed qualifying for his third U.S. Open, there are still 19 amateurs and plenty of other journeyman pros who could delight fans with a Cinderella story.