June 13, 2023
US Open 2023 Preview
What a difference a day makes!
That was the feeling after the surprise merger announcement by the PGA Tour, DP World Tour and the PIF last week at the Canadian Open.
They probably wanted to get it done prior to the US Open so as not to distract from this historic and great event which marks a bit of milestone this week – the 100th anniversary of the first Major tournament won by the iconic Bobby Jones, who was then just turned 21.
When all is said and done and the huffing and puffing about the merger is over, it is a win-win for all parties involved, and especially for the game of golf.
The game had become fractured over the past year and there would have been no winners had it stayed that way. In time the players will all come to understand this as the new world order settles in and it consolidates its global strategy. Well done to all.
A first US Open for LA Country Club
I am sure the powers that be at the USGA breathed a sigh of relief to see this happening in advance of their 123rd US Open.
It will be a US Open with a difference being played at Los Angeles Country Club for the first time, the first US Open to be played in LA since Ben Hogan won at Pacific Palisades in 1948.
The North Course at LACC is one that many of the field will not have played.
First designed in 1897 in Beverly Hills and evolved over the years to the new site, it has undergone a recent restoration by Gil Hanse and his team.
This will ensure that, just like other iconic Major venues that have been adjusted in recent years, it will be well able to defend itself from the modern day power game.
Hanse, who is now highly respected amongst his peers and by the top players, calls the course a masterpiece by the original designers. It’s very strategic with many high risk-high reward holes that dare you to have a go.
What the players can expect at LACC
The rough is new Bermuda grass which will swallow the ball whole and make it impossible to get a clean strike.
That could make the whole experience very similar to Merion in 2013, where Justin Rose came out on top.
Two leading contenders this week who have played – and won – at LACC are Collin Morikawa and Scottie Scheffler, who were part of the successful 2017 Walker Cup there. This might prove significant come Sunday evening.
The formula this US Open will require
When you examine some of the great multiple winners of this event over the years – Jones, Hogan and Jack Nicklaus all won four US Opens, Tiger Woods and Hale Irwin won three each and Walter Hagen, Gene Sarazen, Lee Trevino, Ernie Els and Brooks Koepka have all won two US Opens – all were or are great golfers.
Jones, Nicklaus and Hogan are probably regarded as the most intelligent golfers of all time and made fewer tactical errors than most.
Jack, in particular, rarely had blow-out rounds and can count the number of double and triple bogeys in Majors he had over his career on his fingers.
He was also gifted by growing up and being taught to know your own game. Hence the title of his book, Golf My Way. Jack would see his lifelong coach Jack Grout four times a year for a check-up. It was like going to his doctor!
Grout taught Jack to know his own game and how to fix it himself, a priceless learning. Many times Jack would fix his own swing mid-round after a few bad shots and as a result rarely had rounds that played him out of contention. That is one of the reasons his record in Majors – 18 wins, finished second 19 times and in the top five on 56 occasions – is truly astounding.
I often wonder in today’s world if some of the more inconsistent great performers are over-coached.
Back to the present day, and I think the three players I mentioned previously – Rose, Morikawa and Scheffler – all possess the right US Open formula of patience and perseverance.
Rose won that US Open at unforgiving Merion ten years ago, Morikawa already had two Majors in the bag in his first four years as a pro, and Scheffler has been there or thereabouts in almost every big tournament since his Masters breakthrough last year.
Elsewhere in the field, who could count out Koepka, second at the Masters before his US PGA Championship win last month?
He is riding high on confidence, will be more rested than some of the others and has that burning, passionate, obsessive desire that we clearly saw at Oak Hill a few weeks ago.
One of the most impressive things about Koepka that week came in advance of the final round, when he said that he had worked out what he had done wrong at the Masters to lose to Jon Rahm and categorically stated he would not make the same mistake again. And he didn’t!
I just love the way Viktor Hovland plays and love his demeanour on the course. The day after winning the Memorial event last week he showed his humble down-to-earth attitude by going and caddying for his former Oklahoma State college team-mate Zach Bauchou at US Open qualifying.
Hats off to you as a role model Viktor, the game will reward you. I fancy him to win a Major soon. Could it be this week?
Rory: Clear-headed, in-form … and a danger to all
What about Rory McIlroy and his long quest to win a fifth Major?
He played such a central part in the PGA/LIV stuff over the past year and could have lighter head with all that now over with. He has been playing superbly in recent weeks – with three top 10s in a row – and the putter is warming up nicely.
Rory mentioned recently that he loves playing Majors on the West Coast of the USA and there’s no doubt he will have a lot of support in LA.
If he gets on a run, he could leave them all in his wake.
In many US Opens a few “plodders” also get into contention and only on the last day will they find out if they have the “cojones” to win.
Rahm badly wants another Major. He has surely proven he has the Spanish fire in his belly (and he doesn’t lack for “cojones” either!)
The atmosphere will be electric in LA and I hope we get a dogfight over the last nine holes on Sunday.