Matt Fitzpatrick returns as defending champion, while Jon Rahm and Brooks Koepka will be looking to add to their major wins this season; this week’s major is the first since new agreement announced between PGA Tour, DP World Tour and PIF, who fund LIV Golf
By Ali Stafford
Last Updated: 12/06/23 6:36pm
After a week where the golfing world delivered a plot twist worthy of a blockbuster movie, it seems somewhat fitting that the sport heads to the home of Hollywood for the US Open.
Los Angeles Country Club hosts this week’s major, just a few miles away from the home of cinema, where conversation will continue to be dominated by last Tuesday’s extraordinary announcement that stunned players and fans alike and signalled significant change at the top of the men’s game.
The PGA Tour and DP World Tour agreeing a new commercial partnership with Saudi Arabia’s Public Investment Fund (PIF), who bankroll the previously-considered-rival LIV Golf circuit, had been almost unfathomable at times after a year of heated comments, divided opinions and burned friendships between those involved in golf’s ‘civil war’.
But now the script has been rewritten and attempts to unify the game have been made, with all litigation between the tours ended and steps created to give players pathways to restore memberships they lost by joining the Saudi-backed team circuit.
The majors – for this year at least – have been the only way for LIV players to go head-to-head against their PGA Tour counterparts, with any question marks about their ability to compete against the world’s best quickly quashed during The Masters and the PGA Championship.
Brooks Koepka bounced back from his runner-up finish at Augusta National – where Phil Mickelson also shared second – to win the Wanamaker Trophy last month and all-but secure LIV participation in the Ryder Cup later this year, while Cameron Smith and Patrick Reed are among the others to have impressed in at least one of those two events.
There is a 15-strong LIV contingent in action in Los Angeles, including major stalwart Sergio Garcia and former US Open champions Dustin Johnson and Bryson DeChambeau, with this week’s event the first opportunity to hear from those players at a tournament since the ground-breaking announcement.
Rory McIlroy has likened golf lately to being “part of a soap opera” because “it feels like every week there’s something new”, although the world No 3 has also said the commercial entity will eventually be “good for the game”.
It will be interesting to see how much more we learn about golf’s future during what is already a big week in the golfing calendar.
Who has the advantage in Los Angeles?
Just like the finer details about how golf will evolve over the next year or two, this week’s venue will be largely an unknown to most of the field and pose plenty of questions of its own.
The North Course at Los Angeles Country Club has never previously hosted a major and last staged the LA Open back in 1940, meaning the majority have not played it before, although world No 1 Scottie Scheffler was among those involved when the Walker Cup was held there in 2017.
Two-time major champion Collin Morikawa won all four of his matches that week as Team USA claimed a dominant 19-7 win over Great Britain and Ireland, while Max Homa fired a course-record 61 on his way to victory at the 2013 Pac-12 Men’s Golf Championship – a competition involving universities in western US states.
Live US Open Golf
June 15, 2023, 3:00pm
2021 US Open champion Jon Rahm also finished inside the top 10 that week and will be among the favourites to add to his major tally this time around, having won four times on the PGA Tour in 2023 and been an impressive champion at The Masters in April.
The course can play as a 7,421-yard par-70 at its maximum length and contains two of the longest par-three holes in US Open history, along with a par-four that can be as long as 542 yards, although the exact yardage will vary for each round.
What should we look out for?
Scheffler is highly likely to contend again after already defending his WM Phoenix Open title and storming to victory at The Players earlier this year, with the world No 1 posting top-12 finishes in every PGA Tour event he has contested this season despite struggling with his putter.
Rahm is also a multiple winner in 2023 and can become the first player since Jordan Spieth to win The Masters and US Open in a calendar year, while another encouraging display from McIlroy at the RBC Canadian Open last week means he is primed to finally end his major drought.
McIlroy won the US Open in 2011 but has not added to his major tally since 2014, long before Rahm and Scheffler were professional, with Koepka – who won the PGA Championship last month to claim his fifth major – looking to make it back-to-back major victories.
Matt Fitzpatrick returns to defend his title and Homa will be among those aiming to become the first maiden major winner of the year, as Mickelson – a six-time runner-up at the US Open – has another opportunity to complete the career Grand Slam.
Patrick Cantlay has past knowledge of Los Angeles Country Club from his UCLA days and would be expected to impress, with last month’s PGA Championship runner-up Viktor Hovland and Sunday’s RBC Canadian Open winner Nick Taylor all likely to be in contention.
The last 12 US Open champions have come from inside the world’s top 30 and only one of the last 45 men’s major champions have come from outside the top 50, when Mickelson ripped up the record books to win the 2021 PGA Championship and become the oldest major champion.
Will we see a surprise winner in Los Angeles? Who will prevail in the California sunshine? Given the drama and debate we have already seen in the sport over the past week, nothing would come as a surprise…
Watch the 123rd Open throughout the week live on Sky Sports. Live coverage begins on Thursday from 3pm on Sky Sports Golf.