LA is a city that is known for its glamour, fame, and downright brazen-faced personality. In many ways, those traits are slightly opposed to the conventional well-mannered, casual stance that golf likes to portray itself within.
However, the past week in the sport has been nothing short of a whirlwind, so it probably comes at no better time for ‘the City of Angels’ to host its first major championship since 1995.
The buzz around last year’s US Open at Brookline was dominated by the introduction of LIV Golf. This year? It’s pretty much the same, only it’s the PGA Tour’s turn to have its name dragged through the mud for a bit.
On Tuesday 6th June, it was announced that the PGA Tour, DP World Tour, and PIF (Public Investment Fund) would merge to form the next generation of golf.
It was later announced that the merger would enable the ‘runaway rebels’ that decided to jump ship over last year to re-join forces with those who stayed loyal to the tour, by turning down millions of dollars to join LIV in the first place.
You’re probably thinking: ‘That’s great news! Let’s all draw a line under this and live as one big happy family, right?’ Not quite.
Unsurprisingly, the news has not landed well with those who decided to stay loyal to the tour, as many feel they’ve missed out on a massive paycheck, while those who decided to join LIV got rewarded for their apparent treachery.
Some individuals even went to town on PGA Tour commissioner, Jay Monahan, publicly naming him as a ‘hypocrite’ and claiming he ‘betrayed’ not only the players on-tour, but also the families that had been affected by the 9/11 terrorist attacks.
We could talk about this forever, but for now, let’s draw our own line under the politics of the sport and stick to the script that we all know and love: the actual golf.
The course itself is relatively unknown in the eyes of professional players as it’s never hosted a major championship.
In fact, it hasn’t even hosted a professional men’s golf tournament since Lawson Little beat out Clayton Heafner by a single stroke to win the 1940 Los Angeles Open.
Located south-west of Beverly Hills and next door to the famous Playboy Mansion, Los Angeles Country Club is a 7,432-yard, Par-70 designed by George Thomas and William P. Bell, before its 2010 redesigning by Gil Hanse.
Although the course has no water hazards, in true US Open-styled fashion, it’s expected to play extremely difficult due to it’s long 250+ yard par-3’s, deep fescue rough (as seen below) and it’s ultimate demand for players to be on the correct side of the fairway when hitting it off the tee.
Not only will it be tricky hitting it onto the short stuff from the tee box, it won’t get any easier when you’ve landed it on the sloping bentgrass greens, which will be expected to run exceptionally quick.
To summarise, it’s going to be a dog fight, where damage limitation in avoiding double and triple bogeys will be the key to winning the gold medal come championship Sunday.
In today’s game, it would be nearly impossible to make a case for every single golfer at the top of the betting board due to the plethora of talent on display.
However, it’s without question you must make a case for current world number 1, Scottie Scheffler, who should his putter begin to function at an even mediocre level, the rest of the field could be in huge trouble.
It seems almost a lifetime ago that Scottie (below, right) cantered to a five-shot victory at the Players in March, but since then, the man from New Jersey has boasted a ‘Tiger-esque’ tee-to-green game.Embed from Getty Images
The 26-year-old possesses top spot in 4 of the 6 major stroke gained categories and is without doubt the best in the world at getting the ball on the green.
However, the putter has been giving Scheffler nightmares, as he ranks 146th in SG putting on tour this season, which by his lofty standards is pretty brutal.
Despite the dysfunction on the greens, Scottie remains positive that the flat stick will begin to fire again, as he told the media how the struggles have probably ‘helped elevate [my] ball striking’.
“Granted, my putting stats should still be significantly better than what they are but I have confidence in the stuff I’m working on. I don’t really have an explanation for it, but I’m sure I’ll get back towards my average and putts will start falling.”
In the face of a stone-cold putter, Scheffler still managed to finish 3rd at Memorial a few weeks ago, which beggars the question: If Scottie can turn his putting around, could he win this by a landslide? I guess we’ll have to wait to find out.
Another big name to look out for this week is nonother than Jon Rahm (above, left), who has been embroiled in a tussle with Scheffler for world number 1 status since the beginning of the year.
The reigning Masters champion hasn’t quite kicked on as he would have liked after his star-studded performance at Augusta National back in April, but always provides a threat on major leaderboards regardless of how he’s playing.
The 28-year-old managed to clinch his maiden major title the last time the championship went out west by winning at Torrey Pines back in 2021, but could only muster up a T12 finish when defending his title in Massachusetts last year.
Much like his competitive rival Scheffler, Rahm is very prominent on the stat sheet, ranking 1st on tour for birdie average and 2nd behind Scottie in total strokes gained.
However, the key metric that gives Rahm a potential edge over his counterparts is the stat that means the most on tour: number of victories.
‘Rahmbo’ has already acquired 4 victories on tour this season, showing that the killer instinct we already knew existed can never be underestimated.
It’s expected that Jon will be heavily tipped to clinch his third major in his young, but already illustrious career, and no doubt would see the Spaniard return to the summit of the world golf rankings should he get the job done in LA.
And of course, if you’re talking about big names, you can’t go without mentioning Rory McIlroy (below).Embed from Getty Images
It’s now approaching 9 years since the man from County Down last tasted major glory at Valhalla, and it’s hard to argue that the longer the drought goes on, the more cause for concern on Rory’s legacy as an all-time great, albeit, there’s still plenty of time.
Brooks Koepka’s win at Oak Hill last month meant he climbed ahead of the Irishman in majors having had none at the time of McIlroy’s last victory almost 9 years ago, which probably speaks volumes of not only how good of a player Brooks is, but how much time the latter has squandered in adding to his tally.
However, there is no debating that Rory is still a name to be feared when his name pops up on the first page of the leaderboard on a Sunday afternoon.
The 34-year-old provided a solid foundation for this week with respectable T7 finishes at the PGA and Memorial, followed by a T9 finish in Toronto last week, in spite of the ongoings off the course.
Rory himself even admitted that he seems to play better when there is ‘a little bit of noise going around the world of golf.’
The clear gains for ‘Rors’ has been on the greens, as he is slowly but surely improving with the putter week by week, having moved up an impressive 26 spots in SG putting, according to latest statistics.
It’s hard to see where the current FedEx champion’s exact weakness lies, that it is likely just about putting four solid rounds together and being able to see it out till the end.
Rory introduced himself to the golfing world in 2011 when he won this tournament by 8 shots. Anything remotely close to that level of performance would be a very welcoming response to his noisy critics.
Despite the so-called ‘big 3’ being mentioned, there are plenty more runners in the race for US Open glory at LACC.
Perhaps it’s a tad harsh to overlook him for others in the ‘Big Names’ section, but when Brooks Koepka (below) is left out, he wins, so we’re probably giving him the extra motivation he needs to capture yet another major title.Embed from Getty Images
It seemed rather certain for a while that Brooks’ time at the top table of golf was over due to injuries, switching to LIV and a loss of confidence to compete against the best (as spoken about by himself in Netflix’s Full Swing).
After capturing his third Wanamaker Trophy in Rochester last month, those claims have been assertively put to bed, and it would not surprise us in the slightest to see the Florida-man capture his 6th overall and 3rd US Open title in Los Angeles.
The man who he beat at Oak Hill, Viktor Hovland, is another whose major pedigree is trending in the right direction.
The Norwegian grasped his biggest win on tour to date by winning the Memorial tournament at Muirfield Village and has a sequence of T4, T7 and T2 finishes in his last three major championships, which shows that the 25-year-old is getting closer at every glance.
Another man expected to be a popular pick this week is ‘the California Kid’ Max Homa, who shot a course record 61 here when going on to win the Pac-12 Championship a little over 10 years ago, meanwhile also having a win at the nearby Riviera CC from winning the Genesis in 2021.
Max is one of only a few players with some moderate experience playing competitively at this course, although it’s expected to play in a completely different format due to the rise in competition.
Much like Fitzpatrick at Brookline last year, it could be written in the stars for Homa, with there being fewer names more popular than him to clinch a victory this weekend.
And finally, another pair of California kids that you probably shouldn’t rule out is Xander Schauffele and Patrick Cantlay (both below).Embed from Getty Images
Whilst golf isn’t a team sport (not yet anyway…), Xander and Cantlay often, perhaps unfairly, are constantly put together.
Both have never won (or really competed in) a major.
But both are unarguably some of the best iron players in the world.
Cantlay was moderately in contention at Augusta in April before the field seemed to swallow him whole on the Sunday, but surely it’s only a matter of time that the former FedEx Cup champion puts himself firmly in the mix for a major championship.
Xander, on the other hand, boasts a fairly respectable record in majors, particularly in this one, with a T14 last year being his worst finish in his home Open.
Perhaps this could be the year that either of these two can finally get over the line, and where better to do it in than their home state of California?
Who is going to win?
It’s extremely difficult to choose simply one, but if we’re going to pick, we’ll go with Jon Rahm.
‘Rahmbo’ simply loves it out west, particularly LA, and backed that theory up by winning at Riviera earlier in the year.
The Spaniard felt disappointed with his performance at the PGA Championship that seen him finish a disappointing T50, but will be desperate to put that right by adding his second major of the year to his growing list of accolades.
Winner: Jon Rahm, Top 10: Jordan Spieth, Top 20: Rickie Fowler, Top 40: Eric Cole
Who do you think will win? Let us know in the comments below. . .