The third golf major of 2023 is upon us, as the world’s best players head to the Los Angeles Country Club for the 2023 US Open.
With seeming peace and harmony breaking out across the golfing world, following the seismic news last week of a potential merger between the PGA Tour, PIF-backed LIV Golf and the DP World Tour, talking will turn back to what happens on the course across four days, starting with the first round on Thursday 15 June, through to the final round on Sunday 18 June as Los Angeles hosts the US Open for the first time in 75 years.
Defending champion Matt Fitzpatrick is going to face a tough test in his quest to secure back-to-back crowns if he is to repeat the feats of last year at Brookline, with the likes of Scottie Scheffler, Masters winner Jon Rahm and victor at the last major, the US PGA Championship, Brooks Koepka, leading the way on the sportsbooks. However, it would be unwise to write off the likes of Rory McIlroy, Patrick Cantlay, Viktor Hovland, Xander Schauffele and Cameron Smith, who will be hoping to challenge at the top of the leaderboard.
As you would expect from the USGA, the Los Angeles Country Club has been set up to play tough, meaning golfers are going to need to keep to the fairways as best as possible if they are going to card those all-important birdies that could be the difference between success and failure. But even challenges like the 290-yard par-3 11th lurk, which will keep the likes of Tyrrell Hatton, Cameron Young, Collin Morikawa, Justin Rose, Max Homa, Sungjae Im and Joaquin Niemann on their toes.
Here, we look over the need-to-know facts and stats ahead of Thursday’s opening round.
2023 U.S. Open Preview Facts
● This is the 123rd edition of the US Open. The Los Angeles Country Club is hosting a major tournament – men’s or women’s – for the first time, while it’s the third time in five years that the tournament will be played in California (Pebble Beach in 2019, Torrey Pines in 2021).
● Across the last 25 years, California has hosted the US Open on eight occasions, more than any other US state in that time (New York is second with six). Over the course of the tournament’s history, only New York (20) and Pennsylvania (17) have played host on more occasions than the Golden State (15).
● Only one of the last nine US Open tournaments has been won with an even or over par score – that was Brooks Koepka’s 2018 victory at Shinnecock Hills (+1). Six of the previous nine editions – between 2005 and 2013 – had produced an even/over par winning score.
● None of the last 14 US Opens has been decided by a playoff, the last one dating back to 2008 when Tiger Woods saw off Rocco Mediate. It’s currently the longest run without a playoff in the four men’s golf majors.
● The last two US Opens have been won by a Spaniard (Jon Rahm) and an Englishman (Matthew Fitzpatrick) – another European victory this year would mark only the second time since World War Two that a single major has produced three consecutive European winners after four in a row at the Masters from 1988 to 1991.
● Willie Anderson, Ben Hogan, Bobby Jones and Jack Nicklaus hold the record for most wins at the US Open (four). Tiger Woods is one behind on three wins, alongside Hale Irwin.
● However, Tiger Woods will not be playing in the US Open, his last participation dating back to 2020 (missed cut). This is the first time Woods will have missed three consecutive editions of a major tournament since he first started playing them in 1995.
● Brooks Koepka is -17 over the first two majors this year (-8 at The Masters, -9 at the PGA Championship), the lowest score to par ahead of Viktor Hovland (-13) and Scottie Scheffler (-11). The three players are also the only ones to register top 10s in each of the first two majors of 2023.
● Brooks Koepka has a top 5 finish in four of his last five US Open appearances, including victories in 2017 and 2018.
● With his victory at Oak Hill last month in the PGA Championship, Brooks Koepka is now one of only three players to have won 5+ majors in the 21st century, alongside Tiger Woods and Phil Mickelson.
● Matthew Fitzpatrick will attempt to become only the fourth golfer since WWII to win back-to-back US Open tournaments after Ben Hogan, Curtis Strange and Brooks Koepka.
● John McDermott is the youngest player to win the US Open (19 years, 10 months and 14 days in 1911) whilst Hale Irwin is the oldest (45 years and 15 days in 1990).
● Rory McIlroy and Brooks Koepka hold the record for lowest under par score at the US Open: -16 (in 2011 for McIlroy, in 2017 for Koepka).
● Rory McIlroy’s first major tournament victory was the 2011 US Open at Congressional. He’s the only player with a top 10 in each of the last four US Opens (T-9th in 2019, T-8th in 2020, T-7th in 2021, T-5th in 2022) but has won none of his last 32 major appearances, his last victory coming at the 2014 PGA Championship.
● Scottie Scheffler has eight top 10s in his last 11 major tournament participations. This includes a T-7th and T-2nd in the last two US Opens.
● Viktor Hovland is the only player with a top 10 in each of the last three major tournaments (T-4th 2022 Open Championship, T-7th 2023 Masters, T-2nd 2023 PGA Championship).
● Xander Schauffele has secured five top 10s in six starts at the US Open since his inaugural appearance in 2017, more than any other player over that span.
● Bryson Dechambeau is the last American golfer to win the US Open, it was in 2020. The last time the US Open went at least three consecutive editions without a ‘home’ win was 2007 (four consecutive editions with a non-US winner from 2004).
● The US Open is the only major in which Patrick Cantlay has never had a top 10. Nevertheless, he was low amateur in 2011 and can become the fourth golfer this century to win both the low amateur medal and the US Open after Jordan Spieth, Jon Rahm and Matt Fitzpatrick.
● Phil Mickelson has finished second in the US Open on six occasions, an all-time record. However, his last runner-up finish in the tournament came 10 years ago, in 2013. The US Open is the only major he hasn’t won, in 31 attempts (29 as a professional, two as an amateur).
● The last player from outside the top 40 in the world rankings to win the US Open was Lucas Glover in 2009 – he was 71st coming into the championship.
● Some of the recent winners on tour who will be hoping to etch their name onto the trophy include Viktor Hovland (Memorial Tournament), who overcame Denny McCarthy in a playoff to secure the win, and Nick Taylor (RBC Canadian Open).
Our 2023 U.S. Open Projections – our favorites, predictions and value plays
No surprises that Masters’ winner Jon Rahm has been made the FRACAS favorite to take the title and become the latest star to put his name up in lights in Tinseltown at this week’s U.S. Open. While not No. 1 in the Official World Golf Rankings, his form in 2023 means the Spaniard leads the way on our own FRACAS rankings, and we give him a 7.7% chance of taking the victory at Los Angeles Country Club.
Scottie Scheffler, the OWGR No. 1, is our second favorite (6.3%) with the nearest challenge set to come from Patrick Cantlay (4.5%). The trio make up the only golfers with over a 20% chance of finishing in the top five.
Xander Schauffele (4.4%) and Rory McIlroy (4.0%) round out our top-five favorites, while Cameron Smith is expected to be the best challenger amongst the LIV Golf competitors. His 2.5% chance of taking the victory comes in just behind Viktor Hovland (3.3%) and Tyrrell Hatton (2.6%).
When it comes to looking at potential value plays in the field, most sportsbooks see Justin Thomas as low as the 20th favorite for success in Los Angeles, while our FRACAS model makes him the ninth favorite. The only real weak spot in his game will come on the long par 3s that dot the course. It may make it a case of ensuring that not too many strokes are lost on those so that he can take advantage elsewhere.
Experience can prove itself key when it comes to taming any U.S. Open set up, and our model believes there could be a fairytale run for either Matt Kuchar or Sergio Garcia this week. Kuchar failed to make the cut at the last two U.S. Opens, with his previous best at the tournament coming back in 2010 when he tied for sixth. The form that saw him go deep in tournaments during April may have slightly deserted him, but a T20 at the RBC Canadian Open last time out should put him back on an even keel for another run here.
Garcia had to come through the qualifier but fired a pair of 66s on golf’s longest day to reach an event where he has finished in the top 10 on five different occasions. His best finish came back in 2005 at Pinehurst No. 2, which is the last time the U.S. Open was played on a course with bermudagrass rough. It might seem implausible, but at the 24th time of asking, could he put it together over four days for another run at the top of the leaderboard? It would truly be a Hollywood script if he can.