LIV Golf star Brooks Koepka summed up the state of professional golf with a cheeky comment at the end of his pre-U.S. Open press conference.
“Thanks. See you guys at the Travelers (Championship) next week,” Koepka said.
PGA Tour and LIV members alike are still baffled by last week’s shock announcement of a merger between the PGA Tour and the Saudi Public Investment Fund. But for the time being, Koepka isn’t back to playing a PGA Tour schedule, and the only places where players from the rival tours get together are at the four majors.
Questions about the future of the sport will take a back seat to a difficult test of golf at a new venue when the 2023 U.S. Open tees off Thursday at the Los Angeles Country Club.
Koepka heads to Los Angeles as a five-time major champion after becoming the first active member of LIV to win a major last month at the PGA Championship in Rochester, N.Y. Only Tiger Woods and Phil Mickelson have won more majors than Koepka since 2000.
Koepka passed Rory McIlroy of Northern Ireland (four) in major titles with that win. The USGA paired them together along with Hideki Matsuyama of Japan for the first two rounds.
“The more chaotic things get the easier it gets for me,” Koepka said. “Everything starts to slow down and I am able to focus on whatever I need to focus on while everybody else is dealing with distractions, worried about other things.”
LACC’s North Course will play as a 7,381-yard par-70, with three par-5s and five par-3s. The par-3s range from the 290-yard 11th hole to the 15th, which could play as short as 78 yards but features three curling bunkers and a highly sloped green.
It’s the course’s first time hosting a major championship, but a few elite golfers have competed there before. World No. 1 Scottie Scheffler and two-time major winner Collin Morikawa played LACC at the 2017 Walker Cup, a junior team event. And as a college golfer, Max Homa set the course record with a 61 during the 2013 Pac-12 Championship.
But U.S. Opens are notoriously the most difficult of the majors, and no one expects to see a 61 this week.
“It’s going to be pretty hard,” Homa said. “Yeah, I think the sun being out is real helpful. A little bit of wind is going to make it spicy. I hope it’s carnage. I hope it’s a typical U.S. Open.”
Homa (Los Angeles), Patrick Cantlay (Long Beach) and Xander Schauffele (San Diego) are all Southern California natives who enter the week ranked top-10 in the world but still after their elusive first major title. Any one of them could receive a hometown hero’s welcome with a victory.
Scheffler, meanwhile, has been consistent in every way: He’s made 18 straight cuts, finished in the top 12 or better at 15 straight events, he leads the PGA Tour in strokes gained tee to green, and he’s been consistently poor at putting.
Asked if he was changing putters this week, Scheffler said, “You guys can find out Thursday.
“I don’t ever take decisions on switching equipment lightly,” he said. “... The PGA I actually felt like I rolled it pretty good. Few putts here or there that lipped out that should have gone in.”
Matt Fitzpatrick of England is the defending champion, having won last year at The Country Club outside Boston. World No. 2 Jon Rahm of Spain, winner of the 2021 U.S. Open and this year’s Masters, is also a safe bet to contend on the weekend.
“There’s not really a part of your game in any major championship, let alone a U.S. Open, that can really be in doubt. You’re going to need to access every single aspect of your game to win a championship like this,” Rahm said. “I think it becomes more of a mental factor, not overdoing it at home (in practice). You can never really replicate U.S. Open conditions.”
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