For the first time in history, the U.S. Open has welcomed PGA and LIV players under their new merger – something unique for the Majors.
It has forever changed the sport.
Some of the early favorites to win this one-of-a-kind U.S. Open aren’t from the PGA. Here are two LIV stars that are the early front-runners… and two major stories to watch for.
Brooks Koepka is the reigning PGA Champion, second-place finisher at The Masters, and two-time LIV tournament winner is the front-runner — and he is the clear favorite to win the tournament before everyone tees off at 6:45 AM PDT on Thursday, June 15th at L.A. Country Club.
He’s up to his 2018-19 antics again and told reporters he “really only has to beat 15 other players at any major tournament.”
Koepka has the second most major titles behind only Phil Mickelson in the field and he has more majors than the former at his young age of 33. It’s not so much his game that people are banking on and more of the unbridled mindset that gives him the edge this week. On a golf course where are blind tee shots, sticky chip lies, and skinny demanding greens, few can keep their chin up like Brooks.
No one has been better from tee to green in the major era since 2017. L.A. Country Club is an odd course with little PGA history so it’s going to be a mental test – advantage Koepka. He is a big game hunter and there is no bigger stage than the US Open.
Cam Smith is a dark-horse pick, but the course setup is perfect for his game. While the course is a little longer than what he’s been playing on the LIV tour — LACC will play at 7,432 yards for the US Open, over 150 yards total longer than what he’s played all year – but that shouldn’t be a problem for Smith.
But that’s not where Smith’s advantage lies. A lot of pundits are calling this the “Augusta of the West” –weird downhill chips to uphill greens, long fairway bunker shots to uphill greens, and buried, very feel-based bump and runs up to a small green. These are all situations where Cam thrives and others stress.
DISTURBING: Peeping Joe Biden [Sponsored]
He’s hung up more birdies on Par 3s than any other professional in the past year, and his approach game is dialed. In addition, he’s someone that doesn’t let the paparazzi of L.A. get in his way
If the Aussie settles in early, watch this space.
The Saudi & PGA Merger
The biggest question on golf fan lips is, “Does the Saudi government & PIF own professional golf now?”
No. At least, not at the current moment. As Jay Monahan, PGA Tour Commissioner, has stated, this is a “framework” deal because the merger still has to get approved by the player committee. Despite media like the Golf Channel’s breathless coverage of this partnership, there is still nothing concrete – and it could trigger a Department of Justice inquiry since there will be no other place to play professional golf.
There are still many questions and very few answers besides the fact that a few very wealthy men have privately gambled on the control of one of our country’s most beloved past times.
Monahan could have just put one of the U.S.’s biggest sports organizations directly into the hands of Saudi oil barons. Just hours before the US Open kicks off, the Senate has launched an inquiry into this deal. The merger — and Jay Monahan’s health concerns — will loom large over the first two days of the unique tournament.
Los Angeles Country Club: The course that keeps “Hollywood Types” out
The mainstream media has been focusing on the “who” and “how” of the patrons around the course, but the real celebrity present is LACC herself. Ironically, this club is well known for keeping the “Hollywood types” off of its green grass. Hugh Hefner and the Playboy Mansion are just right off of the 13th fairway… and could never get in.
This Food Grows Cancerous Tumors – Do Not Eat It [sponsored]
It’s a rare refuge from celebrities in liberal Los Angeles. LACC wants members who make the world turn, not glitzy actors and actresses. It won’t be touted on the mainstream media’s coverage, but former President Ronald Reagan was once a member of LACC.
It’s the first return of a Major tournament to downtown LA since 1948 when the Riviera Country Club hosted the post-WWII 1948 U.S. Open.
The course has wide fairways accompanied by long, thick rough that leads players up to heavily sloped false fronts and surprisingly tiny green complexes. And even if players are pin-high, they may find themselves short-sided with the ball buried in two inches of dense Bermuda rough. It’s a place where viewers could see a longer Par 3 hole at 290 yards than a Par 4 hole at 283 yards.
The best players will grind out pars on holes that lesser beings would post single or double-bogeys. And with yet another drought currently in place in southern California, the greens will barely hold any shots hit outside of a pitching wedge.
The spacious fairways are deceiving, with British Open-like bounces and dribbles. Players may land the ball in the middle of the fairway, but there are no guarantees that it will stay there…. especially since the USGA has set this up to be a firm and fast test in the California sun.
Sponsored: Toss Your Alkaline Water Down the Drain
Lastly, viewers should keep an ear out for the term “barrancas”, which is Spanish for a dry creek bed – there are a few on LACC that twist and turn throughout the course.
The Horn editorial team