This U.S. Open is going to be different for a lot of reasons.
One big one is that the galleries will be small, perhaps as low as 100,000 for the week, according to past PGA President Ted Bishop in a video podcast for The Golf Show 2.0.
It’s also a new course to most people, but of course, not to the members.
It’s a shame so few people, relative to other U.S. Opens, will have a chance to watch on-site, but the USGA does funny things sometimes and calls it growing the game.
This week they are doing it by holding the national championship at a place so space-constrained that they are keeping people away. Go figure.
However, it’s still a U.S. Open, and someone will win it.
When it comes to trophy hoisting, Los Angeles Country Club’s North Course has some peculiarities that may affect who will win. Few outside of the membership have seen it because it is a private course. So private that it doesn’t allow celebrities! ( Or didn’t last I heard.)
First of all, if there was ever a week for putters and scramblers who can play on Bermudagrass, this U.S. Open is it. For Bermuda lovers, this week might be one of their best shots at winning a major championship or winning another one.
Right away, because of the Bermuda, you have to think Jordan Spieth, Brooks Koepka, and Scottie Scheffler. But the Bermuda is on the fairway and in the rough where everybody hates it. In the rough, it’s a ball-hiding, club-grabbing, menace with teeth. It also removes any certainty as to how far the ball will fly because of whatever it is about the Bermuda and a clubface.
Ugly monster magic, you could call it.
But there are plenty of players who either grew up on that turf or learned to love Bermuda because of where they went to college, like Jon Rahm, Rickie Fowler, Viktor Hovland, Sam Burns, Stewart Cink, Matt Kuchar, and Justin Thomas.
Billy Horschel, who can run hot and cold with his game, is another who probably has Bermuda for breakfast, lunch, and dinner being an all-Florida, all-the-time kind of guy.
And who knows what they play on in Australia? All we know is Australians with game can travel, like Adam Scott, Cameron Smith, and Jason Day. They shouldn’t be counted out.
It’s also a week to look at guys who have won at Riviera CC where the Genesis Invitational is played. That brings in Dustin Johnson, Max Homa, Joaquin Niemann, all of whom are fairly recent winners there, and a few years ago, Adam Scott.
"The 6th hole, a par 4 of 335 yards, is reminiscent of the 10th at Riviera."
Flyovers of the property, courtesy of Golf Digest, show just what the competitors can expect to find. They are going to see some holes that resemble or at least make you think of Riviera, the wiggly-edged bunkers in particular. (At least they make me think of Riviera).
The 6th hole, a par 4 of 335 yards, is reminiscent of the 10th at Riviera. It’s a choice between trying to drive a small, shallow green or laying up at what is probably shorter than driver distance.
However, the 6th has more trouble around it than the 10th at Riviera does.
Everyone will have to practice saying barranca, which is basically a big ditch or small ravine with a bunch of unkempt junk growing in and around it. There are barrancas on eight of the holes.
Hitting into one will surely cause some angst. Potential cursing. Then there will be some hacking out of some Southern California vegetation of some kind or another. Possible club-throwing in anger.
However, what’s amazing about this year’s U.S. Open is that the fairways are wide. Not Erin Hills or Chambers Bay wide, but significantly wider than average. And they slope, too.
A lot of the trouble — bunkers and whatnot and you’ve got to watch out for the whatnot — is short of 300 yards, at least according to the flyovers. That means, potentially, more than half of the field will have no problem carrying it or them.
So wider than average fairways, Bermudagrass fairways and tees, bentgrass greens, and some scrambling involved. What and who does that tell you will win?
Well, Spieth has had putting problems. So has Scheffler. That potentially leaves Dustin Johnson at the top. But you cannot forget about Jon Rahm. Three of them have won a U.S. Open and one came close. Maybe it’s a four-way playoff.