Golf’s third major, the 123rd U.S. Open, makes its first appearance at Los Angeles Country Club this week and does not come with a shortage of storylines. While the glaring one (looking at you, LIV) will surely be a topic of discussion at media availabilities and amongst commentators, a plethora of on-course storylines are also worthy of your attention as the tournament gets underway.
Four of the most intriguing storylines at the 2023 U.S. Open.
1. Rory McIlroy has the Chance to end his Major Dry Spell.
The Northern Irishman has had the weight of the golf world on his shoulders the past week with news of the PGA Tour, DP World Tour, and PIF merger, and he may have even more pressure this weekend as talks escalate about when he will win another Major.
McIlroy has not won a Major in almost ten years, with his last being the 2014 PGA Championship.
While McIlroy might prefer to add a green jacket to his closet and accomplish the Career Grand Slam, a win this weekend would prove his ability to tune out the noise and perform under pressure.
He’s finished in the top ten in his last four appearances at the U.S. Open but will need more than his ball-striking prowess to end his Major drought.
2. Max Homa’s Hometown could set the stage for Major Success.
Max Homa has not recorded much success at Majors, to which he has pointed to mental hurdles, even calling this weekend a “mental test”. Despite that, he’s comfortable and cool in his hometown of L.A.; Southern California is where Homa has won two of his six Tour wins.
Homa also holds the course record of 61, which he shot at the 2013 Pac-12 Championships.
Homa may be more familiar with the course than other players for these aforementioned reasons, something that is notable at a course that has held very few events played by current players, with its most notable event being the 2017 Walker Cup, when America’s amateurs’ at the time included Collin Morikawa, Scottie Scheffler, and Will Zalatoris.
3. Phil Mickelson is up for the Career Grand Slam.
While winning just one Major is a feat in itself, Phil Mickelson has the chance to add the Career Grand Slam to his resume on Sunday, where he would join a small group of Tour players who have won each of the four majors.
The six-time Major winner would be the first to achieve the Grand Slam since 2000. Golf’s current Grand Slam holders include; Tiger Woods, Jack Nicklaus, Ben Hogan, Gary Player, and Gene Sarazen.
Mickelson has donned Augusta’s iconic green jacket three times, has one win from The Open, and two PGA Championship wins-his 2021 victory being his most recent Major win. He has finished second at the U.S. Open six times, three of those being T2.
While many may be eager to count Mickelson out as he prepares to celebrate his 53rd birthday, it’s hard to count him out when reflecting on his T2 finish at Augusta in April.
4. The Course Itself.
Five par-threes? The Playboy Mansion? Both make up the unique composition of this previously elusive course that is really making its first modern PGA Tour debut, let alone modern Major debut. The Los Angeles Country Club course is tucked away amongst skyscrapers and, you guessed it, the Playboy Mansion, which neighbors the 13th, 500-yard, par four.
The par-three 15th hole is expected to play 80 yards, which would make it the shortest hole ever played at a U.S. Open and it presents a unique challenge as players will hit a lob wedge off the tee. Not the tee shot you typically see in a round of golf on the PGA Tour; thus resulting in a higher degree of difficulty with respect to accuracy.
"“You have like a yard and a half to land it if you want to hit a good shot. If not, you’ve got to play left and hopefully hit a good putt. Yeah, it’s frustrating because you can hit an okay shot and not get rewarded at all. Especially out here, you can’t land it in the rough. It’s not going to bounce out. You’ve got to land it in the right spot. I just remember it was a very tough shot. I pulled it off, and I think I still had like 20 feet for birdie.”"
As the world gets a glimpse at the ultra-private and exclusive Los Angeles Country Club, patrons, and viewers can admire its unique architecture and hold out for the above U.S. Open player storylines and countless others that are sure to develop over the next several days.