US Open offers on-course respite from golf’s turbulent times
Golf’s major championships have always stood out from the crowd, but perhaps now more than ever.
Just as a relatively stable status quo seemed to have been established in the men’s professional game, Tuesday’s announcement of a peace deal between golf’s warring factions ironically plunged it back into turmoil.
Rory McIlroy admitted he felt like a “sacrificial lamb” and still “hated” LIV Golf, stressing that those players who he felt had done irreparable harm to the PGA Tour and started litigation against it would not be welcomed back with open arms.
On the other side of the coin, some of the players who pocketed eye-watering sums of money to join the breakaway understandably gloated on social media as it looked like they would be able to have their cake and eat it after all.
Exactly how the shock merger of the PGA Tour and DP World Tour’s commercial operations with those of Saudi Arabia’s Public Investment Fund (PIF), which bankrolls LIV, shakes out remains to be seen.
But for now, the Masters, US PGA Championship, US Open and The Open potentially offer welcome refuge from the world of secretive deals and morally questionable sources of money which threaten to permanently taint the world’s biggest Tours.
Which brings us to the 123rd US Open at Los Angeles Country Club, a largely unknown venue in professional golf which staged the Los Angeles Open five times, most recently in 1940.
The North Course did also host the Walker Cup in 2017 as a United States team featuring current world number one Scottie Scheffler, two-time major champion Collin Morikawa and PGA Tour winners Will Zalatoris and Cameron Champ thrashed Great Britain and Ireland 19-7.
Six years on, Scheffler will contest the first US Open in Los Angeles since 1948 on a remarkable run of form as he bids to claim a second major title following his Masters triumph in 2022.
As well as winning the prestigious Players Championship and defending his title in the WM Phoenix Open, Scheffler has finished runner-up in the US PGA Championship and been no worse than 12th in 13 events in 2023, despite being hampered by a decidedly misfiring putter.
Third place in the Memorial Tournament was achieved on the back of gaining 20.74 strokes from tee to green, the second-best performance since the PGA Tour began tracking such data 20 years ago.
And his ball striking needed to be outstanding because Scheffler lost 8.58 strokes to the field on the greens, ranking him dead last of those to make the cut at Muirfield Village.
“I feel like I’m making progress,” Scheffler insisted after his closing 67. “I can start feeling the ball coming off the blade again, which is good. Even today, I just go through my round and I’m like ‘how did some of these putts not go in?'”
If Scheffler finds the answer to that question he will be a hard man to beat, but he faces stiff competition from the likes of US PGA winner Brooks Koepka and Masters champion Jon Rahm, perhaps along with the likes of course record holder Max Homa and defending champion Matt Fitzpatrick.
A fit-again Koepka bounced back from the disappointment of failing to convert a 54-hole lead at Augusta National to win his fifth major title at Oak Hill, looking every inch the player who won the US Open in 2017 and 2018.
Afterwards, Koepka was more concerned about his own achievement than the implications of becoming the first LIV player to win a major, and just 16 days later that debate was seemingly rendered moot by news of the shock merger.
As for what happens next, all bets are off.
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