June 12, 2023

LA Country Club North will be a stern test for the US Open

I will be particularly interested in this year's US Open, because the North course at Los Angeles Country Club is one that I have played over 50 times. I've been fortunate to have played many for the top golf courses in the world and I rank LA North firmly in my top five. I last played there about 40 years ago, but most of my rounds were when I was 18 to 21 years of age as part of the USC golf team. Playing junior golf in southern California, I got to play most of the best and toughest courses, like Riviera and Torrey Pines, but when I first played LA North it was a step above and eye-opening.

LA Country Club is very exclusive and private and their treasure of a golf course was rarely made available for tournament play. The club hosted the 2017 Walker Cup, where the course received rave reviews. This US Open will be the first professional event ever. It will be very exciting to see what the modern players will do to a course that I thought was demandingly long and penal. In my freshman year, if I shot 75, I played really well. One mistake was always a double bogie. I ultimately learn to play the course tactically, and it became my favorite course. I foresee a lot of double bogies for just a minor mistakes. This is a ball strikers golf course. I don't see a short hitter and a scrambler type player having any chance this week.

I will be in attendance for the third round on Saturday. I will pick an early morning tee time pairing that has at least one star player and walk the full 18 holes and observe how they strategize and navigate this challenging layout. Then I'll pick a comfortable spot and watch the leaders come through. Over fifty years ago, I would hit long irons to many of the par fours. Today's players will probably be hitting short irons. The strength of this golf course is their five par threes. Holes 7 and 11, from the back tees, stretch 284 and 290 yards in length to comparatively small targets. Holes 4 and 9, at 228 and 180 yards, feature greens that make it difficult get the ball close. Number 9 especially was my nemesis, because how narrow the green was. Hole 15 can play from 84 yards to 124 yards, but there will be many bogies, because put it in the wrong position and it's an instant bogie.

Because this is a new venue, few pros have played enough rounds to be familiar with the course. Scottie Scheffler, Collin Morikawa, Cameron Champ, and Will Zalatoris played on the 2017 Walker Cup, but only Scottie and Collin are in the field this week. Max Homa holds the course record of 61 shot in a Pac 12 Championship in 2013. The premium is on fairways and greens. Smart golfers win US Opens and this will test the player's mental toughness to stick with their game plan and don't get greedy. This should be a classic US Open with a winner that exhibits all the necessary traits that a major champion should have.

The favorites are right up at the top of the world rankings. Scottie Scheffler, Jon Rahm, Rory McIlroy, Patrick Cantley, Viktor Hovland, Xander Schauffele, Max Homa, and Matt Fitzpatrick all would not be a surprise to hold the US Open trophy at the end of this week. Count on Brooks Koepka to make his presence felt again. Tyerrell Hatton would be my dark horse pick. This course favors ball strikers and there has been none better lately than Scottie Scheffler. With only mediocre putting, he would have won the last two majors. You have to be able to putt, it's part of the game, but I just can't think Scheffler can have another major tournament with poor putting. He is due and LACC is right up his alley.

Whoever wins, it should be a great event. Hopefully my favorite golf course in southern California holds up to the test. It is wonderful that the membership of Los Angeles Country Club has made their course available to a national audience. This won't be the last, because the USGA has scheduled a US Women's Open in 2032 and another Men's Open in 2039. For me, I will relish walking the fairways once again. Should be fun!


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