On Thursday morning, the 2023 U.S. Open will get underway. The week leading up to the season’s third major championship was filled with golf news and drama. The PGA Tour/LIV Golf merger dominated headlines across the nation as PGA Tour commissioner Jay Monahan agreed to merge with LIV and their Public Investment Fund (PIF) backed by Saudi Arabia.
The RBC Canadian Open took place over the weekend. The field wasn’t star-studded as it was sandwiched between a designated event and the U.S. Open, but it still packed some drama. Rory McIlroy went into Sunday plenty in the mix for a win before bowing out with a Sunday-72. Nick Taylor and Tommy Fleetwood participated in a playoff that took four holes to crown a champion. Taylor sank a 72-foot putt making him the first Canadian to win the title in 69 years.
NICK TAYLOR WITH A 72-FEET PUTT FOR THE WIN 😱
— Bleacher Report (@BleacherReport) June 11, 2023
The first two major champions this season have been Jon Rahm and Brooks Koepka. Major championships are set up to weed out the players who aren’t quite up to snuff. Rahm and Koepka certainly are two of the more dominant players of the past decade. They are fitting major champions.
With major championship number three on our hands, I’ll take a look at three guys I believe are the most primed to win this weekend and add their name to the list of 2023 major champions.
2023 U.S. Open: Four Golfers Most Primed To Win
There aren’t many players hotter on TOUR this season then Viktor Hovland. After top-10 finishes in both majors so far, Hovland seems to be blossoming into a big-time player. He went toe-to-toe with the big, bad Brooks Koepka at the PGA before inevitably finishing second. He hung around at The Masters but finished in 7th.
Los Angeles Country Club (LACC) isn’t the type of course where long hitters can just bash the ball around and be successful. The course requires good iron play and accuracy off the tee. Surely, you’ve seen the videos of the daunting rough at LACC this week. You’ve got to stay in the fairway.
Hovland is easily enjoying the best season of his young career. The 25-year old would live nothing more than to win the 2023 U.S. Open and add a major championship to a resume that is ever-growing with his high finishes in tournaments as of late. Hovland won The Memorial Tournament just a few weeks ago and heads into this weekend coming off that result.
If Hovland doesn’t pull of the win, I fully expect another top-10-15 finish.
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With LIV Golf being a laid back-type environment, it was worth asking if a LIV golfer could win a major championship. While Koepka is a bit of an outlier, it seems that question was answered.
Smith dominated the PGA Tour in 2022 before leaving following the season. He enters the 2023 U.S. Open on a fairly hot streak with three-straight top-10’s in LIV events and a T-9 at the PGA Championship. His T-34 at The Masters was a bit less impressive but he still managed to make the cut and play well into the weekend.
Smith’s OWGR is 9th however he doesn’t accrue points because he is on the LIV Tour. His ranking likely would be higher had he been playing on the PGA Tour and consistently gaining points. The form Smith had as he bolted from the PGA Tour last season seems to still be strong.
One of the better putters in the golf world right now, Smith just has to play well tee-to-green and it is likely that he will be a name to follow as we head into the weekend.
It’s quite the cop out to say that the number one player in the world is “primed” to win this weekend. But no list would be complete without Mr. Scheffler.
Scottie Scheffler has a Green Jacket already but that is his lone major despite his run of dominance in the past year and a half. Regardless, Scheffler is one of the premier players the TOUR has seen in a long time.
If you take a quick look at his finishes of late, Scheffler has not finished lower than 12th in any tournament he’s played since October of 2022. He’s made the cut in 18 straight events dating back to August of last year. He is enjoying quite the run.
Scheffler’s 11 top-10’s in his last 18 events is an absurd stat. His putting has been his kryptonite and much of the reason why he can only stake claim to two wins in that time span. Had his putter not failed him, he may have won four or five of those events. That is not an exaggeration.
As he and Rahm continue to battle for the honor of top player in the world, expect Scheffler to again flirt with victory this weekend. If the putter can be even 20% better than he’s been, he might have things rapped up going into the weekend.
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If you are a bettor, you can find Cameron Young anywhere from 40/1 to 50-1 if you shop around. His recent results over his last five events don’t inspire much confidence: 57th, MC, MC, 59th, 51st. That is why his odds are what they are. However, Young is one of those guys who elevate their game for major championships. It would not surprise me if he does this time around.
The 2023 U.S. Open will be Young’s fourth appearance in the major championship. He has missed the cut in the previous three chances. Young even missed the cut at the PGA Championship. All of this leads to a rather ugly track record and you typically don’t win majors if you’re not playing well heading into them. Ask Will Zalatoris how much he feels that matters.
Much like Zalatrois until his long PGA Tour win in 2022, a win eludes Young to this point of his career. However, Young’s major championship track record is impressive. While he’s missed the cut in five of his eight major starts, his other three finishes are T-3, 2nd, and T-7. He finds himself in the thick of things when he’s playing well at a major.
Young is the long shot of the mix but he is a guy that is dangerous when he’s playing well.
And The Winner Will Be…
Scheffler. LACC is not the course for bombers to come out and tear it apart. Precision will be key and Scheffler has been that and more with his irons. His putting woes have plagued him way too often and I have a feeling his putter is ready to break out in a big way.
Scheffler quietly tied Hovland for second at the PGA and also finished in that same spot a year ago in the U.S. Open. In the 2023 iteration of the U.S. Open, I am picking Scottie Scheffler to take home the trophy and add a second leg to the career grand slam.
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