Sam Torrance previews this week’s US Open at Los Angeles Country Club, where he says Brooks Koepka is the man to beat ahead of Jon Rahm and Scottie Scheffler.
After a week in which the headlines have been dominated by a possible deal between the PGA Tour and LIV Golf, it’s time for the golf to take centre stage again at the US Open.
The year’s third major is being held at Los Angeles Country Club for the first time, so there is virtually nothing in the way of past form at the course to use as a guide this week.
But it shares a designer with Riviera Country Club, which has been a fixture on the PGA Tour for half a century, so that may offer a few pointers.
Like all designers, George C Thomas Jr will have certain traits that mean that if you like one of his courses, you’ll probably get on well at his others.
For that reason, Jon Rahm may fancy his chances at LACC. One of the Spaniard’s three wins so far this year came at Riviera in the Genesis Invitational.
Rahm seems to like Californian courses, which tend to have the same type of grass, having won five times in the Golden State, including the 2021 US Open at Torrey Pines in San Diego.
The world No2’s recent form has not been fantastic – he was tied for 50th at the US PGA Championship last month – but you can’t ignore him based on that history on the West Coast.
Rory McIlroy, the 2011 winner, arrives in LA off the back of falling narrowly short of a third consecutive win at the Canadian Open on Sunday.
He recovered from a bad start to his final round to post a 72 and finish tied for ninth – his third top-10 finish in his last three events.
After emerging as one of the most vocal critics of LIV Golf, who knows how Rory must be feeling at the moment given the events of the last few days.
Twelve months ago Matt Fitzpatrick completed a fairytale triumph to win his first major, and it is often said that winning the second is an even bigger hurdle to get over.
The defending champion has added length to his game; now it is about controlling it, and it may be that those changes have taken a toll on his swing.
But no one works harder than the Englishman and his win at the RBC Heritage two months ago shows that is getting there. I’m sure we’ll see a good performance from him this week.
World No1 Scottie Scheffler is the bookies’ favourite, not least because he has achieved top-12 finishes in all of his last 16 tournaments, including tied for second at last month’s US PGA.
It’s also because the US Open is not a putting contest; it’s about hitting greens in regulation, and there are few better than Scheffler at that.
If that wasn’t enough, he is also one of the few with competitive experience at LACC, having helped the US team win the Walker Cup here in 2017.
Rahm and Rory aside, Europe’s best challenge might come from Viktor Hovland, who followed his runner-up finish at the US PGA by winning the Memorial Tournament this month.
England’s Tyrrell Hatton is also showing great form, having taken his tally of top-10 finishes this year to seven at the Canadian Open.
Why Brooks Koepka is the man to beat at the US Open
But the man who I think they will all have to beat is two-time winner Brooks Koepka. He was outside the top 50 last year, but his four US Open finishes prior to that read T4-2-1-1.
Koepka was so focused in winning the US PGA last month and was tied for second behind Rahm at at the Masters. He’ll be desperate to get out there and compete again.
Two other Americans with form at LACC are Collin Morikawa, who won four points out of four at that Walker Cup, and Max Homa, who won a college event there 10 years ago.
It’d be nice to see the real Cameron Smith again this week. The Australian was magnificent in winning the Open Championship last year.
Of the four majors, form tends to count for most at the US Open, with its premium on hitting fairways and greens, and that could be good news for English pair Tommy Fleetwood and Justin Rose.
The last three holes at LACC are extremely tough, so that could make for a Hollywood finish if someone comes out of the pack and posts a low score to pile the pressure on the leaders.
Sam Torrance OBE is a former Ryder Cup-winning captain and one of Europe’s most successful golfers. Follow him @torrancesam