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California connection could add drama to the U.S. Open

In the heart of Hollywood, a golf tournament is taking place, will anyone care?

We’ll find that out on Sunday when the 2023 U.S. Open is over at the Los Angeles Country Club, where the 128-year-old event is taking place. This is the first time the LACC is hosting a PGA Tour major. The last time the U.S. Open took place at the LACC was in 1940.

So this year’s U.S. Open is historic, and with most of the major professional sports in L.A. over for the season, there is the potential the local sports community will take notice.

I think the key to it will be if a player from the L.A-area or some part of California is in contention. I just don’t think two-time winner Brooks Koepka (Srixon Z-Star Diamond), who won the recent PGA Championship, will have the same impact, nor world number-one ranked Scottie Scheffler (Titleist Pro V1), No. 2 Jon Rahm (Callaway Chrome Soft X) or No. 3, uber-popular Rory McIlroy (TaylorMade TP5x) will really resonate with a win. For golf, yes, it will be a story, but for geographical reasons it won’t.

Consider what happened last week when Canadian Nick Taylor (Titleist Pro V1x) won the RBC Canadian Open. It ended a winless drought of 69 years for a Canadian in its national open and created news from coast to coast, albeit that he did with a walkoff 72-foot eagle. It has been talked about as being one of the biggest moments in Canadian sports history.

So that’s why it will be interesting to see how the California Connections fares. It certainly started off strongly with San Diego native Xander Schauffele (Callaway Chrome Soft X) and Murietta native Rickie Fowler both providing a California narrative on opening day. Both shot eight-under par 62, the lowest scores in U.S. Open history.

This has been a comeback year for Fowler, who entered the U.S. Open having made the cut in 15 of 17 tournaments and six top-10 finishes, including second in the ZOZO CHAMPIONSHIP.

Fowler had a practice round with Michael Brennan, a junior at Wake Foster, who back in 2011 dressed as Fowler in his orange colors of his alma mater Oklahoma State University for Halloween. Fowler met the youngster then and told him they would play a practice round in the 2025 U.S. Open. Well, it happened two years earlier. Brennan, who made an incredible shot from the bunker to qualify for the tournament and then had an early birdie early in his round, finished the opening round at four-over par and will need an exceptional round to make the cut.

Schauffele, ranked sixth in the world, tied Fowler’s record 22 minutes later. Schauffele has not missed a cut in 15 tournaments this year but has not won, either.

Frankly, the fact both recorded such a high score is really an aberration for the U.S. Open, which traditionally has had tricky courses that have come under criticism from players.

Some of the other California connections include: Phil Mickelson (Callaway Chrome Soft X), Max Homa (Titleist Pro V1), Collin Morikawa (TaylorMade TP5x), Patrick Cantlay (Titleist Pro V1x), Sahith Theegala (Titleist Pro V1) and Brandon Wu (Titleist Pro V1x).

Mickelson, who has traditionally been one of the biggest critics of how the United States Golf Association sets up the U.S. Open courses, finished the day one-under par. Mickelson, now playing on the LIV Golf Tour, provides excitement and controversy in so many ways. If he was to prevail in the U.S. Open, that would be huge. The U.S. Open is the only major he hasn’t won.

Homa probably fits the California story line more than any other player. He knows the course, having set a record 61 in 2013 on the par-70 course while at the University of California, Berkeley and winning the PAC-12 Championship.

The course is less than 20 miles from where he was born and raised. Four of his six PGA wins have happened in California.

“Geeked to be heading back home to LA today to play in the US Open,” he posted on his Twitter account early in the week. “What a dream. Can’t wait to see everyone out there.”

In a story posted on GolfDigest, Homa said: “To have a major (win) in my hometown, I think that’s a dream come true.”

Homa fired a two-under par, the same as Wu.

Morikawa and Cantlay each shot one-over par.

Theegala shot a four-over par. He has made 20 of 21 cuts this season.


Perry Lefko
Perry Lefko
Perry Lefko is an award-winning writer who has published nine books, three of them bestsellers. He has been involved in sports writing for more than 35 years and has interviewed many superstar athletes. He lives in Mississauga, Ontario, Canada and enjoys watching golf and playing it.

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