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2023 U.S. Open Picks, Predictions: Seven Trends to Determine This Year’s Champion at Los Angeles Country Club

It’s 2023 U.S. Open week with Los Angeles Country Club welcoming the third major championship of the year Monday. What is already a significant event has quickly become one of the most anticipated championships in recent memory due to the introduction of a new venue, the rise of superstars like Brooks Koepka, Jon Rahm and Scottie Scheffler and the return home for fan favorites Max Homa and Collin Morikawa.

Oh, yeah, and the whole landscape of professional golf got flipped on its head last week leaving plenty of drama in its wake.

The stars will be out in the shadows of the Hollywood hills, but will they be shining?

While some roll into Los Angeles with the roof down, hands up and shouting from the top of their lungs that they are among the biggest and baddest in the game, some of your other regulars may be searching for something — an unenviable task the week of a major championship, nevertheless the U.S. Open. Here’s what the folks over at Caesars Sportsbook have to say regarding U.S. Open odds for the majority of the field.

We’re here to help you parse through the noise, and trust us, there has been plenty of that in the world of golf. Our trends picked up on Rahm claiming the green jacket at Augusta National just a few months ago at the 2023 Masters. Lack of statistical data from LIV Golf hindered our abilities at the 2023 PGA Championship when Koepka reigned supreme for his fifth major triumph. 

With all that in mind, let’s take a look back at the 10 most recent winners of the U.S. Open and identify what trends exist as we attempt to whittle down the field of 156 players to pinpoint this year’s champion at the 123rd U.S. Open. Don’t miss our CBS Sports expert picks and predictions for the 2023 U.S. Open.

1. Official World Golf Rankings

The discourse around the OWGR has cooled to a simmer, but the rankings remain relevant. Six of the last 10 winners were inside the top 10 of the OWGR the week leading up their victories with all 10 checking inside the top 30. Martin Kaymer was the low man on this totem pole as he was world No. 28 at the time of his historic blowout win at Pinehurst No. 2. Given LIV Golf’s status with the OWGR, let’s operate with some wiggle room and push that out to top 50 in order to appease the masses.

Eliminated: Those outside the top 50 of the OWGR, notably Mito Pereira, Gary Woodland, Phil Mickelson, Dustin Johnson, Abraham Ancer, Matt Kuchar, Sergio Garcia

2. Course may change, stakes do not

The U.S. Open is tough. It takes a special type of sicko to relish in 72 holes of torture and ultimately outlast the rest of the field. While those who qualified for the championship through sectionals make for a nice story, they won’t be sniffing the winner’s circle (Lucas Glover was the last one to go through qualifying and win in 2009). In fact, the 10 most recent champions had previously clocked a top-25 finish in this championship before their victory with Koepka being the only previous champion to raise the trophy again.

Eliminated: Max Homa, Sam Burns, Cameron Young, Kurt Kitayama, Sahith Theegala, Corey Conners, Wyndham Clark, Sepp Straka, Tom Hoge, Chris Kirk, Ryan Fox, Emiliano Grillo, K.H. Lee, Adrian Meronk, Taylor Moore, Nick Taylor

3. What have you done for me lately?

Matt Fitzpatrick parlayed a T10 finish the week prior into his breakthrough win at The Country Club at Brookline. That was not his only good start of the season up to that point as he finished runner up at the Wells Fargo Championship. The Englishman continued a trend that has seen the 10 champions post at least one podium finish in the calendar year ahead of the U.S. Open. For the sake of argument, we are counting Rahm’s performance at the 2021 Memorial where he was forced to withdraw after 54 holes with a six-stroke lead.

Eliminated: Justin Thomas, Tom Kim, Hideki Matsuyama, Shane Lowry, Russell Henley, Joaquin Niemann, Adam Scott, Billy Horschel, Brian Harman, Rickie Fowler, Seamus Power

4. Major-championship pedigree

Players don’t just luck into a major championship. They will often build up to it and develop some scar tissue along the way. Fitzpatrick was a member of the final pair at the 2022 PGA Championship and endured a dreadful final round at Southern Hills. As we know, he bounced back at the very next major championship. All 10 champions had at least one top-10 finish in a major championship with Koepka, Kaymer and Jordan Spieth having been previous major champs.

Eliminated: Si Woo Kim

5. Let’s get technical

Comparing finishing positions between LIV Golf, the DP World Tour and the PGA Tour is tough enough, so let’s dive into some strokes-gained statistics. (It should be noted this comes before the conclusion of the Canadian Open where a number of players may improve their standings). The last 10 champions averaged +1.92 strokes gained per round the three months prior to winning the U.S. Open. On the high end, this includes Spieth (+2.80), Johnson (+2.55), Rahm (+2.55), and Koepka (+2.02) with Woodland bringing up the rear with (+0.75). We’ll be using that +1.92 figure as the cut-off point.

Eliminated: Matt Fitzpatrick, Cameron Smith, Tony Finau, Collin Morikawa, Sungjae Im, Jason Day, Tommy Fleetwood, Keegan Bradley, Justin Rose, Corey Conners, Denny McCarthy, Harris English, Patrick Reed

… and just like that, we are down to nine players … 

6. Speak softly and carry a big stick

LACC is more forgiving off the tee than previous U.S. Open sites, but it remains true that one must be able to wield the big stick in an effective manner. Off-the-tee numbers for the last 10 U.S. Open winners back up this sentiment as Rahm was averaging +1.30 strokes gained off the tee in the three months prior, Johnson +1.27 and Bryson DeChambeau +1.16. Koepka was at +0.47 in 2017 ahead of Erin Hills (another forgiving venue) and helps bring down the average to +0.89.

Eliminated: Jon Rahm, Xander Schauffele, Jordan Spieth, Tyrrell Hatton

7. Iron it out

The driver may take precedent, but iron play is still key to rare scoring opportunities and salvaging par when out of position. Oddly enough, both Koepka in 2018 and DeChambeau in 2020 had negative strokes gained approach numbers leading into their wins, but the oddities stop there. Rose and Spieth both clocked in over a full stroke gained per round with the irons and bring the mean to +0.48. Rory McIlroy falls decimal points short of this mark despite some improvement with his wedge play in Canada.

Eliminated: Rory McIlroy

That whittles us down to …

four golfers from a field of 156: Scottie Scheffler, Patrick Cantlay, Viktor Hovland and Brooks Koepka. These names should not come as a surprise as the first three are inside the top five of the OWGR and Koepka is close behind with far less opportunities to garner points, but they are not without their flaws.

If we were to factor around-the-green numbers, both Cantlay and Hovland would come up short of the 10-year average. Scheffler can’t putt, and Koepka hasn’t played in a few weeks (he played the week immediately before all five of his major wins). If the world No. 1 putts, he should win, but that is a big if.

Source : CBS