2023 U.S. Open Picks: Ranking the Top-25 Players at LACC, Including Jordan Spieth & Scottie Scheffler

2023 U.S. Open Picks: Ranking the Top-25 Players at LACC, Including Jordan Spieth & Scottie Scheffler article feature image

Via Andy Lyons/Getty Images. Pictured: Jordan Spieth of the United States hits a tee shot on the second hole during the third round of the Memorial Tournament presented by Workday at Muirfield Village Golf Club on June 03, 2023 in Dublin, Ohio.

LOS ANGELES – I know I’ve written similar words twice already this year, and I’ll almost assuredly do it again next month, but the narrative remains: It’s really difficult to rank the top players entering a major championship.

Now, I get it. Difficult is a relative term, and while I realize there might be tougher jobs out there somewhere, I certainly don’t want to know about ‘em.

Sure, you might be trying to cure cancer or launch rockets into outer space, but that’s nothing compared to predicting a result for the inconsistent Rory McIlroy on a course most players have never seen before.

In all seriousness, I’ve been doing this a long time and think it’s gotten progressively harder over the years. There are probably some 20-25 “elite-level” players out there. You certainly don’t want to go full-chalk, but for every longshot/sleeper who climbs into the upper echelon of a pre-tourney ranking, it knocks another superstar down to a number where he seems way too low.

That’s the case again for this week’s 123rd U.S. Open Championship – I’ll readily admit it.

In lieu of simply ordering the best players, an exercise in redundancy which doesn’t help anyone, I’ve included some lesser-known players below, which in turn makes some of the bigger names totally undervalued.

My usual response to this? I can’t jam 25 players into a top 10 or 50 of ‘em into a top 20, so this is bound to happen. Oh, and a not-so-subtle reminder: There’s literally never been a major in which the leaderboard was straight chalk, so there have gotta be some surprises anyway.

And with that, let’s get on with it…

1. Cameron Smith (+3000)

At first blush, Los Angeles Country Club (North) is going to require creativity perhaps more than power off the tee, precise iron play or any other skill. Cameron Smith might be the game’s preeminent artist, as evidenced by such plays as last year’s up-and-down on the 17th hole at the Old Course on his way to The Open Championship victory. This feels like the perfect match of course and player.

2. Jordan Spieth (+2500)

Instead of Smith-Spieth being ranked 1-2 on this list, they’re more of a 1A-1B – and for very similar reasons. I’d expect the full Jordan Spieth experience to be on display this week, rescuing pars from the jaws of double-bogey early and often. That’s the kind of stuff that wins an old-school U.S. Open.

3. Scottie Scheffler (+700)

At some point in the distant future, maybe before they play the U.S. Open on the moon, the powers-that-be at the USGA might indulge the masses and bring it to a TopGolf, whereupon Scottie Scheffler will win by 10,000 points, hitting target after target with ease. This week, though, he’ll still have to putt.

4. Patrick Cantlay (+1400)

With four consecutive major championship results inside the top 14, Patrick Cantlay is consistently knocking on the door without ever just pushing his way through, as a T3 at the 2019 PGA Championship remains his lone result better than eighth place in 25 career starts. Here’s betting he’ll add a second top-eight result to that profile in familiar surroundings.

5. Brooks Koepka (+1100)

Even if he hasn’t finished celebrating last month’s major victory, we should know better: This is another major, and no matter what, Brooks Koepka shows up for these things and plays better than almost everyone else, almost every time. He’s the only guy who could be ranked fifth and rightfully take it as an insult.

6. Tony Finau (+4000)

Six months ago, before we learned more about LACC and believed that much like other editions of the U.S. Open, raw power and speed could win this one, Tony Finau was my play. Nonetheless, I still think he fares well, though – and this major suits him best of the four.

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7. Xander Schauffele (+2000)

There are few players as well rounded as Xander Schauffele, who currently ranks 38th in Strokes Gained: Off the Tee, sixth on Approach and 12th in putting. That’s the type of game that wins major championships, and based on his 10 top 10s in 24 career starts at these events, that win is going to come at some point in the not-to-distant future.

8. Patrick Reed (+8000)

We’ve learned two things about the LIV Golf defectors in the year’s first two major championships: 1) Those who were elite-level players when they left are still elite-level players; and 2) Recent form in that league doesn’t necessarily translate to the bigger stage. With a pair of top 20s already in majors this year, Patrick Reed has the short game to contend here.

9. Jon Rahm (+1000)

Remember that whole part in the intro about how this type of ranking being a numbers game and how some players are going to appear woefully mis-ranked and how such a ranking can make us look foolish by week’s end? Yeah, well… here’s your Exhibit 1A.

10. Ryan Fox (+13000)

This is like when an NFL team reaches for a third-round projection in the middle of the first round and all of the pundits are like, “Whoaaaa!” and then the guy turns out to be a very functional, key player for a long time. Picture me wagging my Ben Crenshaw finger because I have a good feeling about Ryan Fox.

11. Rory McIlroy (+1500)

Look, if you have a better clue as to where to put one of the world’s most talented players, one who’s played as if he wants no part of winning a title on the past two Sundays, lemme hear about it. That said, my buddy Colt Knost spoke not very subtly on CBS this weekend about how excited Rory is to compete at LACC. Just when you thought you were out, he pulls you back in.

12. Justin Thomas (+5000)

The bigger JT’s price keeps getting, the more I like him. As of the time I’m writing this, he can be found in some books with a bigger number than the likes of Hideki Matsuyama, Bryson DeChambeau and Tommy Fleetwood. For a guy who likes to play with a chip on his shoulder, this should be some serious refrigerator material.

13. Viktor Hovland (+1800) and Tyrrell Hatton (+3000)

Long ago, in the early days of my career, I produced Chris Berman’s Two-Minute Drill for ESPN. Once asked why the segment lasted so much longer than two minutes, Boomer declared, “We’ve got a lot of timeouts.”

Taking a cue from my pal, I plan on squeezing 33 players into my top 25. Hey, you get more ranked players, and I get to hedge. Sounds like a win-win.

15. Collin Morikawa (+3000)

Much like Spieth prior to last month’s PGA Championship, this is a ranking which could fluctuate over the next 48 hours. That’s because two weeks ago, Morikawa was two strokes off the lead entering the final round of the Memorial Tournament, only to WD due to back spasms. If we hear him say he’s fully healthy, I like the play; if there’s even a little trepidation, cross his name off the list.

16. Adam Scott (+7500)

Riddle me this: One of the game’s premier iron players of the past two decades is currently hitting his driver, wedges and, yes, even his putter extremely well this season, but he's struggling a bit with the approach game. If the irons are on this week, though, he can contend.

17. Si Woo Kim (+8000)

Once an all-or-nothing proposition with a massive-yet-elusive ceiling and bottomless floor, Si Woo Kim has turned himself into not just a consistent player, but one who consistently plays at a high-level, with three top-seven finishes in his last six starts.

18. Max Homa (+3000)

After winning the Farmers Insurance Open earlier this year – a fourth victory in his home state of California – Homa might’ve been the most public major play since Matt Fitzpatrick returning to his U.S. Amateur roots at last year’s U.S. Open. The man with the course record here from his college days a decade ago still has yet to bring his best stuff to a major.

19. Matt Fitzpatrick (+3500) and Dustin Johnson (+3500)

The defending champion and a former champion should each find their names on the leaderboard at times, though recent play suggests neither is quite where he needs to be right now.

21. Tommy Fleetwood (+4000)

A playoff loss at the RBC Canadian Open this past weekend either underscores the fact that he’s coming dangerously close to his first career PGA Tour win, or that he’s snakebitten and can’t get across that finish line, even if it takes a 72-foot eagle putt to keep him from there.

22. Rickie Fowler (+6000), Sahith Theegala (+11000), Andrew Putnam (+20000) and Justin Suh (+25000)

The West Coast is the best coast for all four of these guys, each of whom has played solid golf in the Pacific Time Zone to varying degrees of success.

26. Jason Day (+5000)

There’s always reason to be wary of little injuries and illnesses for Jason Day, but the fact remains that he’s playing some of his best golf since he was ranked among the world’s best players. Already with a win under his belt at the AT&T Byron Nelson, that might’ve been the stepping stone he needed to get back to winning yet another major title.

27. Sungjae Im (+5000) and Shane Lowry (+6000)

There remain suggestions that this week’s leaderboard could turn into a “SG: Around the Green” narrative, as short game could make all the difference. Im and Lowry are a pair of guys with great hands and deft touch on such plays.

29. Wyndham Clark (+6500), Eric Cole (+25000), Brian Harman (+25000) and Mackenzie Hughes (+35000)

Whether you’re making some prop bets, need some DFS lineup-fillers or are trying to fill out the office pool, each of these guys owns some value a bit further down the board.

33. Victor Perez (+20000)

At last month’s PGA Championship, Cameron Smith owned the second-best putting performance. The best? You guessed it, that would be Victor Perez, who owns a strong long- and mid-iron game, as well. Put ‘em together, and he could find himself on this week’s board.

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