1 of 8 | Defending champion Matt Fitzpatrick practices a shot from a bunker on the 10th hole during a practice round for the 2023 U.S. Open at the Los Angeles Country Club in California on Wednesday. Photo by Mike Goulding/UPI | License Photo
June 15 (UPI) -- World No. 1 Scottie Scheffler, 2023 Masters champion Jon Rahm and red-hot Brooks Koepka are expected to be the top contenders at the 2023 U.S. Open, which tees off Thursday in Los Angeles.
The 123rd edition of the major will run through Sunday on the North Course at the Los Angeles Country Club. Tournament coverage will air on NBC and USA Network and stream on Peacock.
"You are going to need to access every aspect of your game to win a championship like this," Rahm told reporters Tuesday at a news conference.
"It becomes more of a mental factor. You can never really replicate U.S. Open conditions."
The winner of the 72-hole tournament will take home $3.15 million. Forty-nine of the Top-50, 71 of the Top-75 and 77 of the Top-100 golfers are in the 156-player field.
Koepka, ranked No. 13, started the season with a second-place finish at the Masters. He then won the Wanamaker Trophy last month at the PGA Championship. He captured U.S. Open titles in 2017 and 2018.
Rahm (No. 2), who tied for 50th at the PGA Championship, won the 2021 U.S. Open title.
No. 3 Rory McIlroy, No. 4 Patrick Cantlay and No. 5 Viktor Hovland are among the other favorites to win Sunday on the North Course.
No. 6 Xander Schauffele, No. 10 Jordan Spieth, No. 9 Cameron Smith, No. 7 Max Homa, No. 18 Collin Morikawa, No. 8 Matt Fitzpatrick, No. 12 Tony Finau and No. 14 Tyrell Hatton are among other expected contenders.
Fitzpatrick is the defending champion. He edged Scheffler and No. 11 Will Zalatoris by one stroke to win the 2022 U.S. Open.
The course, which sits near the Playboy Mansion between Sunset and Santa Monica boulevards, features a par of 70 -- three par 5s, five par 3s and 10 par 4s.
Many of the players in the field arrived early this week to Los Angles to survey the course because of their lack of experience there.
Scheffler was among the players with the best recall of layout of the 7,421-yard surface.
"I have good memories of this golf course," Scheffler said. "I remembered most of the holes before we showed up this week, that's kind of unusual for me.
"I remember it being pretty challenging. ... It's a pretty hard course. It has a good mix of holes, with some you need to get after and other holes where you are kind of hanging on. You are hitting a lot of different clubs onto greens. It gives you a lot of options. It's a really good test."
Several golfers said the front nine of the North Course should result in lower scores than hole Nos. 10 through 18. Overall unfamiliarity with layouts, deep roughs and deceptive fairways, which are more narrow than they seem, are among other challenges golfers expect to face this week.
Dry and sunny weather forecasted for the area should lead to a firm and fast play, with tee shots going deeper than they would on a wet and slow course.
Outside of course conditions, several groups feature interesting combinations. Koepka of LIV Golf and McIlroy of the PGA Tour will share a group for the first time since the rival leagues announced their agreement to merge. McIlroy continues to be among the most vocal critics of the Saudi-backed series.
"It didn't matter to me," Koepka said of the merger. "I'm just trying to focus on this week. I think that's why I've been really good at majors. I've been able to put it all aside."
Koepka said he is better when competitors are distracted and doesn't expect "much animosity" between LIV and PGA Tour players at the third major of the season.
"The more chaotic things get, the easier it gets for me," Koepka said. "Everything starts to slow down and I'm able to focus on whatever I need to focus on while everybody else is dealing with distractions, worrying about other things. ... I enjoy the chaos."
Amateur Omar Morales, No. 228 Deon Germishuys and No. 737 Jacob Solomon will tee off in the first group of the 2023 U.S. Open at 9:45 a.m. EDT Thursday on the first hole.
Scheffler, Homa and Morikawa will tee off at 11:13 a.m. on the same hole. Rahm, Schauffele and Hovland will tee off at 11:24 a.m. on No. 10 in another first-round threesome.
No. 26 Hideki Matsuyama will tee off with McIlroy and Koepka in the first round at 4:54 p.m. Thursday on hole No. 1. First- and second-round tee times will run through 5:27 p.m. at Los Angeles County Club.
First round coverage from 9:40 a.m. to 1 p.m. on Peacock, 1 to 8 p.m. on USA Network and 8 to 11 p.m. on NBC
Second round coverage from 9:40 a.m. to 1 p.m. and 3 to 8 p.m. on Peacock, 1 to 8 p.m. on USA Network and 8 to 11 p.m. on NBC
Third round coverage from 1 to 11 p.m. on NBC and 3 to 8 p.m. on Peacock
Final round coverage from noon to 1 p.m. and 2 to 7 p.m. on Peacock and 1 to 11 p.m. on NBC