US Open returns to LA for first time since 1948

The first U.S. Open golf tournament to be played in Los Angeles since 1948 -- and the first golf major in the city since 1995 -- began Thursday at the Los Angeles Country Club.

The U.S. Golf Association -- which conducts the sport's national championships -- had long sought to have a U.S. Open at the country club in Westwood, just west of Beverly Hills, but was rebuffed by the leadership of the club, long known for its privacy.

However, that began to change with a new group of leaders who wanted to show off the restorations to the North Course, where the tournament will be played. In 2009, one year before the restoration was completed, the club agreed to be the site of the 2017 Walker Cup Match, the biennial competition pitting the United States against Great Britain and Ireland.

Years of discussion led to an agreement in 2014 to bring the Open to the club, pending approval by its membership, which it overwhelmingly received. The announcement that the tournament would be played at the Los Angeles Country Club was made in 2015.

"We're in a for a real treat in 2023," then-USGA Executive Director Mike Davis said in announcing the tournament would played in Los Angeles for the first time since 1948, when it was played at the Riviera Country Club in Pacific Palisades.

"It will be a wider U.S. Open -- the course will have generous fairways, and it will be firm and fast. It's going to give the players a lot of options. And it will be great to take the U.S. Open to the second-largest city in the country."

Riviera was also the site of the most recent major tournament to be played in Los Angeles, the 1995 PGA Championship. However, Riviera Country Club's inability to accommodate the corporate hospitality tents that have become a growing feature of major tournaments, and the lack of sufficient nearby parking, have kept it from hosting another major championship since then.

For the 2023 U.S. Open, the corporate hospitality tents will be on the Los Angeles Country Club's South Course.

The tournament will have the "largest hospitality support in USGA history," according to Mike Whan, its CEO.

The Open had set "a new mark for local corporate hospitality" last year when it was played at The Country Club in the Boston suburb of Brookline, "and LACC just doubled that mark," Whan said at a news conference Wednesday.

The $20 million purse is the largest in the tournament's history as is the $3.6 million the winner will receive. The previous highs were $17.5 million and $3.15 million last year.

The field of 156 golfers consists of 67 players who earned their spots through qualifying and 89 who were exempt from qualifying through recent performances in the U.S. Open, other major championships, various other tournaments, and for their play on the PGA, Korn Ferry and DP World tours.

The 123rd U.S. Open began at 6:45 a.m. Omar Morales is part of the threesome that will tee off from the first tee at 6:45 a.m., one day short of two months after concluding his sophomore season at UCLA by winning the El Macero Classic at El Macero Country Club, near Davis.

Morales earned his spot in the U.S. Open by winning the qualifier at Hillcrest Country Club June 5.

"I am so proud of Omar," Bruins coach Armen Kirakossian said June 5. "As a coach, what you want most are for players to improve, accomplish their goals and reach their dreams. Omar certainly accomplished a major goal today. He has made so much progress since the beginning of the year."

Scottie Scheffler, the world's top-ranked men's golfer, played a practice round with Morales on Tuesday.

The Los Angeles Country Club. (Photo by Richard Heathcote/Getty Images) (Getty Images)

"He seemed like he hit it pretty hard and had good hands around greens and hit a lot of different shots, so he seems to me like a pretty talented guy," Scheffler said.

Morales is among 20 amateurs in the field. Four amateurs made the cut in last year's U.S. Open.

Scheffler is the 6-1 favorite, while Spaniard Jon Rahm is the second choice at 10-1, according to BetMGM, an official betting operator of the PGA Tour.

Englishman Mark Fitzpatrick is the reigning champion and will try to join Brooks Koepka, the 2017 and 2018 champion, as the only players since 1990 to win back-to-back U.S. Opens. Only seven players have won the U.S. Open in consecutive years.

Dan Hicks, who will be NBC's lead play-by-play broadcaster for the tournament, said the North Course, "represents a totally different feel than the rotation of all the U.S. Open courses."

"Not knocking a great, great rotation of U.S. Open courses, which everybody is familiar with, but this is different," Hicks said on a conference call last week. "It's got so much going on. Smack dab in the middle of the city, Beverly Hills, and I just think it's going to really translate incredibly well on television."