Will the 2023 Majors be a US-free zone?

Every right-thinking European would luv it, absolutely luv it if the mighty Americans rolled up in Rome for the Ryder Cup with their tails between their legs, not having won one 2023 Major between them. And it might just happen…

In 54 years of golf tipping, I’ve never given all four winners in the one year, not even in 2000 when Tiger Woods won three of them. There’s always a first time (or is there?) and at Fitzdares’ current odds the acca alone of this year’s all-non-American attempt works out at a tidy 58,623/1 give or take 50p — but more realistically achievable with seven places on offer is the each-way part of the Lucky 15.

So we’ll set off on Mission Impossible and shoot for the stars with Jon Rahn at 10/1 for the Masters, Cameron Smith at 18/1 for the USPGA, Tom Kim at 33/1 for the US Open and Rory McIlroy at 17/2 to repeat his 2014 Open Championship at Royal Liverpool, more colloquially known as Hoylake.

These may not be my picks when they come around as much will depend on a player’s current form, be it April or July. Nobody, not even the greats, can be at their peak for four months as has been demonstrated down the years. The same-year Grand Slam has never been achieved although Tiger did win four in a row, the last three in 2000 and the 2001 Masters. Close but no cigar!

So here, Major by Major, are brief reasons for my choices and for those who like multiple-bet cross-doubles and trebles I’ve given an alternate pick.

THE MASTERS, April 6th-9th, Augusta National Golf Club

World No. 1 McIlroy has to be favourite but carries too much Augusta baggage for my liking. Desperate to join the elite group who have won all four Majors, he has often tried TOO hard. Last year’s 2nd was the closest he’s got but even a closing 64 could never make up the ground lost by a poor start.

Laid-back Scottie Scheffler will be hard to dethrone but the spring magic deserted him later in the year and it’s always hard to defend, so this could be Rahm’s turn. He finished 2022 like a (non-striking) express train, winning the DP World Tour Championship and recording trans-tours form figures of 5-8-15-2-1-4-1-8 for his last eight starts before coming from behind to win in Hawaii to kick off 2023.

Four Masters top-tens from six attempts confirm it’s a good course for him and those mid-term putting woes seem a distant memory. Rory to be second again!

Winner: Rahm. 2nd best: McIlroy

USPGA CHAMPIONSHIP, May 18th-21st, Oak Hill Golf Club

Justin Thomas defends his PGA title at Oak Hill in way-upstate New York, not far from the Canadian border, where Europe won the 1995 Ryder Cup. The two most recent PGA winners there, Shaun Micheel (2003) and Jason Dufner (2013), were boring plodders. So were the runners-up Chad Campbell and Jim Furyk. Collin Morikawa, Viktor Hovland, Tommy Fleetwood or Matt Fitzpatrick might be a good call. With his short-game wizardry, Cammie Smith is far from boring but he’s in the same unflashy mould and could be the first LIV defector to win a Major… if he’s allowed to.

Winner: Smith. 2nd best: Hovland

US OPEN, June 15th-18th, Los Angeles Country Club

The most difficult of the four to predict as it goes to the Los Angeles Country Club which hasn’t hosted a tour event since 1940. Fitzpatrick defends on the North course, noted for its strong par threes and some spectacular holes around the turn. It will be a level playing field as nobody will have played it in competition and tarted up to US Open standards. That should help the hottest new kid on the block Tom Kim, the first player since Woods to win twice on the PGA Tour before reaching 21. Only 148th on the long-driving league, the ebullient Thomas The Tank Engine fan will be pleased to find the 7200-yard course perfect for his more subtle skills.

Will Zalatoris, so unlucky in two Majors last year, looks a solid alternative but has a history of back trouble so backing him long-range involves risk.

Winner: Tom Kim. 2nd best: Zalatoris

THE OPEN, July 20-23, Royal Liverpool Golf Club

Staying out of the steeply revetted bunkers is a key element at scoring well at Hoylake which looks easy but isn’t. Nobody broke 70 in an Open there until Roberto De Vicenzo in 1967 and Rory’s three rounds of 67 or better in 2014 was golf of the highest quality. Happily he’s back at that level again, confidence high, putting ultra-reliable, and will surely end his nine-year Majors drought. It’s pretty much a home game for Fleetwood who could make it a European 1-2.

Winner: McIlroy. 2nd best: Fleetwood

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