Keytron Jordan, CBS Sports

The talk is over, the predicting has (almost) ceased and the potential event of the year has arrived. The 123rd United States Open begins Thursday at Los Angeles Country Club with Hollywood in the backdrop and stars in the eyes of some of the game's best players.

Early talk this week is that this will be an unusual U.S. Open course. Gone is the thick rough and narrow fairways that so many are so accustomed at this major championship. Replace those features are native areas, landing zones with some real girth and all the approach strategy you can possibly handle.

That's a good thing because it means the one aspect that is not tested enough in championship golf -- the minds of the best players in the world -- will be on full display this week in La La Land.

So, when you consider all of that -- great iron play, nasty short games on tight lies, the wisdom to choose proper routing, and of course, the patience a U.S. Open always requires -- here are the nine players who are most likely to win the third major of 2023.

When you're done, be sure to check out our full slate of U.S. Open expert picks and predictions

2023 U.S. Open predictions, favorites

Odds via Caesars Sportsbook

For as much credit as Brooks Koepka gets for his ability to laser focus on his environment, Scheffler is just as good at it without getting the same acknowledgement. Consider this answer to the PGA Tour-PIF deal from last week: "One of my big things is controlling what I can control, and so when I talk about golf swings, it's mostly that. Like if I hit a really good 7-iron and it doesn't turn out the way I want it to, I did what I could. If I hit a really good putt and it doesn't go in, I did what I could. This is another one of those scenarios where I've been focused on preparing for this week, and that's something that's out of my control." Beyond that compartmentalization, Scheffler is having, truly, one of the great ball-striking seasons in history, and he's playing a golf course that demands such a thing to determine a champion. Heck, Scheffler might win by five. Odds: 6-1
Like Scheffler, he has little company when it comes to focusing on the week of major championships. When asked Tuesday why he's had so much success at the four big ones, he said, "I enjoy the chaos," and proceeded to talk not about winning his sixth major but about getting to 10. I'm going to be thinking about that all week here at LACC. From 2017-21, Koepka lost to four golfers at the U.S. Open. It's a remarkable run that, when combined with his recent PGA Championship victory, means that while he may not be the top favorite at LACC, he may well be the man to beat. Odds: 9-1
Tremendous tee-to-green player? Check. Insane, impossible hands that should be able to handle any and all situations LACC tosses at him? Check. A revamped emotional intelligence that redirects his anger away from his mind and into his game, allowing him to thrive at U.S. Opens? Also check. He's a tinge behind where Scheffler and Koepka are at for me right now, but those two are also on another planet. Rahm thrives at the intersection of creativity and discipline, and that describes this U.S. Open perfectly. Odds: 9-1
The question will come down to whether his short game has improved enough to handle some of the nippy lies he'll face -- the type that make even the most agile hands in the history of the game sweat profusely. Hovland certainly doesn't have the most agile hands even in the game today, but he's largely figured out how to play majors, and his ball-striking is world class right now. Winning will come down to whether he can get up and down from some of LACC's toughest spots. Odds: 12-1
I've talked myself into this one. He finished in the top 10 at Oak Hill during a PGA Champoinship where he should not have thrived. This golf course sets up so much better for him compared to that one, and while his recent history at U.S. Opens is dodgy, this one should be a reprieve from the normal setups that have plagued him. Its wide fairways will receive his sometimes-wild drives, and he'll run laps around folks with his short game and wedge play. Odds: 25-1
He has low-key become a terrific U.S. Open player with top 10s in each of his last four appearances. I'm dubious that his short game is quite tidy enough to win out over the top three in the world right now, but the same could be said of Hovland. McIlroy will score on ball-striking alone, and if the putter gets hot, he could match Koepka with No. 5 in La La Land. Odds: 12-1
Take what I wrote about Smith and just replace the name. One person I was speaking with Tuesday evening noted that LACC is a strange mixture of Merion and Chambers Bay. Spieth has not played the former, but he did all right at the latter. The wrist is seemingly no longer a concern, and he's coming off a T5 at the Memorial where he hit it great. Am I concerned that the course might make him think a little too much? Indeed. But in a matchup where creativity and thoughtfulness should be decisive factors, I am all the way in on Spieth winning his fourth. Odds: 22-1
If he'd put anything together over the last three months, he would probably be my pick. Instead, he comes limping in -- figuratively and possibly literally following a withdrawal at the Memorial because of a back injury -- to a place where he went 4-0-0 at the 2017 Walker Cup. His short game is not up to the level of a Smith or Patrick Reed, but it also might not matter when you hit every approach to 12 feet. He played in the final pairing on Saturday at last year's U.S. Open with nothing close to his best stuff, and if he doesn't win at least one of these by the end of his career, I'll be shocked. Odds: 30-1
U.S. Opens -- and especially this U.S. Open -- should fit his plodding, methodical, precise game better than any other major championship. He has yet to really get himself in a position where winning a major was a likelihood, but if there was ever a time to shed that reputation and enter into a new major era for Cantlay, this would be it. Odds: 16-1

Who will win the U.S. Open, and which longshots will stun the golfing world? Visit SportsLine to see the projected U.S. Open leaderboard, all from the model that's nailed nine golf majors, including this year's Masters.