U.S. Open 2017 picks: Forget the favorites, these five sleepers could win at Erin Hills
Jason Dufner, Brandt Snedeker and Billy Horschel are all worth a second look at the 117th U.S. Open
ERIN, Wis. -- Anybody can pick Rory McIlroy or Dustin Johnson to win the U.S. Open (in fact, I'm officially taking the latter to repeat), but what about some under-the-radar names who could mix it up with the big boys? I'm not talking about the guys who got through local and sectional qualifying and have no chance of actually winning the tournament. I'm talking about good players playing great golf who have a real shot of winning their first (or second or third) major championship.
After looking at the last few U.S. Opens and the recent state of the PGA and European Tours, there are a few names that stood out to me who could raise the trophy on Sunday evening at Erin Hills.
1. Jason Dufner (50/1): The Duf is being overlooked this week. He's one of just three guys to finish top 10 in each of the last three U.S. Opens (Jason Day, Dustin Johnson) and is coming off a win at the Memorial Tournament a few weeks ago. As long as he doesn't putt himself out of it on Thursday and Friday, I could see Dufner mixing it up over the final 36 holes.
When he's really locked in with his irons, there's nobody better. After walking the course here, it seems like there will be innumerable opportunities to hit all manner of blind shots and work the ball both ways, both of which Dufner is great at.
2. Tyrrell Hatton (100/1): My pal Andy Johnson, who runs The Fried Egg, thinks the winner this week could be a golfer who gains a lot of strokes off the tee but isn't super long. The reason? This course is lengthy, but it doesn't play as long as it should because there are a lot of downhill slopes off the tee. Also, it has massively wide fairways that straight hitters are not going to miss. At normal U.S. Opens, even the straightest guys miss fairways because they're like two club lengths wide. Here, that won't be the case, but some of the big boppers will still miss them.
Enter Tyrrell Hatton, who is in the top 25 in strokes gained off the tee but is fairly short at 289 yards with his driver. That tells me he's been super straight and will probably hit most fairways on most days. Combine that with his two top 10s in his last three majors, and it seems like there could be something brewing there. Also of note: He's No. 1 on the PGA Tour in strokes gained putting.
3. Brandt Snedeker (100/1): The same general theory with Hatton applies here with Snedeker. Toss in the fact that Snedeker has three top 20s in the last four years, and it's easy to see him contending, even at a big ballpark like Erin Hills. The one disconcerting thing about Sneds is that he's been nursing a wrist injury and had to miss The Players Championship because of it.
4. Billy Horschel (80/1): If Horschel wins a major, it will be the U.S. Open. He hit the ball maybe as well as he ever has a few years ago when he finished top 10 at Merion at the 2013 U.S. Open, and his game is currently sharp after a win at the AT&T Byron Nelson. I'm in love with the number (80-1) and think if he gets hot, you could see him as a national champion. He's finished in the top 35 at this tournament each of the last four years.
5. Jordan Niebrugge (250/1): The former Oklahoma State Cowboy. He finished in the top 10 as an amateur at The Open Championship a few years ago, is from Wisconsin and is playing some terrific golf (he has just one round over par in his first two starts on the Mackenzie Tour). Maybe I'm overplaying the whole "he's from Wisconsin and knows the course!" thing, but Niebrugge himself said recently that he thinks he has a huge advantage from knowing what spots to play from and where to miss. I'll take him all day at 250-1.
Who will win the 2017 U.S. Open? And what massive long shot stuns the golfing world? Visit SportsLine now to see the full U.S. Open leaderboard from the model that nailed the Masters and find out.
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