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Opinion & Analysis

2017 U.S. Open: Odds, Picks, and Prop Bets



The year’s second major has arrived as the world’s best players head to Wisconsin for the U.S. Open. It will certainly be a week of excitement (and plenty of complaining about the rough). The field is as strong as we’ll see all year; 58 of the world’s top-60 players are teeing it up this week including Dustin Johnson, Rory McIlroy, and Jordan Spieth, as well as 14 amateurs.

The storylines at Erin Hills are endless, but most headlines will surround Johnson’s first major start of 2017 (and first as a father of two) and the potential absence of Phil Mickelson. Johnson looks to become the first back-to-back U.S. Open winner since Curtis Strange in 1989, while Mickelson is in search of his first U.S. Open victory. But, as I’m sure you’ve heard, Mickelson plans to attend his daughter’s graduation in San Diego on Thursday and will need a lengthy weather delay to make his tee time.

  • Tournament Record: 268 by Rory McIlroy in 2011
  • 18-Hole Record: 63 shared by Johnny Miller (1973), Tom Weiskopf (1980), Jack Nicklaus (1980), and Vijay Singh (2003).

The Course

Erin Hills will play host to the U.S. Open for the first time this year, but the course is no stranger to holding prestigious events. It was the site of the 2008 U.S. Women’s Public Links and 2011 U.S. Amateur. The par-72 course will be the second-longest track in tournament history, just a few yards behind Chambers Bay, playing at 7,693 yards. It features treacherous rough and fescue, which players have already criticized, and difficult bunkers.


The tee ball will be a major factor this week. Luckily the fairways are relatively generous for a U.S. Open, but any miss will be severely penalized; if the players are lucky enough to find their ball in the fescue, the best they can hope for is to take their medicine and punch out.

The opening and closing holes, both par 5s, are the ones to watch this week. No. 1 plays at just over 600 yards, but it can be reached by much of the field and is a real scoring chance. Depending on the wind, anything worse than birdie could be giving a shot back to the field. No. 18, on the other hand, is a rarity on the PGA Tour; a true three-shot hole. At 663 yards, it’s out of reach for even the longest hitters. I wouldn’t be shocked, however, to see some ill-advised attempts to get there in two; especially for players right on the cut line or those in need of an eagle late on Sunday.


Dustin Johnson is the 2017 U.S. Open favorite.

Dustin Johnson is the 2017 U.S. Open favorite.

Past champs in the field

  • Ernie Els +30000
  • Jim Furyk +25000
  • Angel Cabrera +40000
  • Lucas Glover +15000
  • Graeme McDowell +15000
  • Rory McIlroy +1200
  • Webb Simpson +17500
  • Justin Rose +2200
  • Martin Kaymer +6600
  • Jordan Spieth +1200
  • Dustin Johnson +750


  • Dustin Johnson +750
  • Jordan Spieth +1200
  • Rory McIlroy +1200
  • Jason Day +1200
  • John Rahm +2000
  • Rickie Fowler +2000
  • Justin Rose +2200
  • Sergio Garcia +2200
  • Hideki Matsuyama +2800


The Memorial Tournament Presented By Nationwide - Final Round

2015 U.S. Open Champion Jordan Spieth is my pick to win.

My Pick – It’s hard to do, but I’m not taking DJ this week. His MC at Memorial put a little scare into me, and I have a bad feeling he’s going to slump for a few weeks. With that said, I’m going with 2015 U.S. Open Champion Jordan Spieth (+1200). Spieth usually gets into some trouble off the tee, but the generous fairways should bail him out on a few occasions and his putter has been much better over his last few starts. If he can sink a few putts early on, I wouldn’t be shocked to see him get hot. On top of that, Spieth has one more advantage over the field; he competed in the 2011 U.S. Amateur at Erin Hills.

Value Pick – I’m going with Justin Rose this week at +2200. Generally, I’d go deeper down the odds list for this pick, but I don’t think Rose is getting the respect he deserves with these odds. Rose is a former U.S. Open Champion, so we know he can handle the pressure and he’s played great golf this season, most notably reaching a playoff at the Masters. The biggest knock against him is that he hasn’t won in a couple years, but that just tells me that he’s due for a W.

Long Shot – Thomas Pieters at +4000 is my long shot pick this week. This will be Pieters’ first start at a U.S. Open, but he proved his lack of experience is anything but an issue with a great performance at the Masters. He’s one of a few players who’s both long off the tee and a great putter (he averages 309.3 yards off the tee and ranks No. 11 in putt per round on the European Tour).


Dustin Johnson & Jordan Spieth (+450) vs. the Field (-750): I’ll take these odds all day. Spieth is my pick to win, and DJ is the odds-on favorite. This is the U.S. Open, so anybody can win, but I’ll take my chances on this one.

Wire-to-Wire winner – Yes (+500): I’m going with “yes” here. It doesn’t happen often, but I have a feeling someone is going to get hot out of the gate and stick with it all four days. The wider fairways give some leeway off the tee, so the nerves of leading a major might be a little more subdued than a typical U.S. Open.

Top Spaniard – Sergio Garcia (+125): The trendy pick for this is Jon Rahm at +120, and Rahm definitely has the game to do it, but I’m going with experience and recent form. Garcia just won the Masters, and he has three top-5s in the U.S. Open. It’s tough to pick against that.

TV Times

June 15 (Round 1)

  • 11:00 AM-6:00 PM* (FS1)
  • 6:00-9:00 PM (FOX)

June 16 (Round 2)

  • 11:00 AM-6:00 PM (FS1)
  • 6:00-9:00 PM (FOX)

June 17 (Round 3)

  • 11:00 AM-8:00 PM (FOX)
  • 5:00-8:00 PM (FOX Deportes)

June 18 (Round 4)

  • 11:00 AM-8:30 PM (FOX)
  • 5:00-8:30 PM (FOX Deportes)

*Local Time: Central Daylight Time (CDT)

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Twitter @NickRitaccoGolf



  1. rebfan73

    Jun 13, 2017 at 11:29 pm

    You said Deportes

  2. Steve

    Jun 13, 2017 at 1:36 pm

    I wouldn’t be surprised if Spieth misses the cut. Given his propensity to push his drive miles to the right, he could have numerous unplayable shots. I would bet the farm that he is not top 5. And I’m a fan of the guy, but this is not the course for him.
    Justin Thomas is my pick to win, with Adam Scott (if he can figure out how to sink putts) a 2nd choice.

    • Nick Ritacco

      Jun 13, 2017 at 2:50 pm

      I’d be surprised if he MC but it’s the US Open; a few disaster holes are lurking for everyone so it’s possible. Really wide fairways for a US Open though so I think he’ll get away with more misses here than at any other Open venue. Thomas and Scott are both solid choices but didn’t quite make my cut. Love watching JT play but I like Pieters at +4000 more than JT at +3300.

    • Z

      Jun 14, 2017 at 2:55 am

      Dude, the fairways are 75 yards in spots, and most of them they are 50 yards wide. Nobody will have any serious issues off the tee, the course is not designed that way – unless, the wind blows.
      The game is about how they attack the greens and what kind of horrible situations they get into when they miss the greens a little and the ball rolls away into the grass or the gnarly bunkers.

      • Nick Ritacco

        Jun 14, 2017 at 9:22 am

        Agreed, and I’ve heard quite a few reports that say the BIG misses aren’t as bad as just rolling into the fescue – the deeper in to the fescue you get, the thinner it is.

  3. TheCityGame

    Jun 13, 2017 at 10:57 am

    You have DJ listed at +450 and you have DJ & JS (+450) vs the field.

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Opinion & Analysis

Clampett: Is confusion the leading cause of golfers quitting the game?



It seems that lately I’ve had a run of golfers attending my two-day Signature School with similar stories.

“Bobby, I have too many swing thoughts! I don’t know what I should think about when I swing.” Nearly without exception, these golfers tell me that their increased frustration had led to a deterioration of their game. It’s really a shame, because many of these frustrated golfers were at one time low, single-digit handicap players that had fallen to bogey-level golf.

In these schools, I have the time to start peeling back the onion with each student, and I’m hearing the same story over and over. My first question is always, “How did you find out about us?” Usually, it’s through referral or the result of an internet search for instruction help. My second questions is, “What do you hope to accomplish in our two days together?” They almost always respond, “Bobby, my head is spinning with too many swing thoughts. I don’t know what to do. Your approach to impact makes the most sense I’ve seen. That’s why I’m here.”

Statistics indicate that 4 million golfers quit the game in the United States every year. And if you polled each of these 4 million golfers, you’d find confusion to be the common denominator in their decision to quit.

I googled “golf instruction” and received more than 33 million results. Then I went to “YouTube” and typed in “Golf Tip.” There were 932,000 results. Scores of golfers get emails everyday suggesting a new thought or idea to improve their game. They watch television and pick up some more advice. They subscribe to golf magazines suggesting all kinds of ideas. Then they go to the range or course and put as much of it into action as their memories and bodies will allow… only to find it just doesn’t work! They’re farther away from playing good golf than they were when they began seeking out these swing fixes.

Many of my students are avid golfers who come to my schools on the brink of quitting the game all together. One student’s story was so sad. He confessed that no one at his club wanted to play with him anymore because his game had declined so sharply. He was considering selling his membership. In tears, he shared with us that all of his friends were members of his club.

Why is there all this confusion around the golf swing? There are two simple reasons.

The first involves the idea that “style-based” teaching is still the most common approach to improving a golfer’s game, and in my opinion, this doesn’t work very well for most golfers. Style-based instruction centers around a certain look. These teachers ask golfers to set up to the ball this way, get in these backswing positions, make this move on the downswing, look like this at the finish… and so on. Meanwhile, the Dustin Johnsons, Jim Furyks, and Bubba Watsons of the golfing world don’t possess golf swings that look anything like the “style” being suggested. When swing tips are given for “style” reasons, they’re arbitrary, a visual preference, and can’t be measured.

The second reason golfers are more confused today than they’ve ever been is the climate of today’s golf instruction world. We live in a new age, the digital age, and golfers are being bombarded by countless forms of media suggesting how to improve their games. These tips have a very wide range of theories and suggestions, most of which are conflicting.

Set up with your weight on the left foot. No, on the right foot. No, in the middle.

Have a short, compact swing. No, get a big shoulder turn for more distance. No, just swing around your body.

Finish high. No, finish low and left.

You get the picture. Without the ability to discern fact from fiction when it comes to all of this information, golfers go to the driving range in search of that secret pill that’s going to make it all work. The truth is that a secret pill that’s “style-based” just doesn’t exist. The best golf teachers know that the “style” of swing really doesn’t matter. The only thing that matters in playing good golf is creating good impact. That’s what Dustin Johnson, Jim Furyk and Bubba Watson all have in common, and that’s why they are all great golfers and great ball-strikers.

Good instructors understand what it is that these great players do to create that good impact, and they have the ability to offer clear remedies that might be built on only one or two simple thoughts. When a golfer is limited to thinking about only one or two key things, their mind is free and so is their swing. It’s not paralysis by analysis that ruins golfers, but rather paralysis by having too many needless and ineffective swing thoughts that ruins golfers.

Good instruction and good swing tips help golfers understand the impact their swing needs to create to be a good ball-striker. When a golfer’s impact isn’t good, a good instructor will help the student understand the specific element of their impact that wasn’t good and provide the appropriate remedy to fix it. Using today’s modern technology helps reveal precisely what was good or bad about a swing’s impact. After the remedy is given, technology will specifically be able to measure and show improvement in the various elements of impact. Game improvement can now be measured and verified by viewing the specific areas where impact is improved. When students see this measured improvement, hope is restored, confidence grows, scores drop and fewer golfers quit the game!

Be aware that it’s fine to read these articles and view these swing tips for their entertainment and educational value, but golfers should only apply the tips when they know they will help them improve a specific element of their impact. Then and only then will their game improve. One thing is for certain in golf, better impact equals better golf. That is where the “hope” of a good golf game is to be found.

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Opinion & Analysis

The difference between “ugly” and “unorthodox” golf swings



I’d like you pretend for a moment that you were asked to name the five ugliest golf swings by players who had won a major championship. Who would you select, and what criteria would you use to make that judgment? You might say you’re not sure, but you would have no difficulty identifying an ugly swing if you were to see one, right? The question is, what factors would move you toward that decision?

I struggled with this exact question when it was posed to me and others who were members of Golf Magazine’s “Top 100” panel at the time. In making my decision, I was concerned that I did not confuse UNORTHODOX with UGLY. The fact is that some of the greatest golfers throughout history have been considered to have had unorthodox swings.

  • The word “unorthodox” is defined as that which is contrary to what is usual, traditional or generally accepted.
  • The word “ugly” is defined as that which is unpleasant or repulsive in appearance.

In comparing the two definitions, they are clearly quite different. The word “unorthodox” suggests something that is different from the norm, while the word “ugly” relates to the appearance of an object regardless of its status. The problem with labeling any golf swing as unorthodox is that the definition of that condition varies with time. What was once considered to be unorthodox may later be considered perfectly acceptable, and we’ve seen this happen over and over again in golf instruction.

Case No. 1

It was considered unorthodox when Harry Vardon moved his thumbs toward the top of the shaft and placed the little finger of his right hand over his left forefinger knuckle. The standard grip in his era featured both thumbs to the sides of the shaft. The club was held more in the palms of both hands and with all ten fingers, rather than more diagonally through the palm as in Vardon’s Grip. As Vardon began to win, however, his competitors copied his grip. What once was considered unorthodox became orthodox.

Case No. 2

Hogan and Nicklaus were paired together in the final round of the 1957 U.S. Open at Cherry Hills. The dichotomy between their backswings couldn’t have been more evident. This was due to the way in which they utilized their right elbows in the backswing. Nicklaus allowed his right elbow to work up and away, pointing more outward at the top. Hogan’s right elbow was closer to his body and pointed more downward.

At the time, Hogan’s backswing was considered orthodox while Nicklaus’ swing was considered unorthodox. As Hogan faded from the winner’s circle and Nicklaus began to emerge, what was once thought to be unorthodox later came to be considered orthodox.

There are some swings that most observers would agree are both unorthodox and ugly. For example, most observers would say that Jim Furyk’s swing is not pretty — they might even go so far as to categorize it as ugly. This is despite the face that Furyk has had an outstanding career and has a U.S. Open victory to his credit. What is it that observers find so offense in his swing? The answer is the differential in planes between the backswing and the downswing, or what might be referred to as a “loop” in his swing.

In Furyk’s case, the club is taken well outside what might be considered the traditional backswing plane. Then it is looped well to the inside and back into position on the downswing. This is is a perfectly acceptable way to play golf, which is evidenced by the size of his bank account and the number of trophies on his mantle. As you might surmise, because of his golf swing, Furyk has not been asked to write any full-swing instruction books.

The problem is that, in the eyes of the observer, the combination of the two distinctly different planes gives a disjoined appearance to the swing. Does it follow then that the variance in the backswing and downswing is the primary factor in determining if a swing qualifies as being ugly? The problem with reaching that conclusion is that it doesn’t hold up to comparison with other players who employ a similar pattern… beginning with Freddy Couples. He begins his swing by lifting his arms well outside the traditional plane line. With a delayed turn of his torso, he then brings the club back into a more traditional plane at the top.

In the case of both Couples and Furyk, their backswings operate well outside the traditional plane line with both players “looping” the club back into position prior to impact. And yet Couples’ swing is universally admired, while Furyk’s swing is in some quarters ridiculed. This begs the question of why Couples’ “looping” swing motion is considered more acceptable than Furyk’s. The answer to that question is two-fold.

  1. Furyk’s loop is created ostensibly by a change in plane with the arms and the hands, giving the swing a frenetic appearance.
  2. Couples’ loop is created with a graceful turn of his body with the arms following in perfect harmony.

And so, when taking the swings of Couples and other “loopers” into consideration, it would seem that the dramatic change in plane between the backswing and the downswing in and of itself does not warrant the classification of ugly.

Author Footnote: A point worth considering as part of this discussion is that there have been other accomplished players throughout the history of the game whose backswings have operated on the same principles as Couples. This would include perennial Champion’s Tour winners Kenny Perry, and earlier Jay Haas, whose swings were generally admired despite their unorthodox approach to the backswing.

What does this all mean? First, while a loop in the golf swing may be unorthodox, is not necessary considered ugly provided that the club is routed into plane with the turn of the body rather than just the arms and the hands. Second, as stated earlier, the definition of unorthodox can and does change depending on the era. And third, an unorthodox swing is not necessarily ugly. The two classifications are very different.

As you evaluate golf swings, remember this adage; an unorthodox swing is not necessarily ugly, but an ugly swing is always unorthodox.

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TG2: Should Tiger Woods play in The Masters without a driver?



Tiger Woods’ No. 1 concern heading into the Masters is the driver, according to Notah Begay. Equipment expert Brian Knudson and Editor Andrew Tursky argue whether Tiger should even use a driver during the Masters. Also, they discuss Rory’s new prototype putter and how it was made, and they talk about a new shaft company called “LA Golf Shafts.”

Listen to the full podcast on SoundCloud below, or click here to listen on iTunes!

For more info on the topics, check out the links below.

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19th Hole