US Open Golf 2012: Dark Horses to Watch in Early Rounds

Alex Crawford@@dr_crawfContributor IIIJune 14, 2012

SAN FRANCISCO, CA - JUNE 14:  Webb Simpson of the United States hits his tee shot on the second hole during the first round of the 112th U.S. Open at The Olympic Club on June 14, 2012 in San Francisco, California.  (Photo by Andrew Redington/Getty Images)
Andrew Redington/Getty Images

The Charlotte Bobcats are not going to win the NBA Championship next year, the Washington Redskins won’t win the Super Bowl and the Seattle Mariners definitely won’t win the World Series.

In the major professional sports, upsets happen, but for the most part, a terrible team doesn’t just come out of the blue and shock the world.  You have your top-tier teams, your average teams and your bottom-feeders.

While golf certainly has its different levels of golfers, a completely unexpected upset is not out of the question.

On any given day, any player can swing the club well and surprise everyone.  All it takes is a few rounds, and the college kid that barely qualified for the tournament can be right between Tiger Woods and Bubba Watson on the leaderboard.

Michael Campbell’s win at the 2005 US Open was one of the biggest upsets of all-time.  He didn’t make the cut in his first five tournaments that year and ended up beating Tiger Woods in the Open.

This year’s US Open, as with any other, has its dark horses.  I wouldn’t go to Vegas, bet money on these guys and expect to get it back, but if you like an underdog, these are your dudes.


Tim Clark

Tim Clark, from South Africa, hasn’t played that well lately, but he plays well in majors.  Clark won the Players Championship in 2010, and I wouldn’t be surprised if he made some moves in this tournament.

Elbow surgery limited Clark last year, but because of his 2010 Players win, he is exempt on the PGA Tour through 2016. 

Even though Clark didn’t make the cut at The Masters or the Wells Fargo Championship earlier this year, I still expect him to contend at the US Open.


Kevin Na

Kevin Na is another guy who I think could surprise some people this weekend.  Although Na only has one PGA Tour win under his belt (the Justin Timberlake Shriners Hospitals for Children Open in 2011), he has been playing well lately.

Side note: I would like to send a memo to the PGA asking them not to have such long names for their tours and reminding them that their tours sound a lot less important when Justin Timberlake is involved.

Back to Na, he finished tied for fifth place in both the Waste Management Phoenix Open and the AT&T Pebble Beach National Pro-Am in February, and he finished tied for fourth in the Arnold Palmer Invitational in March.  This kid has been swinging the ol’ 9-iron well lately, and I expect him to do well this weekend.


Webb Simpson

My third dark horse player for the 2012 US Open is Webb Simpson.

Simpson is one of the top players in the world but is vastly underrated.  Of my three dark horse candidates, Simpson is No. 1.  I could legitimately see him winning this weekend.

Earlier this month, he finished fourth in the Wells Fargo Championship, and back in January he finished tied for third in the Hyundai Tournament of Champions.  Last year he won the Wyndham Championship, and he was part of the winning USA team in the Presidents Cup.

Webb has gotten better each year he’s played, and I think this year (particularly this US Open) will be coming-out party to the world of golf.

The US Open is always the hardest course the PGA puts on all year, so we might see some big names fall and some no-names get big.  There’s a solid chance that none of the three golfers I named will even be relevant come Sunday.  

I can assure you, though, that when Tim Clark, Kevin Na or Webb Simpson is hoisting the US Open Trophy, I will say I told you so.