Every major golf tournament has at least one nice story, one guy who comes from nowhere and makes a mark that was unexpected. Sometimes it's someone no one has ever heard of, other times a guy who simply hasn't had much major success or hasn't done it in quite some time.
Occasionally, these guys pull off the ultimate shocker and win the tournament. Other times, they fold on day four. Last year, Charl Schwartzel pulled off such a feat by winning at the Masters. Keegan Bradley won the PGA Championship to the surprise of many.
Bradley was an up-and-coming player who wasn't expected to experience such success at such a young age, while Schwartzel came out of nowhere to some degree.
On the other hand, there's your Jean Van de Velde's of the world, who fold at the last minute. Nothing is out of question in majors, but know there will be some version of this in the 2012 U.S. Open.
Here are the most likely candidates to fill that role.
Kevin Na has five career wins, but only one on the PGA Tour. The 28-year-old South Korean has become a name to know despite limited success.
He has never made the cut at the U.S. Open, so any damage he does at the Olympic Club would come as a surprise.
That said, he placed 12th at Augusta this year and 10th at last year's PGA Championship.
In many ways, his career major performance fits the profile of a dark-horse contender in this particular tournament.
To call Sergio Garcia a dark-horse contender is a bit of a misnomer. There's probably not a golf fan alive who isn't familiar with the Spaniard and his abilities.
That being said, Sergio has never closed the door on a Sunday at a major, and he hasn't exactly been tearing it up at majors recently.
Even so, over the course of his career, he's finished fourth or better in every major. It isn't as if he's a stiff.
What makes him a dark-horse contender is the fact he is at 60-to-1 odds to win this week.
Everyone knows the 32-year-old is more than capable of putting it all together for a weekend at Olympic Club. We're all waiting for him to do it, too.
Robert Garrigus can flat-out crush the golf ball. He is regularly in the top five in driving.
Furthermore, he finished third at the U.S. Open last year.
From time to time, players will repeat admirable performances in back-to-back years. With his length and experience playing U.S. Open golf, he could easily contend again in 2012.
You've probably heard of D.A. Points. You probably don't know his full name is Darren Andrew Points.
That's not really relevant, except to say that everyone knows Tiger Woods' real name is Eldrick or Magic Johnson's real name is Ervin.
The point is, D.A. Points isn't a household name. His best finish at the U.S. Open was tied for 68th in 2008.
If Points contends this year, he really will be a dark-horse contender, and he may just become a household name as a result.
Maybe then everyone will know his full name.
Simon Dyson has never made the cut at the U.S. Open. He's attempted to do so three times—2005, 2009 and 2010.
Maybe the fourth time will be the charm, the kick in the butt or whatever it is he's been missing.
The Brit has Top-10 finishes at The British Open and PGA Championship, and he has nine professional wins to his credit.
He would be a dark horse for sure, but it also shouldn't completely shock anyone if he makes some noise at Olympic Golf Club.
Ben Crane is best known as a member of the famous, or infamous, Golf Boys.
Having said that, he has won seven times over the course of his professional career.
Crane's ninth-place finish at the 2004 PGA Championship marks his best finish in a major to date.
In April, he finished tied for 17th at Augusta. Perhaps his time is near in major tournaments.
After his good friend Bubba Watson (another member of the Golf Boys) won the Masters, Crane is looking to give half the group a major title. Between he and Rickie Fowler, the odds are promising.
While there's zero guarantee that any of these guys win the tournament, it's likely they will all compete and make the cut.
After that, anything is possible.