US Open Golf 2012: Dustin Johnson and 10 Dark Horses to Win It All
It may be difficult to fathom Dustin Johnson as a dark horse to win the 2012 US Open at The Olympic Club.
After 10 weeks of sitting at home due a back injury he suffered in a jet skiing mishap, Johnson flashed fine form in winning the FedEx St. Jude's Classic on Sunday.
The reason the 10th-ranked golfer in the world is still a long shot to win the tournament is simply because no golfer has ever won a PGA tournament the week before the US Open and gone on to win the Open itself.
Regardless, Johnson looks to be the first to buck that trend. He now has 28-1 Vegas odds to win the tournament, which is among the fringe favorites.
Here are 10 more golfers who are more or less off the betting radar but still stand a puncher's chance of winning the 112th US Open Championship.
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The hat-free Englishman isn't well known in the US, but has put together an impressive run over the past two years on the European Tour after struggling for years just to chase his dream as a professional golfer.
A victory in January at the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship vaulted Rock to a career-high 55th in the Official World Golf Ranking.
Rock showed his mettle against a world-class field pressured by the likes of runner-up Rory McIlroy and overtaking the 54-hole lead from Tiger Woods, who finished in a tie for third.
Holding firm inside the top 60 in the rankings throughout this season allowed Rock to qualify for this week's field. His past three finishes are T16-T9-T21 on the European Tour, giving him momentum entering the tournament.
While Rock's scrambling has been abysmal this season, he is hitting nearly 74 percent of greens in regulation, and on a course that won't yield many birdies, ball striking is paramount.
Another notable statistic is that Rock is fourth on the European Tour in putts per greens in regulation.
In other words, when Rock knocks it on the surface, he capitalizes more often than most players.
If he can continue his consistent iron play and roll in a few putts, don't be surprised if Rock is poised for a major breakthrough this weekend.
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The 42-year-old Fujita has been making a name for himself for years on the Japan Golf Tour.
A 16-time winner professionally, Fujita is in the midst of a career year. He has teed it up only eight times in competition this season but has won twice.
With a victory in his final start of 2011, Fujita's momentum carried into this season and into his tour's sectional qualifier for the Open.
Although Fujita hasn't fared well at all in the majors and is largely inexperienced in golf's biggest tournaments, he has proven that he knows how to win consistently.
Fujita's solid all-around game that relies on precision over power should serve him well at Olympic.
The Lake Course isn't terribly long at 7170 yards, so the slight disadvantage the 5'6" 150-pound Fujita has in length shouldn't be too detrimental to his chances of contending unless there's rainfall in San Francisco.
Davis Love III
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Love has struggled this season with a cracked rib injury but is coming off of a tie for third in Memphis from last week.
As the 2012 Ryder Cup captain, Love has made it clear that he's gunning for a spot on the team, especially now that he is feeling healthier and has gotten some of his game back.
Although he was cut the last time the U.S. Open was held at Olympic, Love knows the window is closing for another chance at a major at age 48.
He has been playing a lot of golf between The Memorial Tournament (T16), the Open qualifier and last week's tournament.
The 20-time PGA Tour winner and 1997 PGA Champion hasn't won a tournament since 2008 and could find himself in the hunt to steal another major near the conclusion of his career.
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The Belgian bomber is second on the European Tour, averaging an astounding 317.6 yards off the tee while still hitting nearly 60 percent of fairways in regulation.
This sort of power can leave short shots into the green, and Colsaerts's ability to hit his 3 wood 300 yards will be quite an advantage, as he may find the fairway with shorter clubs.
It's difficult to find a hole in the 29-year-old's game right now. He has improved his play from the sand and around the green and has a GIR percentage of 75.69 on the European Tour.
Colsaerts is also putting the best he has in his career to date and confidence in the flatstick is invaluable entering a major with particularly tricky greens.
With seven Top 10s in 13 starts, along with a win at the Volvo World Match Play Championship, Colsaerts has proven himself to be an emerging world-class player.
Considering the form he's in, Colsaerts could arguably be a favorite in this tournament, but the major red flag is his majors track record: two career appearances, both resulting in missed cuts.
However, this is a vastly different player than in years past, and Colsaerts is primed to continue his rapid ascent in the world rankings (currently No. 35) with a strong showing this week.
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Here is the No. 1 golf ball smasher in the world: 318 yards off the tee. You might recognize Alvaro Quiros from the Vegas Callaway RAZR Fit commerical.
Unfortunately, Quiros finds less than 50 percent of fairways but is still an elite talent who is dangerous this week.
Even if Quiros can't find the fairway off the tee, his length and aggressiveness could pay off if he's able to fire short irons and wedges at most flags.
On long par-3's, he'll be hitting irons while most of the field hits fairway woods.
The question is whether Quiros can get it together on the greens, which has often held him back from immense success.
Already with six wins on the European Tour before the age of 30, the streaky Spaniard could have even more if his short game was to improve even slightly.
His best finishes of 2012 have thankfully come in his two most recent showings: a tie for fifth at the Volvo World Match Play Championship and a tie for 10th at the BMW PGA Championship.
A hot putter can go a long way at a major, and if Quiros can set himself up for short approach shots and knock a few close putts in, it could light a spark and allow him to seriously contend for his first major title.
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Baddeley has battled through a bad season, but posted a tie for ninth at the Memorial, and he has held the 54-hole lead in this championship in 2007 before imploding with a final round 80 at Oakmont.
Regardless, Baddeley enters this year's event with a game that's in good shape and can always count on his trademark smooth putting stroke to bail him out if he gets into trouble.
That rang true in his most recent event, as he ranked second in strokes gained putting and tied for second in putts per round in the deep Memorial field.
Straightening out the driver has had to be a priority for Baddeley in his week off preparing for The Olympic Club.
If Baddeley can keep it in the fairway and continue rolling it, as he's capable of doing, he might get a chance to redeem himself after succumbing to the weekend demons nearly five years ago.
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The 24-year-old South African has enjoyed a meteoric rise in the world of golf this year.
Grace has won three times on the European Tour in a breakout 2012 season, and the USGA certainly took notice, giving him a special exemption into the US Open field.
This might be the most exciting young player in the game that hardly anyone on the other side of the pond knows about.
The statistics on Grace aren't mind-boggling, because he has been undone in that regard with sporadic poor rounds. However, it's hard to overlook someone that is winning at such an impressive rate.
Driving accuracy is the most noticeable aspect of Grace's game that has dipped this season. If he can get it nearer to the 72 percent clip he posted in the 2011 season, he could emerge as a contender at Olympic.
Miguel Angel Jimenez
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The cigar-smoking, ponytail-wearing, legendarily-stretching Jimenez has captivated the European Tour for decades.
Jimenez has won 18 tournaments on the European Tour, ranking tied for 11th all-time. He should more often be included in the conversation of "Best Players Without a Major."
The 2012 season has been a struggle for the 48 year old, who may be on his last legs after a brilliant and long career.
The experience in majors, though, is there: Jimenez has recorded at least one Top 10 at every major event.
He finished tied for second in the 2000 US Open when Tiger Woods eviscerated the field. So he kind of played well enough to win one at least once...if not for arguably the most virtuosic performance in golf history.
If anyone's due and deserving to add a major title to their resume, it's "The Mechanic."
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The talented youngster Day jumped to eighth in the world rankings by the end of 2011, bolstered by runner-up finishes at both The Masters and the U.S. Open.
Although Rory McIlroy blew the field away at Congressional last year, Day proved he could play exceptionally well on a U.S. Open course.
The biggest contributor to Day's regression in 2012 has been putting. He has dropped from 14th to 112th in total putting from last year to this point in the season.
Having to rely on scrambling ability frequently, Day has weathered a frustrating season to right the ship a little bit more recently. He missed cuts at The Memorial and The PLAYERS, but recorded ties for ninth in the events between those MCs, both at extremely difficult courses.
Day still ranks 40th on Tour in strokes gained putting, proving he is still grinding to save pars, which is exactly what needs to be done at a U.S. Open.
What will be key is Day utilizing his length off the tee to have short approaches in order to improve on his season average of 60% GIR.
Perhaps that will alleviate some of the stress of scrambling and translate to more legitimate birdie opportunities.
If Day were to place one better than last year, it would net him his first win since his lone PGA Tour victory at the 2010 HP Byron Nelson Championship.
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Plenty can be said about Poulter's wardrobe, as well as his penchant for Twitter.
As of late, though, his game has spoken more loudly than his clothes.
Poulter once stirred controversy when he mentioned that he would be the No. 2 player in the world behind Tiger Woods once he reached his full potential, but he claimed he was misquoted after the backlash.
To most people's surprise, Poulter did ascend to No. 5 in the rankings, although no further despite his statements that reaching the second spot would be possible.
It may not be too late for Poulter to reach that goal, as there's never been a question of his mental toughness.
As brash as he is about his own abilities, Poulter has proven to be one of the elite players at elevating his play and grinding out tough rounds as the level of competition intensifies.
He has won huge match play tournaments on both sides of the pond and performed exceptionally as a captain's pick in the 2008 Ryder Cup with the highest individual point total on the European squad.
Coming into this year's U.S. Open, Poulter's had a quietly successful year. Although he hasn't won any tournaments, he has recorded two top 10s in the two events preceding this tournament.
Poulter's game seems like an ideal fit at a U.S. Open venue, and it's shocking he hasn't had more success in this event.
With that said, it wouldn't be too much of a shock to see the fiery Englishman survive the treacherous track at the Lake Course and emerge as the winner on Sunday.