US Open Leaderboard 2012: Dark-Horse Candidates to Look out for Early

Wes ODonnellFeatured ColumnistJune 14, 2012

SAN FRANCISCO, CA - JUNE 14:  Branden Grace of South Africa watches a shot during the first round of the 112th U.S. Open at The Olympic Club on June 14, 2012 in San Francisco, California.  (Photo by Stuart Franklin/Getty Images)
Stuart Franklin/Getty Images

A number of superstars got an early start at the 2012 US Open, and the course at the Olympic Club is proving to be as difficult as anticipated.

Phil Mickelson and Bubba Watson are well over par, while Tiger Woods is hanging around even. But the leaders haven't been able to push any better than three-under at best thus far. We are, however, still waiting for a number of big names, led by the trio of Rory McIlroy, Lee Westwood and Luke Donald, to tee off. 

This championship will be long and grueling, but here are a few players to look out for early in this tournament.

PlayerScoreThru
1. Michael Thompson-316
2. David Toms -2 15 
T3. Jason Bohn -1 17 
T3. Tiger Woods -1 16 
T5. Marc Warren 11 
T5. Francesco Molinari 11 
T5. Robert Karlsson E14 
T5. Alistair Presnell 10 
T5. Michael Allen 11 
T5. Beau Hossler 

Live leaderboard courtesy of USOpen.com.

Padraig Harrington

SAN FRANCISCO, CA - JUNE 14:  Padraig Harrington of Ireland watches a shot during the first round of the 112th U.S. Open at The Olympic Club on June 14, 2012 in San Francisco, California.  (Photo by Stuart Franklin/Getty Images)
Stuart Franklin/Getty Images

The three-time major winner has a tendency to hang around early in the biggest tournaments. We've seen him fall off the pace late, but early, he's a fighter.

A course this difficult also gives him an advantage. He's an experienced tour player who was actually here the last time the Olympic Club hosted the US Open.

Keep an on eye on Paddy tomorrow to see if he's for real. 

Kevin Na

An early leader at the Olympic Club, Na birdied four holes already, but he got hung up at 16 and 18 and gave two back.

If he can keep scoring birds and find a way to iron out those inconsistencies, he could be a force early here in San Francisco.

Ironically enough, Na has never made the cut at the US Open before.

Na
NaStuart Franklin/Getty Images

Webb Simpson

The 26-year-old Americans best finish at a major was his tied-for-14th finish at the US Open last year. He's struggling to hit the green right now, but he's already birdied a hole and is showing enough grit to stick around on a tough, tough course.

He has not had a good year at all thus far, but the US Open loves their surprise winners.

Branden Grace

SAN FRANCISCO, CA - JUNE 14:  Branden Grace of South Africa waves to the gallery during the first round of the 112th U.S. Open at The Olympic Club on June 14, 2012 in San Francisco, California.  (Photo by Stuart Franklin/Getty Images)
Stuart Franklin/Getty Images

This 24-year-old South African isn't hitting his fairways, but he is still finding the greens just fine. Grace has birdied three holes so far and eagled another, but he's also double-bogeyed once and bogeyed twice more.

The inconsistent play is more than likely going to catch up with him, but he's someone to watch going forward and could be a surprise contender here if he figures it out.