10 dark horse candidates to win 2019 U.S. Open

Peter Casey-USA TODAY Sports

The U.S. Open returns to Pebble Beach for the first time in nearly a decade in 2019. Sharing the stage with the game’s biggest stars will be a number of under-the-radar players. Many of whom have a realistic chance.

Given that Pebble Beach also hosts a regular tour stop, anyone with a strong history at the AT&T Pebble Beach National Pro-Am must be considered. Brandt Snedeker, who has won twice, definitely has that history. Tiger Woods won the U.S. Open here in 2000. While he can hardly be called a dark horse, another past Pebble Beach U.S. Open winner certainly fits the category.

While these players should absolutely be considered dark horses at the U.S. Open, they all must be taken seriously at Pebble Beach.

Brandt Snedeker

Snedeker comes to the U.S. Open in decent form. He has only one top-10 finish in 2019, but has also missed only two cuts. What’s really important, though, is his history at Pebble Beach. Snedeker has won the AT&T twice. This will be the fifth U.S. Open held at Pebble Beach. All but one of the previous four were won by a man who’d previously the AT&T. It’s important to know that anyone, especially a long shot, they can get around the course. We know that Snedeker can do that here.

Shane Lowry

Lowry finished T9 at the 2015 U.S. Open and T2 a year later. More recently, he won his first tournament in 2019 (the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship). He’s had some bumps on the road since but seems to have righted the ship. Lowry has finished in the top-10 in both of his last two events, including the PGA Championship. When 2018 ended, Lowry was the No. 75 ranked player in the world. In less than half a year, he’s jumped more than 30 places. Lowry is still a dark horse. But he’s clearly moving in the right direction.

Haotong Li

Since the beginning of 2018, Li has a win, two second place finishes, and five more top-10s. That’s a solid year-and-a-half for anyone, especially a 23-year-old. While it came more than a year ago, it’s important to remember that the win didn’t come against some second rate field. He beat Rory McIlroy — who broke 70 in all four rounds. Li was just better. Sure, it’s only one tournament. Still, knowing that he can come out on top against one of the best in the world must give Li a lot of confidence. Especially in majors, that’s huge.

Lucas Bjerregaard

Bjerregaard notably ended Tiger’s week at the WGC – Dell Technologies Match Play en route to a fourth place finish. Bjerregaard has also performed well in the majors, finishing T21 at the Masters and T16 at the PGA. He’s not overwhelmed on the big stage. There are some consistency issues for Bjerregaard but at 27, that’s generally expected. He unquestionably has all of the tools one would want to become a star in golf. He’s a prime candidate to really break out soon. That could well happen at Pebble Beach.

Lucas Glover

Glover does have three missed cuts this year, but he also has three top-10 finishes. One of those came at the AT&T. So, while he’s never won there, Glover does bring a good recent history at the venue with him to Pebble Beach. On top of that Glover has a bit of extra incentive this year. The exemption that he earned with his 2009 U.S. Open win expires after this year. With a top-10, though, he’d qualify for Winged Foot next year, no matter what else happens between now and then. All things considered, he has a decent chance.

Justin Harding

Since the beginning of 2018, Harding has won five times, finished second three times, and posted 11 other top-10 finishes. His experience in the United States is limited. Still, that’s quite a two-year run for anyone. Also, it’s not like the tours in Asia, Europe, and South Africa are filled with weekend hackers. Additionally, Harding finished T12 at the Masters this year. He clearly knows how to play in the USA, even if he doesn’t do it a lot. Golf fans in the United States may not know too much about Harding now, but don’t be surpsied if that changes shortly.

Siwoo Kim

At 23, Kim already has three wins. One of those was THE PLAYERS Championship in 2017. So, he clearly can handle a top notch field, which is obviously what he’ll see at Pebble. The bad news is that he’s not playing too well, having missed three of his last four cuts. The good news is that he still has three top-10 finishes this year. One of those was at the AT&T. Kim’s record would make him a dark horse to watch even without that finish. Knowing that he can get around this course makes him an even more viable threat.

Rafa Cabrera-Bello

While Cabrera-Bello has never won at Pebble Beach, his history isn’t bad. He finished T26 at the AT&T in 2018 and T22 in 2019. Really, though, what we like is his recent consistency. Cabrera-Bello has made seven consecutive cuts and has missed only two all year. Whether we’re talking about a dark horse or one of the best players in the world, making the cut is obviously necessary to contend. If nothing else, we can rely on Cabrera-Bello to do play the weekend. That makes him someone to watch at the U.S. Open.

Jimmy Walker

Shortly after Walker won the PGA Championship in 2016, it was announced that he was battling Lyme Disease. Understandably, his game went south. Recently, though, Walker has shown that he’s coming out of the funk. He’s finished in the top 25 in each of his last two events, one of which was the PGA. Additionally, while Walker has four missed cuts in 2018, most of those came early. Granted, one of those was at the AT&T. Still, he won in 2014 and finished T8 in 2018. Even if his most recent trip to Pebble Beach didn’t go well, we like his history at the course.

Graeme McDowell

Nine years ago, McDowell teed it up in the U.S. Open having never won in the United States. Over the course of the next four rounds, that changed. That U.S. Open was also held at Pebble Beach. Two years later, McDowell was a runner-up at the U.S. Open at the Olympic Club in San Francisco. So, he’s comfortable with the U.S. Open format, especially on the West Coast. In 2019, McDowell’s game has been strong. He has a win, another top-10 finish, and no missed cuts. All in all, there’s a lot to like with McDowell heading into the week.