Ranking the 10 biggest U.S. Open underdogs (with reasons to root for them)

joel dahmen swings

Do you like underdogs? The 2022 U.S. Open leaderboard has plenty of them.

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BROOKLINE, Mass. — Is your favorite movie Rudy? Do you root for the Washington Generals to beat the Harlem Globetrotters? Do you pick 16 seeds to the Final Four every March? If so, boy do I have a column for you.

Everyone loves a good underdog story, and the 2022 U.S. Open is chock full of them. Yes, stars are scattered about the top of the leaderboard at The Country Club, but among them lurks a collection of plucky upstarts looking to write their names in the history books.

These grounds have been friendly to underdogs in the past, too. Francis Ouimet penned the original golf long shot story at The Country Club back in 1913, and Team USA’s miracle Ryder Cup comeback in 1999 occurred here as well.

All that’s to say — it has happened before, and it could happen again. It might be unlikely, but the window of opportunity is there. Halfway through this U.S. Open, there are 10 underdogs in red numbers with a legitimate opportunity to take home the crown.

Here are the 10 biggest underdogs in contention, and reasons to root for them.

10. Travis Vick (a)

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World rank: N/A
Position: T16 (-1)
Why he’s an underdog: Well, he’s an amateur. And although he was an integral piece in helping the Texas Longhorns win a national championship last month, he’s never been on a stage like this. Under par and within striking distance of the lead through 36 holes is quite the accomplishment.
Why you should root for him: Francis Ouimet part two, anyone?

9. MJ Daffue

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World rank: 296
Position: T16 (-1)
Why he’s an underdog: This is Daffue’s first major start, and it’s one he almost didn’t even make. A month ago, he was focused on securing a PGA Tour card through the Korn Ferry Tour and didn’t even plan to try to qualify. That all changed when he secured his card and made the last-minute decision to try to make the field. He was successful, and now he’s got a chance to make a weekend run.
Why you should root for him: The story would be incredible. From the KFT to major champ in under a month is unheard of. A win come Sunday would be unprecedented.

8. Callum Tarren

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World rank: 445
Position: T16 (-1)
Why he’s an underdog: Tarren has made 16 starts on Tour this year. He’s made the weekend just six times and has finished inside the top 30 just once. Just making the cut is an accomplishment, let alone being in contention.
Why you should root for him: He needs to catch a break. The 30-year-old has played in two U.S. Opens, and both times his clubs have been lost in transit. A little good karma needs to come his way.

7. Nick Hardy

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World rank: 371
Position: T7 (-3)
Why he’s an underdog: Despite a fruitful amateur career, Hardy has not won since turning pro in 2018. Brookline would be a heck of a place to get it done.
Why you should root for him: He’s a good ole Midwest boy. Born and bred in the Chicago suburbs, Hardy went on to attend the University of Illinois. If you love Big Ten country, Hardy is your man.

6. David Lingmerth

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World rank: 592
Position: T16 (-1)
Why he’s an underdog: Lingmerth has been lost in the woods for a while. At one point, he was a top-50 player in the world, and he even owns a win at the Memorial, but the past five years have been a struggle. His world rank had four digits at one point in 2020, and his career looked to be coming undone.
Why you should root for him: Comeback stories warm the heart. It’s not often someone can rebound from the type of lows Lingmerth endured, and a win would be inspirational.

5. Patrick Rodgers

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World rank: 216
Position: T8 (-3)
Why he’s an underdog: Rodgers isn’t your typical underdog story — he was at one point the top-ranked amateur in the world. However, his professional career has never quite taken off. He’s been good enough to stick around the Tour, but never quite good enough to win. The talent is there; he just needs to harness it at the right moment.
Why you should root for him: It’s fun to see someone fulfill their true potential. Rodgers in contention at a major is like watching an 11-seeded UCLA make a run to the Final Four.

4. Hayden Buckley

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World rank: 259
Position: T3 (-4)
Why he’s an underdog: Buckley couldn’t break 80 until he was a senior in high school. He walked on at Missouri and was the last man on their roster. He “studied hard” in school because he thought he’d be working after college. Buckley is the poster child for underdogs.
Why you should root for him: He gives hope to all the late-bloomers out there. If Buckley can contend at a major less than a decade removed from just breaking 80, anything is possible (theoretically).

3. Beau Hossler

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World rank: 162
Position: T3 (-4)
Why he’s an underdog: Hossler ranks 179th on Tour in SG: Tee to green. At a U.S. Open course, where accuracy comes at a premium, his game should not hold up — but it has so far.
Why you should root for him: He’s a silky-smooth putter. Hossler ranks fourth on Tour this season in SG: Putting, and he’s always a threat to get hot on the greens. Watching someone fill up the cup is always fun, and Hossler has that sort of potential.

2. Matthew NeSmith

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World rank: 166
Position: T8 (-3)
Why he’s an underdog: This is the first time NeSmith has ever made the cut at a major. The 28-year-old worked his way through the mini tours up to the big leagues, and it seems as though he’s finally finding his stride.
Why you should root for him: He’s a ball-striking machine. NeSmith’s strokes gained numbers aren’t eye-popping across the board, but when he gets an iron in his hands, he’s one of the best in the game. NeSmith ranked 11th on Tour in SG: Approach last season, and if he can get hot this weekend, he could be a factor.

1. Joel Dahmen

Joel Dahmen at the 2022 U.S. Open.
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World rank: 130
Position: T1 (-5)
Why he’s an underdog: Dahmen has never before made a cut in the U.S. Open. In the past, the courses have just been too long and too penal for missed fairways. Luckily, The Country Club is a little more friendly for his skillset — and he’s taking advantage.
Why you should root for him: He’s an everyman. There are few players on the PGA Tour that a fan can relate to, but Dahmen is one of them. After his opening round, he went to a Ben Rector concert and tried to “not have 100 beers.” Dahmen is a man of the people.

Zephyr Melton

Golf.com Editor

Zephyr Melton is an assistant editor for GOLF.com where he spends his days blogging, producing and editing. Prior to joining the team at GOLF, he attended the University of Texas followed by stops with the Texas Golf Association, Team USA, the Green Bay Packers and the PGA Tour. He assists on all things instruction and covers amateur and women’s golf. He can be reached at zephyr_melton@golf.com.

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