Sunday, May 27, 2018

Martin Kaymer finishes off U.S. Open win

PINEHURST, N.C. — Martin Kaymer returned to the elite Sunday.

Forgotten for two years, Kaymer turned the toughest test of golf into a runaway at Pinehurst No. 2 to become only the seventh wire-to-wire winner in 114 years of the U.S. Open.

The German, 29, closed with 1-under 69, the only player among the last eight groups to break par, for an eight-shot win over Rickie Fowler and Erik Compton.

So dominant was Kaymer, no one got closer than four shots over the final 48 holes.

Only a late bogey kept Kaymer from joining Tiger Woods and Rory McIlroy as the only players to finish a U.S. Open in double digits under par. He made a 15-foot par putt at No, 18, dropping his putter as the ball fell into the center of the cup.

"No one was catching Kaymer," Compton said. "I was playing for second. I think we all were playing for second."

This U.S. Open really ended Friday.

Kaymer set the tournament record with two 65s to set the pace at 10-under 130 after the first two rounds. He began Sunday with a five-shot lead. And after a 10-foot par save on No. 2, Kaymer belted a driver on the 313-yard No. 3. The ball landed on the front of the green and rolled to the back, setting up a two-putt birdie.

"It was probably the toughest day that I played golf, especially the first nine," Kaymer said. "Because if you have two or three Americans chasing you, playing in America, it's never easy being a foreigner. But the fans were very fair.

"It was a tough one. If you lead by five shots, it's not easy. A lot of people think, 'Well, you have a little bit of a cushion.' But if you approach that day in that way with that attitude, it can be gone so quickly."

Fowler, in the final group of a major for the first time, fell back quickly on No. 4. He sent his third shot from a sandy path over the green and into some pine trees and had to make a 25-foot putt just to escape with double bogey. Fowler played par the rest of the way for 72.

Compton birdied the eighth hole and got within four shots until a bogey on the par-3 No. 9. Kaymer followed with an 8-iron to 4 feet for birdie. He also shot 72.

Kaymer finished at 9-under 271, the second-lowest score in U.S. Open history next to McIlroy's 268 at Congressional in 2011. It was his second major win; the other was the 2010 PGA Championship at Whistling Straits in a three-man playoff.

It's a rebirth for Kaymer, who reached No. 1 in the world in February 2011 only to believe he needed a more rounded game. His preferred shot was a fade. Kaymer spent two years and a lot of lonely hours on the range in Germany and his home in Scottsdale, Ariz.

He fell as low as No. 63 in the world until going wire-to-wire (with ties) last month at the Players Championship.

However, the big payoff came at Pinehurst No. 2.

"You want to win majors in your career. But if you can win one more, it means so much more," said Kaymer, who will move up to No. 11 in the world rankings.

"Some people, especially when I went through that low, called me a one-hit wonder and those things. So it's quite nice proof even though I don't feel like I need to prove a lot to people. But somehow, it's quite satisfying to have two under your belt."

Kaymer has as many majors as fellow German Bernhard Langer, a two-time Masters champion and a mentor to Kaymer. Langer sent him text messages last week.

"We've almost a German Grand Slam — almost," Kaymer said. "I hope it will make Bernhard proud. I'm sure it will make all of Germany proud."