Tuesday, March 20, 2018

Martin Kaymer takes historic lead at U.S. Open

PINEHURST, N.C. — Just imagine what the U.S. Open would look like after two rounds if Martin Kaymer had stayed home.

The weekend would begin with the leader at 4 under and with 25 players within five shots of the lead.

But Kaymer is certainly here, and the question is whether everyone else is playing for second after he shot another 5-under 65 Friday to take a six-shot lead at 10-under 130, the best two-round score in the history of the U.S. Open.

Others are finding Pinehurst No. 2 to be nearly as difficult as predicted, but Kaymer is making it look easy.

That is not supposed to happen at a U.S. Open.

"The way I am playing golf right now, it's just really satisfying," Kaymer said. "It's very solid, not many mistakes. Not that many wild tee shots or anything."

Brendon Todd, a PGA Tour rookie at 28 who played high school golf about an hour north in Cary, N.C., was in second by himself at 4 under after 67. Kevin Na (69) and Brandt Snedeker (68) were at 3 under.

"Right now, we're just trying to stay close," Na said. "What Martin Kaymer has done is amazing. He looks flawless."

Kaymer's two-round score of 130 was one better than the previous Open record, set by Rory McIlroy at Congressional outside Washington in 2011.

Kaymer is the first player in a major to open with two rounds of 65 or better. The only other two consecutive rounds of 65 or better in any major, regardless of round, were by Tom Watson at the 1977 British Open and David Toms at the 2001 PGA Championship.

The only 36-hole lead in a major larger than Kaymer's was at the 1934 British Open, when Henry Cotton led by nine. The only man to lose a lead of six or more after 36 holes in a major is Abe Mitchell, who was up six at 1920 British Open. He finished 84-76 and wound up fourth, three shots behind winner George Duncan.

Only three of the past 20 U.S. Open champions were more than two shots back after the second round.

"He's as dialed in as I have seen," said Keegan Bradley, who played with Kaymer the first two rounds and was at 2 under after 69. "It was fun watching him hit every fairway, every green and make every putt. It was awesome."

Kaymer said about an inch of rain Thursday night softened the course enough to make his second 65 possible. By his own admission, he had a carefree round, hitting shots so precisely, he surprised himself.

"They were even better than I thought they should be," he said. "I would aim for the safe middle of the green, but the ball would roll toward the hole anyway.

"I've just been very solid and very consistent. I know it probably gets boring."

Kaymer, a soft-spoken, 29-year-old native of Dusseldorf, Germany, was not sure his countrymen would be overly impressed by his accomplishments. He wasn't certain they would even notice, not with World Cup soccer dominating the conversation back home and Germany preparing for its first game Monday.

"Golf is not that important in our country," said Kaymer, winner of the 2010 PGA Championship. "I guess they may write a few things about me in the newspapers this weekend."

And if he wins?

"It will last until Monday at 12 o'clock," Kaymer said, referring to the noon start time of Germany's World Cup game against Portugal. "And then that's it."

And his wish for the weekend? "I would like to see (the course) as tough as possible," he said. "I was always a fan of a golf course where you need to hit good golf shots and not really have a putting competition."