Martin Kaymer a class above at Pinehurst
BY Bruce Young | US PGA Tour | 2014 US Open | Wrap | 16 Jun 2014
It became clear as early as Thursday afternoon (if it had not been beforehand) that Martin Kaymer was a going to be a real factor in this week’s US Open at Pinehurst No 2.
Late on day one Kaymer broke clear of a congested leaderboard with three late birdies to establish a three shot opening round lead.
Kaymer doubled that lead to six on day two, lost a little ground when he took a five shot lead into day four but in today’s final round he extended that lead to eight, winning by that margin over Erik Compton and Rickie Fowler.
His final round of 69 never allowed any other player a genuine chance and his eight shot victory put the stamp on a week where he dominated on the golf course and featured in nearly every statistic there was.
It was an emphatic victory and will move the 29 year old to just outside the top ten in world ranking after having been outside the top 60 prior to his Players Championship victory a month or so ago.
Even an attempt to shower him with water in a celebratory gesture by his fellow German, Sandra Gal, who will play the US Women’s Open next week where such celebrations are fashionable, was able to put a dampener on a simply stunning and one sided victory.
Kaymer’s second major victory four years after his first at the USPGA Championship on a not dissimilar layout at Whistling Straits, was one of the more authoritative and emphatic in US Open, perhaps not at the same level as that of Tiger Woods in 2000 but certainly the equal of that produced by Rory McIlory in 2011. It tied McIlory as the 4th largest winning margin in the event’s history.
Such is his demeanour and the cushion he had created for himself it would appear that Kaymer was not feeling any real pressure in today’s final round but he would say after his round that was not necessarily the case.
“I would say it was probably the toughest day that I played golf today. Especially the first nine. Because if you have two or three Americans chasing you, playing in America, it’s never easy being a foreigner. But I said at the ceremony as well, that the fans were very fair. But 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 the day in that way, with that attitude, it can be gone so quickly. For me the challenge was to keep going, to stay aggressive, make birdies, go for some flags, and don’t hold back. And it’s very difficult to do, because at some stage you get a little bit tight and you want to — your body tells you, you know, you should take it easy. I over came that feeling, I stayed aggressive, and I played very brave. So I’m very proud of that.”
Kaymer referred to the cushion he had created early in the week as the catalyst for the victory and made comparisons to a similar victory at The Players last month.
“Well, I didn’t make many mistakes, you know, the last two wins that I had in America, especially this week, I played very solid the first two days and that gave me a very nice cushion for the weekend. But to shoot only 1-over par in Pinehurst on Saturday and Sunday is good. The way I played I was very happy, the way I kept it together yesterday. And that gave me a good cushion for today.”
The victory was worth US$1,620,000 in dollar terms but its ongoing benefits are almost impossible to quantify.
Both Fowler and Compton faltered over the closing nine holes but finished under par on a layout that earlier in the week many felt even par might be just good enough to take the title. It was nearly the case but for the stunning performance by Kaymer.
For Fowler his runner-up finish was his best in a major and follows a 5th place finish at the Masters in April, further confirming the swing changes he has been putting in place.
For Compton, who underwent heart transplants in 1992 and 2008, it was a performance from left field. It was just his second start in a major championship and will guarantee starts at the PGA Championship and at Augusta National next April.
“You can’t ever give up,” he responded when asked what inspiration this might give to others. "I mean, we all have adversity in our lives, some are different than others. Some are more Major. The up-and-down I made on 18 is an example of never giving up. I hit the world’s worst shot into the green and then got up-and down.
“So when you have disabilities or you have health issues, some days are really bad and then you got to try to make the best of it the next day and wake up and move your body. And I’m a perfect example of that.
“I’ve been on my back twice and I never thought I would ever leave the house. Now I just finished second at the U.S. Open, which is — I don’t think anybody would have ever thought I would do that, not even myself. So you can’t ever write yourself off, you just can’t give up.”
“It’s a dream come true,” added Compton referring to his chance to play the Masters for the first time next year. To be here, standing here and in 38 holes of a playoff, two extra holes and a playoff, and to finish second and I’m in contention with guys like Rickie Fowler and Justin Rose, and I mean my name is in there, it’s pretty neat."
Jason Day’s outstanding record in major championship golf, and more especially this event, continues with a round of 68 and a share of 4th position. A missed five foot putt at the last cost him outright 4th, a position he eventually shared with four others. Given that this was only his third event since his victory at the Accenture Match Play in February however it was another very impressive week.
“The goal today was try and go bogey-free (today),” said Day. Obviously the last putt there didn’t help that, but I’m not disappointed at all. Being out for so long, this is my second, real second tournament back after the injury on one of the biggest stages, as well as against the best players in the world. I’m pretty pleased."
Day tied for 4th with Brooks Koepka, Dustin Johnson, Henrik Stenson and Keegan Bradley.
Day earned US$326,000 for his efforts, recording his third top 4 in just four starts at the US Open.
Adam Scott produced his best ever finish at a US Open when he finished in a share of 9th, surpassing his previous best of 15th at the Olympic Club two years ago. It left Scott with mixed emotions.
“I mean, it’s a step in the right direction. I wished I would have been closer. I felt like my game really came into a good spot today, so it would have been nice to have started the day under par and tried to make something happen. But you know, it was just a few too many errors throughout the first three rounds.
“The difference between playing good and playing just okay at a U.S. Open is magnified ten times from a normal tournament. You can play okay and shoot under par elsewhere. Here, you play okay, you shoot 4- or 5-over and don’t feel like you did too much wrong. They’re just such tough tests.
“It was the most generous week of a U.S. Open off the tee ever. Those were the biggest fairways you’ll get. So I certainly felt good standing on tee boxes, like I could swing a bit more freely, didn’t mean I hit every fairway, but they set this course up nice. I think I know what it takes, I just got to play better. You’ve got to really be right on your game. I would be surprised if many people are winning U.S.Opens not playing their best golf of their life.”
Aaron Baddeley was the only other Australian to make the cut finishing in a share of 23rd position.
As for Pinehurst No 2 she gets another chance this coming week to expose her vagaries and qualities. She certainly past the US Open test this week and a return to one of American golf’s most iconic destinations in the years ahead seems almost assured.
The USGA’s Mike Davis summed up the performance of both Pinehurst No 2 and the winner.
“I thought the golf course played beautifully. What’s interesting about this is what you see out there right now is not significantly different than what a resort guest would see or what the women will see for next week. I think the difference is for normal play, the greens simply aren’t this fast, they aren’t this firm. One of the things is they can literally, if they wanted it, open it up for resort play tomorrow, just slow the greens down, and bingo, there you are.
“Bill Coore and Ben Crenshaw, along with the leadership here at Pinehurst, deserve so many accolades for the job they did. In terms of our champion, it is fun to watch somebody not only execute that well, but think that well around the course. And he really did both. His course management skills were just outstanding. And his execution was great. When he got into trouble, he fought himself out of trouble well.So it was great.
“I think we’re excited about going into next week. The golf course held up beautifully, ergonomically, in terms of its health. The greens could not be healthier. They will get a nice drink tonight. And I think we’re extremely well positioned for next week.”