PINEHURST — Before play started at 114th U.S. Open talk was centered on the changes at Pinehurst No. 2.
After two rounds, any and all discussions are focused on if anyone can chase down Martin Kaymer.
Kaymer built a 3-shot advantage after Thursday’s opening round on the strength of a 5-under 65. It was the lowest 18-hole recorded in nine U.S. Open rounds at the course.
The winner of the 2010 PGA Championship repeated his feat Friday and extended his advantage to six strokes over former Green Hope High School golfer Brendon Todd. Kevin Na and Brandt Snedeker are seven back of Kaymer.
Kaymer’s two-day total of 130 also set a U.S. Open mark for 36 holes. The previous record was set by Rory McIlroy in the 2011 tournament at Congressional Country Club.
“I played very solid again, very similar to yesterday,” Kaymer said. “The last three, four holes I got a little bit tired, I didn’t swing it as good as the first 14 holes, but I could make a couple good up-and-downs, especially on 6 and 7. I was twice in the bunker there. Made a good 2-putt on 8. That was along and difficult first putt. The way I play golf right now, it’s just really satisfying. It’s very solid, not many mistakes, not that many wild tee shots or anything.”
Kaymer hasn’t carded a bogey since the seventh hole on Thursday — a stretch of 29 holes. Following Thursday’s record setting record, Kaymer said having the USGA water the grounds in the morning helped him be more aggressive. He felt the same way after a storm dropped nearly an inch of rain on the course Thursday night.
“There was some, lots, of rain last night that made the golf course playable. Because I was expecting the golf course playing a lot firmer and obviously that rain helped a lot last night and you could still be aggressive today,” Kaymer said. “We had perfect greens in the morning, but still you have to hit good shots. But you know what I said, it’s very rare, obviously the record shows that it’s very rare that somebody shoots 10-under par after two rounds. And it just happened in my case now.”
Todd and Adam Scott both posted the second-best rounds of the day, 3-under 67. Todd had three birdies and 15 pars on his scorecard. His last bogey came on on the second Thursday, his 11th hole of his opening round, a streak of 25 holes. Scott is at even-par for the tournament, 10 shots off Kaymer’s lead.
“I played pretty solid the first round, only made two bogeys,” Todd said. “Today hit it even better. Really struck it well there for the first 10 holes, making a couple of nice birdies with up-and-downs on 3 and 5. And then made some nice bunker saves for par on 11 and 16 and 17. And got one more birdie there on the back nine on 13. So very happy with my play so far.”
Todd isn’t going to concede the championship to Kaymer just yet, but he knows time is running short on making up a 6-shot deficit.
“Kaymer’s performance has been incredible,” Todd said. “He’s playing a brand of golf that we haven’t seen probably in a long time, since maybe Tiger (Woods). Yeah, probably, he might need to come back a little bit. I don’t think there’s too many — too much opportunity to shoot 6-under on the weekend or 8-under on the weekend if he were to get a couple more.”
Phil Mickelson appeared posed to be one of the golfers to make a run at Kaymer, making back-to-back birdies on No. 2 and 3. Mickelson struggled with his putter once again and dropped off the pace to finish with a 3-over 73 on the round and is at 3-over par for the tournament.
“I feel like I’m playing well enough to win the U.S. Open, except for putting. After I’ve 3-putted three or four times, I kind of lose my focus on the other stuff,” Mickelson said. “It really affects my ability to concentrate and my momentum and energy. It’s a frustrating time, because I feel like the other parts of my game are there. I don’t feel like I had such a great stretch last year putting. I feel like it’s in there. It doesn’t feel like the ball’s coming off bad. I don’t feel like the stroke is bad, but I’m just not dialed in. I’m just not making them.”
Matt Kuchar was in the middle of a scoring concern on the sixth green. As Kuchar was about to address his ball for a possible bogey putt, it moved. Kuchar backed away and called for a USGA rules official. After several minutes of discussion, Kuchar putted twice — once from where the ball was originally and another from where it rolled to.
After his round, Kuchar met with scoring officials to determine if he finished the hole with a bogey or double bogey. Kuchar ended up taking a 5 on the hole and is at 1-under for the tournament.
“It was a matter of determining whether or not I addressed it,” Kuchar said. “I was confident I had not addressed it. Lee Westwood was standing right there, waiting on a 5-foot putt, confident the same way. Just had to go through the procedure and it’s just — it’s not a fun thing. When the ball moves, you kind of know that if you have addressed it, you have to replace it with a penalty. If you haven’t addressed it, you leave it. And so we called in a walking rules official and he says, not really sure, and we come to the decision that I said let’s play two balls and we can discuss it afterwards. And in the discussion afterwards, we came to the same conclusion that I had not addressed it and not caused it to move either.”
Kuchar wasn’t the only golfer to run into ruling difficulties in the second round as Hunter Mahan and Jamie Donaldson were both penalized two strokes for hitting the wrong ball from the 18th fairway. The penalty didn’t mean much to Donaldson, who posted a two-day total of 11-over 151 and missed the cut by six shots.
But for Mahan it was difference between packing up and heading home or staying for the weekend. Mahan fired a 2-over 72 in his round and finished at 6-over 146 — one shot over the cutline.
“Not much to describe, I just hit the wrong ball. I looked at the ball,” Mahan said. “It looked — I mean I don’t know, it was one of those things I couldn’t explain to you. Off the tee, it looked like that’s where my ball should have been, and I couldn’t explain to you how it ended up where it did. Just got to pay more attention.”
Reach sports editor Shawn Stinson at 910-997-3111, ext. 14 or on Twitter @scgolfer.