PINEHURST — The first time was surprising.
Now that he has done it a second time, it is now becoming a trend.
In the first round, Martin Kaymer set a Pinehurst No. 2 U.S. Open record by shooting a 5-under 65. What did Kaymer do to follow up his record-setting round?
He tied at by shooting another 65. And this time he did it without carding a bogey.
Kaymer did more than just tie his own record, he set a U.S. Open mark for lowest 36-hole score with a 130. Rory McIlroy held the previous record at 131 en route to running away with the 2011 U.S. Open title at Congressional.
Kaymer hasn’t had a bogey since the seventh hole Thursday afternoon. That hiccup dropped Kaymer to 1-under and since then he has all but owned Pinehurst No. 2.
Following his opening round, Kaymer said he took advantage of the relatively soft conditions on the greens. He also thought having the chance to watch the opening groups on TV helped give him an edge.
“Well, first, I would have never expected myself to shoot such a low round in Pinehurst because of the conditions, but it’s a good round of golf. I wasn’t expecting it, I’m not freaking out about it, it’s the first round of a very, very important tournament,” Kaymer said Thursday. “I try to win as many majors in my career as possible. I won one so far, I put myself so far in a good position, but we have three rounds to go. There’s so much golf to play. The golf course will change a lot; you have to adjust a lot more. So that first round is a good start, but that’s it. There’s nothing more than that. If other people want to make more out of it, it’s fine, but for me it’s a great start into one of the most important weeks of the year.”
After a storm dumped nearly an inch of rain on the course in 30 minutes Thursday night, players attempted to take advantage of the welcoming greens and chase down Kaymer, who started his second round with a 3-shot lead.
“There was some, lots, of rain last night that made the golf course playable,” Kaymer said. “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. 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. So, yeah, but I didn’t expect it.”
On a rare second day to go low at a U.S. Open, everyone around him seemed to be stuck in mud. Kaymer, on the other hand, dropped the hammer and roared into fourth gear to distance himself from the field. Adam Scott fired a 3-under 67 in the morning and matched Brendon Todd with the second-best round of the day. Even then, Scott sits 10 shots behind Kaymer.
“Again, I didn’t make many mistakes today. I got a little tight the last three or four holes, but I made good up-and-downs, especially on 6 and 7,” Kaymer said. “I hit enough fairways, enough greens, gave myself a few chances, made a couple longer putts today on 16 and then another one earlier. So I just, again, I didn’t make many mistakes and it was nice that I never really got into some difficult positions from the rough.”
Scott concedes it might take a Herculean effort to catch Kaymer if he continues to play well.
“I think if I drew up my perfect plan right now, over the next 27 holes you would like to narrow the gap to you know, less than half of what it is,” Scott said. “Anything could happen over nine holes at a U.S. Open, so if I played great and he continues to play great, I think I can narrow that gap and hopefully feel like I’m in contention come the back nine Sunday.”
Kevin Na, tied for third with Brandt Snedeker at 3-under, agrees with Scott it might be tough to reel in Kaymer.
I just got to take what I get and play my game and hopefully I can close the gap and apply some pressure,” Na said. “If Martin goes out and shoots under par for 36 holes, again, just under par, and stays in double figures, hats off to him. He deserves it.”
Reach sports editor Shawn Stinson at 910-997-3111, ext. 14 or on Twitter @scgolfer.