PINEHURST — Saturday is known as moving day for golfers.
Meaning you can either put yourself in position to compete for a championship or drop out of contention.
With Martin Kaymer bringing a 6-shot lead into Saturday’s third round, anyone with thoughts of prying the lead from his hands, needed to find some birdies.
The only problem was USGA officials elected to make it difficult to score, not only for Kaymer, but the rest of the field as well. This meant someone needed to beat Kaymer at his own game — going low at Pinehurst No. 2.
All Kaymer did to start his week is set a U.S. Open record with a two-day total of 130. He set a Pinehurst No. 2 mark with his opening 65 on Thursday and matched his own mark again the following day.
Kaymer was so in tune with the course he went 30 holes without a bogey.
Kaymer was in such a Tiger Woods-like zone that his fellow competitors openly wondered if he was playing the same course.
“I heard he played No. 3 course. Is that true,” Na joked Friday. “It’s unbelievable what he’s done. Is 4- or 5-under out there? Yes. 10-under out there? No, I don’t think so. I guess it was out there for him. It’s amazing, I watched some of the shots he hit and some of the putts he’s made and he looks flawless.”
Kaymer returned to the human race Saturday. He bogeyed five holes in the third round, but he countered that with an eagle on the fifth and a birdie on the 18th.
Despite shooting a 2-over 72, Kaymer only lost one stroke off his lead and will head into today’s final round with a 5-shot advantage on the field. He laughingly took all the blame for officials putting the pins in difficult positions.
“Unfortunately, the USGA listened to me yesterday at the press conference when I said — or when I talked about that the USGA can put the pins in tough conditions and make the golf course very tough, and certainly they did,” Kaymer said. “And so therefore, if you shoot anything around par, or 1- or 2-over par, it’s a decent round.”
Two players Erik Compton and Rickie Fowler did make a move in the right direction Saturday afternoon. Both started tied for 14th at even par then vaulted themselves into contention for the championship with identical 3-under 67s.
They were the only ones to find red numbers in the third round and are two of just players under par for the tournament. Henrik Stenson, Dustin Johnson and Brandt Snedeker are the others.
Despite seeing the early starters shooting well above par, Fowler believed there were low rounds to be found around No. 2 Saturday.
“I mean, you definitely have to stay away from making big numbers. And bogeys are going to happen,” Fowler said. “I knew it was a possibility, but I knew I had to play some really good golf. I didn’t see much of the coverage, just saw a little bit. I saw the greens were a little bit of different color, pins were tucked in the corners a little bit more. We have to be patient and play safe some lines at times. There’s only a few times where you can get aggressive and actually try and make birdies here.”
Fowler carded five birdies and two bogeys in his round, while Compton had five birdies, an eagle and four bogeys.
“You have to hit the ball in the fairway, you have to hit it to the middle of the green, and there’s some holes where you can be a little more aggressive,” Compton said. “If you get it down there and you have a good number. But you see it’s not always where you have good numbers. Sometimes you have to hit a half 8-iron and that’s where guys have to be disciplined to be, to play away from the shot. I did that a couple times today, but I had some good numbers early in the round and I just swung and was real aggressive at the target.”
Reach sports editor Shawn Stinson at 910-997-3111, ext. 14 or on Twitter @scgolfer.