PINEHURST, N.C. – After his Wednesday practice round at Pinehurst No. 2, Martin Kaymer was asked what score he would take on Sunday afternoon and answered, “8-over par.”
“I wouldn’t take it anymore, obviously,” Kaymer said with a smile following his second round.
That might be the understatement of the year after Kaymer shot a second consecutive, 5-under 65 for a 36-hole U.S. Open record of 10-under 130. He also became the sixth golfer to reach double figures under par at a U.S. Open, joining Gil Morgan, Tiger Woods, Jim Furyk, Ricky Barnes and Rory McIlroy.
Kaymer, 29, competed in the 2011 U.S. Open when McIlroy lapped the field and remembered thinking, “How can you shoot that low? And that’s probably what a lot of other people think about me right now.”
Brooks Keopka, who fired a 68 in the morning to trail Kaymer by 8 strokes, may have put it best.
“Martin seems to be playing a different golf course,” Koepka said.
No, Kaymer did not slip onto Pinehurst No. 4. Rather, Kaymer has played with the type of surgical precision that would make his fellow German major winner Bernhard Langer proud. Kaymer has hit 25 of 28 fairways, 26 of 36 greens in regulation and rescued par on nine of the occasions when he’s missed the green. He picked up where he left off yesterday by knocking a gap wedge from 125 yards inside 5 feet at the 10th hole for his first birdie of the day. He canned a 20-foot birdie putt on 13 and then sneaked in a wandering right-to-left 25-footer at 16.
“That was a bonus,” Kaymer said.
He toured the front in 32, dominating that side in a two-day combined total of 63 to open a six-stroke lead on the field. Yet, Kaymer stayed aggressive and chose driver at the par-4 third hole with its tee moved up to 307 yards.
“I don’t lay up,” Kaymer said later.
He swept the ball high off the tee and high into the air with his patented cut and drove the green. It was a confident swing and set up a routine two-putt birdie to improve to 9 under. At 12:10 p.m., Kaymer holed a 3-foot birdie putt through his shadow at the par-5 fifth hole to reach the 10-under mark. He played the type of stress-free golf not usually associated with America’s national championship. Only twice did he miss the fairway and on both occasions he escaped without harm.
“It’s very, very solid,” said Kaymer, the winner of The Players in May. “It gets boring the words that I use, but I mean there’s not much to say. It’s just good right now the way I play golf.”
For all his recent success, Kaymer didn’t expect to shoot another 65 on Friday, and said as much after his first round. So what happened? “Well the rain,” he said. Indeed, overnight storm softened the course, but no one else took advantage like Kaymer. He said he changed his approach after watching the tournament broadcast before his round on Thursday. “I thought, you know, actually there are some birdies. It’s not always middle of the green and wait if you make a long putt. So it’s a lot more playable than I thought.”
Kaymer survived a few hiccups on the closing holes. He fanned a 3-iron into the front right greenside bunker at the 240-yard 6th hole, but splashed to 4 feet.
“It was a sneaky one,” he said of the bunker shot.
Kaymer sank the putt to preserve his bogey-free round and averted trouble at 7 with another sandy after tugging his approach into the left greenside bunker. As Kaymer lined up his birdie putt at the ninth, Brandt Snedeker walked off the 10th tee, which is adjacent to 10, turned in Kaymer’s direction, stuck both arms out and bowed as if to say, “We’re not worthy.”
For 36 holes at a U.S. Open, no one had ever performed better. Kaymer has that look of invincibility but he knows it is too soon to crown him champion.
“I mean, anything can happen over the next two days,” he said.
At his current pace that could mean Kaymer re-writing a wide swath of the U.S. Open record book.