Kaymer still has plenty of work ahead at U.S. Open

PINEHURST, N.C. — Too bad the Fox Sports contract to televise the U.S. Open doesn’t start until next
year. Greg Norman would probably have a lot to say about the difficulty of playing with a big lead on
the weekend at a major championship.
Norman, who will be the network’s golf analyst, famously lost a six-shot lead in the final round of the
1996 Masters. Ten years earlier, he lost a four-shot lead in the PGA Championship at Inverness.
Martin Kaymer still has 36 holes to go at Pinehurst No. 2.
The 29-year-old German thus far has played like a "finely tuned engineer," a description Darren
Clarke used for him when Kaymer won The Players Championship last month. Going into the third round
Saturday, he has made 11 birdies and, more importantly, has not made a bogey in 29 holes.
That adds to a 10-under 130 — a 36-hole record at the U.S. Open. His six-shot lead over Brendon Todd tied
the U.S. Open record for largest 36-hole leads with Tiger Woods (Pebble Beach in 2000) and Rory McIlroy
(Congressional in 2011). Both went on to win in record fashion.
Does the strategy change? Does he start the third round as if he has no lead at all, or does he play
conservatively to avoid big numbers?
McIlroy offered advice from his own experience.
He had a four-shot lead going into the final round of the 2011 Masters, played defensively and wound up
with an 80. The collapse might have been even more memorable except that Boy Wonder turned out to be a
quick study. Two months later, he had a six-shot lead going into the weekend at the U.S. Open, expanded
that margin to eight shots on Saturday, and never let anyone get close the rest of the way.
"You need that mentality that you’re not trying to protect," McIlroy said Friday night after a
68 put him nine shots behind. "You’re not happy with six. You want to get to seven, you want to get
to eight. And I learned that at the Masters, the previous major before Congressional. If you get too
defensive, it’s detrimental. So he has to just keep hitting to his spots, being aggressive.
"And if he does that shoots a couple of 70s over the weekend, I don’t think anyone is going to catch
him."
The 67 players who made the cut at Pinehurst would love to be in Kaymer’s position. That’s not to say
Kaymer has smooth sailing ahead of him. From a public perception, all he can do from here is lose, and
it’s hard to block that out.
Kaymer made quick work of Pinehurst over two days. The last two days will feel a lot longer.
Phil Mickelson made reference to Gil Morgan, the first player to reach double digits under par in the
U.S. Open at Pebble Beach in 1992. He finished eight shots behind. Then again, Mickelson said Pinehurst
No. 2 is different from Pebble Beach, just as Kaymer — a major champion and former world No. 1 — is not
Morgan.
"There’s opportunity to salvage par if your game is off," Mickelson said. "And his game is
on."
Woods (12 under) and McIlroy (16 under) are the only players to win a U.S. Open at double digits under
par. That’s not likely to happen at Pinehurst.
"No one else is going to get to 10 under. That’s a fact," Graeme McDowell said. "Martin,
to me, he’s in control of the golf tournament right now. If he can keep it better than 5-, 6-under par,
he’s got this thing sewn up and can only beat himself from here. He’s got a lot of work to do,
though."
Kaymer sounded as though he realizes to play defensively is to ask for trouble. He spoke Friday about
going forward, finding new challenges and said, "That’s quite nice that it’s a battle against
yourself."
Woods was playing his own tournament at Pebble Beach in 2000, still regarded as the greatest major
performance in history. He stretched his six-shot lead to 10 shots over Ernie Els going into Sunday and
wound up winning by 15.
Woods had his own challenge that day — no bogeys. It showed when he made a 15-foot par putt on the 16th
hole and reacted as if he had just taken a one-shot lead.
"I knew if I went out there and made no bogeys today, Ernie would have to shoot a really low
number," Woods said. "If I went out there and was patient, hit a lot of fairways, a lot of
greens, I knew I’d make a putt here and there and maybe increase the lead.
"Or if not," he added, let them know that it was almost impossible to catch me."