RYDER Cup hero Martin Kaymer evoked memories of Rory McIlroy’s runaway victory in 2011 as he continued his remarkable domination of the 114th US Open.
Kaymer said after his opening 65, the lowest score in the US Open at Pinehurst, that no-one should expect him to do it again, but that was precisely what he did last night to set another record. The 29-year-old’s halfway total of 130 eclipsed the previous championship best of 131 set by McIlroy at Congressional, although McIlroy was 11-under and Kaymer ‘only’ 10 under after 11 birdies and just one bogey over the first two days.
It also equalled the lowest halfway total in any major championship, set by Nick Faldo in the Open at Muirfield in 1992 and matched by Brandt Snedeker in the same event at Royal Lytham 20 years later.
McIlroy’s halfway lead of six shots three years ago had matched the record set by Tiger Woods at Pebble Beach in 2000 – Kaymer was eight ahead of Zimbabwe’s Brendon de Jonge and American trio Keegan Bradley, Dustin Johnson and Brooks Koepka as the afternoon starters headed on to the course.
“It’s not a done deal,” insisted Kaymer, who joined McIlroy as the only players to get to double digits under par in the first two rounds. “You don’t approach Saturday and Sunday in a relaxed way.
“It’s never a time when you can relax, unless it’s Sunday afternoon and you are raising the trophy. There’s never a time you can take it easy, you have to set your own goals and keep playing well.
“I played Congressional [finishing joint 12th] and I thought how can you shoot that low? And that’s probably what a lot of other people think about me right now. But it will be quite interesting to talk to Rory about it, how he felt.
“It’s not like we play different golf courses or easier golf courses, I’m sure he must have played so solid without making many mistakes and that I think is the main thing in majors, that you avoid the big numbers.”
Kaymer became just the fourth European winner of the Players Championship in 41 years last month and considers his wire-to-wire victory at Sawgrass as good as a second major title given the strength of the field. “In my books, I won a second major already,” he added. “It’s a career goal to win one major. Fortunately, I got that done fairly early in my career [aged 25 in the 2010 US PGA].
“But I really believe at the end of your career it comes down to the big, moments where you could handle the challenges. It comes down to winning majors, World Golf Championship events, being on the Ryder Cup team, those things.”
Asked on Wednesday what score he would be happy with after four rounds, Kaymer had said eight over par, but birdies on the 10th, 13th and 16th yesterday – having started from the tenth – took him to eight under after just 25 holes.
The tee on the par-four third had been moved forward to bring the green into range and Kaymer took full advantage, driving the green from 315 yards and two-putting for his fourth birdie of the day.
Another soon followed on the fifth and Kaymer kept a bogey off his card to leave the chasing pack facing a monumental task to deny him a second major title.
His first came at Whistling Straits in 2010, when Johnson was famously denied a place in the play-off between Kaymer and Bubba Watson due to a two-shot penalty on the 72nd hole, the 29-year-old grounding his club in a bunker that he thought was a waste area.
Speaking after carding his second consecutive 69, Johnson said: “I would have taken it on Wednesday. And no, I wouldn’t have thought it would be eight shots behind.
Koepka said: “Martin seems to be playing a different golf course, 10-under is incredible.”
World No 1 Adam Scott, who carded a second round of 67 to get back to level for the tournament, added: “It’s great golf from Martin. There are so many talented guys and he’s certainly one of them and he’s confident enough after winning a big event already this year. For him to come out today and back it up is super. If he does it for two more days, then we’re all playing for second spot. But we all know that US Opens get very difficult and if I can just somehow put together two really good rounds, maybe I’ll creep my way up towards Martin.”