PINEHURST — Martin Kaymer has given the field something to shoot for at the U.S. Open.
Good luck to the field.
After firing a second consecutive 5-under par 65 Friday, Germany’s Kaymer takes a six-shot lead into Saturday’s third round at Pinehurst No. 2.
At 10 under for the tournament, Kaymer’s closest competition is Brendon Todd, whose 3-under 67 left him alone in second place. Todd, who grew up in Cary and won the Byron Nelson Classic a month ago, is a shot ahead of Kevin Na and Brandt Snedeker.
Another group is tied for fifth at 2 under, including Charlotte’s Brendon de Jonge (70), Columbia native Dustin Johnson (69), Brooks Kopeka (68), Keegan Bradley (69) and Henrik Stenson (69).
They’re in pursuit of Kaymer, whose two-day total of 65-65-130 broke the Open’s 36-hole record set in 2011 by Rory McIlroy, who had a 65-66-131 on his way to easily winning at Washington’s Congressional Country Club.
Kaymer shrugged off any historic significance to what he’s accomplished thus far at this Open.
“Somebody has to do it at one stage,” he said. “You need to play very solid and you need a little bit of luck here and there. That was on my side. I’m enjoying it. Yeah, that’s it.”
So the question has become whether Kaymer’s lead is insurmountable – or a challenge that still isn’t too steep for someone to take on.
“He’s probably going to need to come back a bit,” said Todd, who will play in Saturday’s final group with Kaymer. “There’s probably not a 6 or 8 under out there, so we’ll have to do our best and hope he doesn’t keep playing the kind of golf he’s been playing.”
Kaymer has been helped by favorable course conditions both days. Greens were watered down Thursday after No. 2 had hardened from several days of dry weather. Then about an inch of rain fell overnight Thursday, again softening the course for Kaymer and others who played Friday morning.
Whatever No. 2 offers this weekend – the forecast calls for highs near 90 and a slight chance of rain – Kaymer said he’s ready for it.
“I would like to see it as tough as possible,” said Kaymer, 29, whose only two victories on U.S. soil came at the 2010 PGA Championship and this year’s Players Championship. “I was always a fan of a golf course where you need to hit good golf shots and not really have a putting competition.”
Kaymer has played bogey-free golf for 29 consecutive holes – his only bogey of the tournament came on No. 7 on Thursday. He’s been accurate (hitting 25 of 28 fairways), long (averaging 306.0 yards) and has three-putted just once.
“He’s as dialed in as I’ve seen,” said Bradley, one of Kaymer’s playing partners Thursday and Friday.
The cut came at 5-over par and it wasn’t kind to several top players. Masters champion Bubba Watson and Jason Dufner are both headed home after going 6 over. Hunter Mahan would have stuck around for the weekend had it not been for a two-stroke penalty he took on No. 18 when he hit the wrong ball. The penalty pushed his score to 6 over.
Phil Mickelson’s decision to change to a “claw” putting grip lasted one round. After putting poorly with the new grip Thursday on his way to a 70, Mickelson returned to a conventional grip. That wasn’t any more effective, as Mickelson shot a 73 (3 over for the tournament) and saw his hopes of winning the Open and completing golf’s “career slam” fade, at least for this year.
“The hole looks like a thimble,” said Mickelson.
Others who are closer to Kaymer aren’t ready to concede.
“We’ve got to see what happens (Saturday),” said Bradley. “(And) the back nine on Sunday is where it all kind of happens. I think that steady golf out here is going to be tough. You need to go out there (Saturday) and make a bunch of pars.”
Na, seven strokes back, has the math worked out.
“A guy can go two or three over and another guy can go 2 or 3 under,” said Na. “Then you’ve got a big change. Hopefully I’m the guy shooting 2 or 3 under.”
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