PINEHURST, N.C. — Martin Kaymer has relegated the rest of his competitors in the 114th U.S. Open at Pinehurst No. 2 to giving kudos and making jokes about how badly he is beating them.
For the best players in the world, it’s better to congratulate and laugh than to cry.
The 29-year-old German shot his second consecutive 5-under-par 65 Friday and holds a six-stroke lead over Brendon Todd at 10-under 130 at the midway point of the tournament.
“I heard he played the [Pinehurst] No. 3 course. Is that true?,” quipped Kevin Na, who is tied for third and seven shots back at 3-under 137. “It’s unbelievable what he’s done. Is 4- or 5-under out there? Yes. Is 10-under out there? No, I don’t think so. I guess it was out there for him. It’s amazing.”
Kaymer’s 130 score is the lowest 36-hole score in tournament history, surpassing Rory McIlroy’s 131 at Congressional Country Club in 2011.
His six-stroke lead through 36 holes matches the largest in U.S. Open history, tying Tiger Woods in 2000 at Pebble Beach and McIlroy in 2011. Those leads resulted in runaway victories – Woods by 15 strokes and McIlroy by eight.
Kaymer tied for 39th behind McIlroy in 2011. “I played Congressional and I thought, ‘I mean, how can you shoot that low?’ ” Kaymer said. “And that’s probably what a lot of other people think about me right now.”
Kaymer is the first player to register the outright low round of the U.S. Open in both the first and the second rounds.
No one had ever shot a 65 in the three U.S. Opens held at Pinehurst in 1999, 2005 and this year, and Kaymer has posted the number in back to back rounds.
By reaching 10-under par on his 32nd hole of the tournament, Kaymer became the second fastest to double digits under par in an Open, behind McIlroy. He’s just the sixth player in history to reach double digits at any point of a U.S. Open.
Kaymer’s lead is six shots over Todd, who shot a 67. Todd won the HP Byron Nelson Championship last month to begin a stretch of three consecutive top-10 finishes. Kaymer’s lead is seven over Na and Brandt Snedeker.
Coastal Carolina alumnus Dustin Johnson, Brooks Koepka, Brendon de Jonge, Henrik Stenson and 2011 PGA Championship winner Keegan Bradley are tied for fifth and eight back at 2 under, and Matt Kuchar, Chris Kirk, Jordan Spieth and McIlroy are nine shots back.
Johnson, who shot an 82 with a three-shot lead entering the final round of the 2010 U.S. Open at Pebble Beach, knows big leads have been blown at U.S. Opens before. The last time the U.S. Open was at Pinehurst in ’05, two-time U.S. Open winner Retief Goosen took a lead into the final round and shot an 81.
“As you all know, anything can happen in a U.S. Open,” Johnson said.
Kaymer, 29, knows his biggest enemy this weekend could be himself, so he wants to remain aggressive
“The only thing that can really distract you is your mind,” Kaymer said. “… If you think of defending anything, then you’re pulling back, and that’s never, never really a good thing. You want to challenge yourself. If you can stay aggressive and hit the right shots, that’s quite nice that it’s a battle against yourself.”
Kaymer has made 11 birdies and just one bogey in the opening two rounds, and had five birdies without a bogey Friday.
He cautioned Thursday night not to expect another 65 in the second round, but his game was just as sharp as Thursday and he found the course to be as generous because of overnight rain that kept the greens fairly soft.
“I was expecting the golf course playing a lot firmer and obviously that rain helped a lot last night and you could still be aggressive today,” Kaymer said. “We had perfect greens in the morning, but still you have to hit good shots.”
He started on the par-5 10th and hit a gap wedge to 5 feet for birdie, made a 20-foot birdie putt on the 13th and a 25-foot birdie putt on the 16th to reach 8 under through his first seven holes.
He drove the green on the 315-yard par-4 third hole and two-putted for birdie, and two-putted for birdie on the 563-yard par-5 fifth hole.
Even after he wore down a bit late in his morning round Friday, his short game allowed him to keep a blemish off the scorecard. He got up and down from bunkers for pars on the sixth and seventh holes.
“The last three or four holes I got a little bit tired, I didn’t swing it as good as the first 14 holes, but I could make a couple good up-and-downs, especially on 6 and 7,” he said. “The way I’m playing golf right now, it’s just really satisfying. It’s very solid, with not many mistakes.”