PINEHURST, N.C. — Martin Kaymer paid attention to all those who doubted him.
When he descended from No. 1 in the world to No. 63 in less than three years, he heard the analysts, read the websites, magazines and newspapers, and saw the criticism on social media sites about his fading success.
And it hurt the 29-year-old winner of the 2010 PGA Championship.
“It's just that you read over and over again in newspapers, on Facebook, on all those golf websites that, ‘Is he ever going to come back? Is he a one-hit wonder with a major win?’” said Kaymer, who went through a swing change over the past three years to try to become a more complete player.
“You can't avoid listening to it or reading it. The outside, they put a lot of pressure on you. And at the end of the day, obviously it's up to yourself if you let it get to you or not. But you have to be very, very strong to really don't care. I care about it.”
The criticism also motivated him, and Kaymer has come up with an emphatic answer over the past six weeks for the doubters.
Kaymer followed up his win last month in The Players Championship with a dominating victory Sunday in the 114th U.S. Open, taming Pinehurst No. 2 with a 9-under 271 total to claim an eight-stroke victory.
“You want to win majors in your career, but if you can win one more, it means so much more,” Kaymer said. “… So it's quite nice proof – even though I don't feel like I need to prove a lot to people – but somehow it's quite satisfying to have two under your belt.
“And I'm only 29 years old, so I hope I have another few years ahead of me.”
Kaymer opened the tournament with a pair of 65s – becoming the first player in major championship history to record two opening rounds that low – and took a five-shot lead into the final round that he expanded with a closing 1-under 69.
Rickie Fowler and two-time heart transplant recipient Erik Compton tied for second at 1-under 279 and they were the only other players under par. Five players, including Coastal Carolina alumnus Dustin Johnson, tied for fourth at 1-over 281.
Kaymer’s eight-shot win matches the fourth-largest margin of victory in U.S. Open history, tying Rory McIlroy’s margin at a soggy Congressional Country Club in 2011.
Only Tiger Woods’ 15-stroke win in 2000, Willie Smith’s 11-stroke win in 1899 and James Barnes’ nine-stroke victory in 1921 were larger.
His 271 total is the second-lowest score in U.S. Open history to McIlroy’s 268, and it’s the third lowest score against par behind Woods and McIlroy. Kaymer is the third player in the last 30 years to win a major from start to finish without ties at the conclusion of any round.
“I knew it would come,” Kaymer said. “I knew I would play good golf again. I just didn’t know it would take me this long.”
Kaymer’s five-stroke advantage entering the final round never dropped below four strokes, following three birdies in six holes through the 10th by Compton. But Kaymer responded with birdies on the 13th and 14th holes to eliminate any hope for his competitors.
“I stayed aggressive and played very brave, so I’m very proud of that,” Kaymer said. “When you lead such a big tournament with five shots, it's very, very difficult to keep going. And therefore it was very nice that I could make some solid shots the first five, six holes, and I was 1-under par, so I was in control. And that was the most important thing for me to stay in control of the golf tournament.”
There were 17 rounds of par or better Sunday and 11 in the 60s, but none of those were recorded by a player within 10 shots of Kaymer’s lead entering the final round.
Playing in the final group with Kaymer and trailing by six shots through three holes, Fowler fell out of contention when he skulled a chip shot across the fourth green and into trees and took a double bogey.
“Martin was playing his own tournament,” said Fowler, who has tied for fifth and second in the season’s first two majors. “If he did what he did today nobody was going to catch him. I had a couple of mishaps and I could have given him a better run for the money, but congratulations to him.”
Kaymer’s 69 is further proof that he’s a good front-runner. He has won six of the seven events he’s led after 54 holes, including the Players Championship.
The two recent victories are more gratifying because of the varied manners in which they came. He blew a lead with a double bogey on the 69th hole at The Players, only to regain it on the final two holes, and Sunday he demoralized his competitors.
“The way I won those two tournaments in a complete different fashion, you know, it makes you grow as a person and as a golf player that you know you can handle a lot of different circumstances,” Kaymer said.
Three of the last four U.S. Open champions have been European, though Kaymer is the first U.S. Open winner ever from continental Europe. He joins two-time Masters winner Bernhard Langer as a two-time major winner from Germany.
While there were certainly a lot of doubters over the past couple years, those who have seen Kaymer work on his game and fitness aren’t surprised he has become one of the game’s top players again.
“He’s an incredibly hard worker,” McIlroy said. “… So he’s put the work in there and I don’t think it’s a surprise that he’s back to playing the golf that we know that he can play.”