Martin Kaymer said he wasn’t surprised by his dominating performance at the U.S. Open, where the former No. 1-ranked golfer in the world won by eight strokes and became the seventh player in the tournament’s 114-year history to lead after all four rounds.
The 29-year-old German, who also won the 2010 PGA Championship, shot a 1-under-par 69 yesterday at Pinehurst Resort’s No. 2 course in North Carolina for a 9 under total of 271. Americans Rickie Fowler and Erik Compton were a distant second at 1 under, the only other players to finish below par.
Kaymer led by a record-tying six shots through two rounds after starting the tournament with back-to-back 65s, and carried a five-stroke lead into the final round. He joins Walter Hagen (1914), James Barnes (1921), Ben Hogan (1953), Tony Jacklin (1970), Tiger Woods (2000 and 2002) and Rory McIlroy (2011) as the only wire-to-wire U.S. Open winners.
“It shouldn’t sound cocky or arrogant, but I knew it would come,” said Kaymer, who was No. 1 for two months in 2011. “I knew that I would play good golf again. I just didn’t think it would take me that much time to get back where I was. Actually not where I was, I think I play better golf now, I’m more of a complete player, it was just a matter of time.”
The eight-stroke margin of victory was the fourth-largest in U.S. Open history and equals the biggest since McIlroy won by eight at Congressional Country Club three years ago. Woods won by a record 15 shots at Pebble Beach in 2000.
Kaymer’s victory came a month after he won the Players Championship over a field that featured 66 of the top 70 in the Official World Golf Ranking. He joins Woods, Phil Mickelson and Adam Scott as the only golfers to win a major, a World Golf Championships event and the Players Championship.
Kaymer, who was ranked No. 1 in the world for two months in 2011 and entered this week at No. 28, receives $1.62 million from the $9 million tournament purse.
Kaymer was in control throughout at the third U.S. Open held at Pinehurst No. 2 and the first since the course underwent a $2.5 million renovation to remove more than 40 acres of Bermuda grass, reducing maintenance costs and returning the 107-year-old Donald Ross design to its original rustic playing conditions. The U.S. Golf Association, which is staging the men’s and women’s Opens at the venue in consecutive weeks, termed the grounds off the fairways as “natural areas,” with sandy expanses, tufts of scrub and wiry grasses.
“We should celebrate what Martin Kaymer did this week,” USGA executive director Mike Davis said. “It was fun. I walked with him the last two days, and to watch his course management and his execution was just brilliant.”
Kaymer had 11 birdies and one bogey over the first two rounds, as he became the first player with consecutive rounds of 65 or better at one of the sport’s four major championships. His 36-hole score of 10-under par 130 was the lowest in U.S. Open history and made him the sixth player to reach double digits under par at the championship.
Kaymer shot a 72 during the third round, yet still carried a five-shot lead over the 25-year-oldFowler and Compton, a two-time heart transplant recipient, into the final day.
“No one was catching Kaymer this week,” said the 34-year-old Compton, who underwent his second transplant in 2008 following a heart attack. “I’ve never gotten this far along in my story, so it hasn’t really sunken in yet. I’m just thrilled. It’s just a real special moment.”
While only six of the previous 21 major winners were able to ride a 54-hole lead to victory, Kaymer was never seriously challenged during the final round. While his lead was briefly cut to four strokes, he extended it to eight with consecutive birdies on the 13th and 14th holes. Kaymer said playing with a big lead in the final round was still a challenge.
“A lot of people think, ‘Well you have a little bit of a cushion,’ but if you approach that day with that attitude, it can be gone so quickly,” Kaymer said. “For me the challenge was to keep going, to stay aggressive, make birdies, go for some flags, and don’t hold back. It’s very difficult to do, because at some stage you get a little bit tight and your body tells you you should take it easy. I overcame that feeling, I stayed aggressive, and I played very brave.”
Kaymer, who in 2010 joined Bernhard Langer as the only German golfers to win a men’s major, is the eighth non-American to win the U.S. Open in the past 11 years. Kaymer is the fourth player to win multiple titles on the U.S. PGA Tour this season, joining Jimmy Walker, Bubba Watson and Patrick Reed.
Phil Mickelson, a six-time U.S. Open runner-up who was seeking the career Grand Slam, finished 7 over par after failing to shoot below par in any round. He finished with back-to-back rounds of 72 over the weekend.
“I didn’t have it all firing this week, but there will be other chances,” said Mickelson, 43, who had the first of his U.S. Open second-place finishes at Pinehurst in 1999, when he lost to Payne Stewart. “I believe in the next five years I’m going to have three or four really good chances, and I do believe I will get it. I’m not upset or disappointed.”
McIlroy, who entered the tournament as the oddsmakers’ favorite without Woods in the field, finished 6 over par. Woods, four wins shy of Jack Nicklaus’s record 18 major titles, skipped the U.S. Open as he continues to rehabilitate his lower back following surgery in March on a pinched nerve.
Scott, No. 1 in the world rankings, finished 2 over after a final-round 69. The last top-ranked player to win a major championship was Woods at the 2008 U.S. Open.
Defending champion Justin Rose tied for 12th at 3 over.
The U.S. Women’s Open will be played this week at Pinehurst and a number of players were on site yesterday for the final round. Among them was Germany’s Sandra Gal, who ran onto the 18th green to douse Kaymer in water in celebration after his second major championship win.
“Some people, especially when I went through that low, called me the one-hit wonder,” Kaymer said. “So it’s quite nice proof, even though I don’t feel like I need to prove a lot of people wrong, but 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.”
To contact the editors responsible for this story: Michael Sillup at email@example.com Rob Gloster