Kaymer claims second major in style
Published 16/06/2014 | 00:57
Five weeks after a wire-to-wire victory in golf's unofficial fifth major, Martin Kaymer repeated the trick in one of the official ones for good measure with an utterly dominant display in the US Open at Pinehurst.
Looking to become the first German player to win the title - although the fourth European in the last five years after Ryder Cup team-mates Graeme McDowell, Rory McIlroy and Justin Rose - Kaymer took a five-shot lead into the final round and was never in danger of being caught.
The 29-year-old carded a closing 69 to finish nine under par and eight shots clear of American duo Rickie Fowler and Erik Compton, becoming the eighth player in US Open history to lead outright after every round after Walter Hagen (1914), James Barnes (1921), Ben Hogan (1953), Tony Jacklin (1970), Tiger Woods (2000, 2002) and McIlroy (2011).
Successive rounds of 65 - the lowest in a US Open at Pinehurst - meant Kaymer had equalled the lowest halfway total in major championship history, as well as eclipsing the US Open record of 131 set by Rory McIlroy at Congressional in 2011.
His six-shot halfway lead also matched the championship record shared by Tiger Woods (2000) and McIlroy (2011), while he joined McIlroy in becoming the only players to reach double digits under par in the first two rounds.
A third round of 72 in testing conditions succeeded in only reducing his lead by a single shot and no-one got within four in a final round which may have lacked drama, but which succeeded in identifying a worthy winner now back on the fringes of the world's top 10 after lying outside the top 60 only last month.
With LPGA players watching from inside the ropes ahead of the US Women's Open getting under way on Thursday - the first time they have been held back to back on the same course - Kaymer never looked like becoming the first player since Mike Brady in 1919 to relinquish a five-shot lead after 54 holes.
The tee on the par-four third had been brought forward to tempt players into driving the green and Kaymer did precisely that, two-putting from long range for birdie to move to nine under par.
A bogey on the seventh saw Kaymer's lead reduced to four shots after American Erik Compton picked up his second birdie of the day on the eighth, but the 34-year-old promptly bogeyed the ninth after failing to get up and down from a greenside bunker.
Kaymer made no such mistake with a superb tee shot setting up a birdie from five feet, but after Compton reduced the gap once more on the par-five 10th and Kaymer took six on the same hole after thinning his third over the green, Compton released the pressure with a bogey on the 11th.
A birdie on the 13th meant Kaymer was seven clear with five holes to play but the former world number one was heeding McIlroy's advice to keep his feet to the floor, rolling in another long putt on the 14th to extend his lead once more.
It was now just a matter of completing the formalities of a second major title, his first having come by beating Bubba Watson in a play-off for the 2010 US PGA Championship at Whistling Straits.
Six months later he lost in the final of the Accenture Match Play Championship to Luke Donald, but had the consolation of moving to world number one - a position he held for eight weeks.
Prompted partly by a fourth straight missed cut in the Masters in April that year, Kaymer began working on his swing to enable him to hit a draw as well as his usual fade - a process which meant he slid gradually down the world rankings.
By the time of the Ryder Cup in September 2012, the 29-year-old admitted he would not have picked himself for the team, but, having clung on to the last automatic qualifying place, he had no choice.
He felt he let Justin Rose down in their fourball defeat on the opening day, so it was no surprise that he did not feature again until the Sunday singles, when captain Jose Maria Olazabal put him out in the penultimate game against Steve Stricker.
Faced with two putts from long range on the 18th to win and ensure Europe retained the trophy, Kaymer charged his birdie attempt seven feet past the hole. What happened next crowned the 'Miracle at Medinah' - a moment Kaymer admitted this week could have ruined his career if it had gone the wrong way.
Despite such a confidence boost, Kaymer failed to win on the European Tour for the second year in succession in 2013 and was down at 61st in the world rankings when he arrived at Sawgrass last month for the Players Championship - golf's so-called 'unofficial fifth major'.
A first-round 63 equalled the course record and propelled him to a dramatic victory eventually secured in near-darkness following a 90-minute weather delay in the final round. The victory in Florida earned Kaymer US dollars 1.8million and Sunday's 'just' 1.4million.
But there is no doubt which was the more valuable in terms of a place in the record books.