Gerry Dulac: McMurray native among Kaymer chasers at U.S. Open

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PINEHURST, N.C. — The previous time a Western Pennsylvania native chased a dominant player in the U.S. Open, Rocco Mediate took Tiger Woods to an epic Monday playoff before losing. It was the most recent time Woods won a major championship.

On a rugged, crusty course, a long way from Torrey Pines, it's happening again.

Sort of.

Brendon Todd doesn't have any family or relatives still living in Western Pennsylvania. And he hasn't lived there since his family moved from McMurray when he was 11, 18 years ago.

But he loves the Steelers, Penguins and Pirates, would be thrilled to play golf with Mike Tomlin and would just as soon analyze the Steelers draft as read the break in one of the turtleback greens at Pinehurst No. 2.

Even though he went to high school in North Carolina, played golf at Georgia and lives in Atlanta, he considers himself a Western Pennsylvania native.

And now he gets to do something really challenging -- try to catch Martin Kaymer at the 114th U.S. Open.

"His performance has been incredible," said Todd, who won the Byron Nelson Classic in May for his first PGA Tour victory. "He's playing a brand of golf that we haven't seen probably in a long time, since maybe Tiger.

"I watched about an hour or so of the coverage this morning and one of the things I noticed about him was how upset he was on 17 when he landed his 6-iron like 10 feet left of the flag. So obviously he's very confident right now."

Todd, who was born in Canonsburg Hospital and learned to play golf with his dad and brothers at Rolling Hills Country Club in McMurray, was nearly as perfect as Kaymer Friday, shooting a bogey-free round of 67 that included two nifty par saves from the greenside bunker at Nos. 16 and 17.

After two rounds, he is alone in second at 4-under 136, six shots back. Today, he will be in the final pairing with Kaymer.

"If you asked any player, if they were 4 under after two days, would you take it and be in the lead, they'd all say yes," Todd said.

But not with what Kaymer has done for two days. He has posted back-to-back 65s to set the U.S. Open 36-hole scoring record at 10-under 130. What's more, the six-shot lead he has ties the tournament record shared by Woods (2000) and Rory McIlroy (2011).

"If he comes back to us, great," Todd said. "If he shoots 10 under the next two days, he's superhuman."

Then he added: "He might need to come back a little bit. I don't think there's too much opportunity to shoot 6 under on the weekend or 8 under on the weekend if he were to get a couple more [under].

"We're going to go out and do our best. We really have to capitalize on the holes you have a wedge or par 5, where we might get up by the green in two. And hope he doesn't play his best brand of golf."

"It's pretty unbelievable golf at this point," said Brandt Snedeker, who has made one fewer birdie (10) than Kaymer (11) over two days but still trails by seven shots.

"But this golf course is very, very difficult, very, very tricky, and no lead is safe in the U.S. Open."

Todd certainly will have the galleries on his side as he tries to catch Kaymer.

When he left McMurray Elementary School after fifth grade, Todd moved with his family to Cary, N.C., about an hour north of Pinehurst, where he became a three-time state high school champion.

During that time, he estimates he played about 100 rounds in junior tournaments at the Pinehurst resort.

"I think there's familiarity with the area," said Todd, who played collegiate golf at Georgia and was paired with former Bulldogs teammates Chris Kirk and Russell Henley the first two rounds. "I've played pretty much all my competitive golf in the Southeast, so I'm really comfortable on Bermuda grass. I really like Bermuda fairways, and the greens are rolling really well. I feel really good on this course, the surface."

Todd has a number of people cheering for him and screaming his name, especially with those bunker saves at Nos. 16 and 17. When he walked to the 18th green, he was given a nice ovation from the people who remained in the grandstand. They groaned when he missed a 10-foot birdie putt that would have pulled him even closer to Kaymer.

"No one from Pittsburgh," Todd said, smiling.

They'll be watching now.

Gerry Dulac: gdulac@post-gazette.com and Twitter @gerrydulac.


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