Emphatic win at U.S. Open for Martin Kaymer

Kaymer dominates field, Pinehurst No. 2 to become first victor from Germany

PINEHURST, N.C. -- There was never much mystery about what might transpire at the 114th U.S. Open, certainly not after the first two rounds when Martin Kaymer set a tournament scoring record by making 11 birdies and only one bogey.

And certainly not after the way he put his foot on the neck of Rickie Fowler, Dustin Johnson, Erik Compton and any other player who thought they might be able to chip at the five-shot lead he carried into the final round.

The only question to be answered was not if Kaymer would win the U.S. Open for his second major title, but rather by how much. And he provided the answer in a very emphatic way by charging to the finish line on what he told his caddie would be "the toughest day of our life" with the same masterful style he employed for four days.

When it was all over Sunday, the field and the newly restored Pinehurst No. 2 were no match for Kaymer, who finished off his four-day masterpiece with a final-round 69 that gave him a resounding eight-shot victory.

"To win one major is already very nice in your career, but to win two, it means a lot more," said Kaymer, 29, who became the first player from Germany to win the U.S. Open. "Some friends, they called me a one-hit wonder with the majors, obviously in a funny way, and now I can go back and show them this one."

Kaymer's winning score of 9-under 271 was the second-lowest total in U.S. Open history, behind only Rory McIlroy's 16-under 268 at Congressional in 2011. His eight-shot victory margin tied McIlroy for the fourth highest in tournament history.

It capped a week in which Kaymer seized the first-round lead with a 65 -- the lowest round shot in a U.S. Open at Pinehurst -- and followed that with another 65 to set the tournament's 36-hole scoring record at 10-under 130.

"A lot of people think you have a little cushion, but if you go in with that attitude it can be gone so quickly," Kaymer said. "For me, the challenge was to keep going, make some birdies, go at some flags. Your body tells you to take it easy, but I overcame that feeling and stayed aggressive."

Kaymer was so dominant he held the lead by himself for four rounds, becoming the eighth player in U.S. Open history to do so.

That, though, is nothing new for Kaymer. He went wire-to-wire a month ago when he won The Players Championship at Ponte Vedra Beach, Fla. Kaymer becomes the first player to win the U.S. Open and The Players Championship in the same year.

"Martin was playing his own golf tournament," said Fowler, who finished tied for second with Erik Compton at 279 -- the only other players under par. "No one was going to catch him."

If it wasn't for a bogey at No. 16, Kaymer would have become only the third player in U.S. Open history to have a winning score of at least 10 under. McIlroy (16 under) did it in 2011 and Tiger Woods (12 under) did it in 2000.

"I'm wondering how he did it," said McIlroy, who finished tied for 17th at 286. "To do what he's doing, I think it's nearly more impressive than what I did at Congressional."

Kaymer made a tournament-best 16 birdies and an eagle in four rounds at Pinehurst, and he did it by hitting 77 percent of the fairways (43 of 56) and navigating the slippery greenside slopes at Pinehurst. Kaymer didn't hit a large percentage of greens in regulation -- he was 18th with 45 of 72 -- but he saved countless pars by putting from the closely mowed areas.

Kaymer hit only 19 of 36 greens on the weekend, including just nine in the final round, but nothing seemed to bother him.

"A bad putt is still better than a bad chip," said Kaymer, who became just the fifth player to win the U.S. Open, PGA and The Players Championship. "If you hit a bad chip, you still have a chip. If you hit a bad putt, you still have a chance to make par. I just tried to get it into that 8-10 foot circle and not make anything worse than bogey."

Unlike the third round, when Kaymer bogeyed two of the first four holes en route to a 72, he wasted little time getting started in his final-round pairing with Fowler.

He drove the 314-yard third hole and two-putted for birdie, made a good par from the scruffy waste area at No. 4 and had a seven-shot lead after five holes. One of his few mistakes came at No. 7 when, using an iron, his tee shot trickled into the native grasses, leading to a bogey.

But he quickly got that shot back at the par-3 ninth when he hit it to 8 feet for birdie.

"The first five to six holes were very crucial to start off well, not the way I did it [Saturday]," Kaymer said. "For me, it was very important to stay five shots ahead, and that's what I did. That was a very important birdie for me on 9."

Fowler, who was in the final pairing with Kaymer, was done in by a nasty double bogey at the par-4 fourth when his third shot from a dirt path flew the green into a clump of trees.

He got one of the shots back with a two-putt birdie at the par-5 fifth, but another bogey at the par-3 ninth dropped him eight shots behind Kaymer at the turn.

"I was stopped quickly when I made a big double," Fowler said. "I was thrown behind the eight-ball quickly."

Compton, a two-time heart transplant recipient, had the crowd on his side, especially when he made a birdie at No. 5 and a 10-foot birdie at the difficult par-4 eighth to get to 4 under, shrinking Kaymer's lead to four shots, its smallest margin since early in the second round.

But Compton bogeyed three of the next four holes to shoot 72, still good enough for a tie for second with Fowler. When he made a scrambling par from the transition area on the final hole, he was given a huge ovation from the crowd at the 18th green.

"Finishing second, the up and down on 18, made it really, really sweet," Compton said. "For me to be here and do this at such a high level is just a great feeling. I can't wait to get back into another major."

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

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