Exceeding expectations

Jun. 12, 2014 @ 10:07 PM

Somebody asked Martin Kaymer on Wednesday what score would be OK with him for the whole week. He said 8-over.

He did a little better than that on Thursday.

Kaymer’s 65 was the best round in Pinehurst U.S. Open history and sets him three shots ahead of Kevin Na, Graeme McDowell, Brendon De Jonge and Fran Quinn after first round play on Thursday. His play earned him the praise of some of his fellow pros.

“He hit the ball in the fairway all day,” said Keegan Bradley, one of his playing partners along with Jason Dufner. “There were pins that you could score on. And he’s really striking it well. It was an impressive round, one of the best rounds I’ve seen, for sure.”

Kaymer said his good round was the result of being able to make short birdie putts.

“I just didn’t make many mistakes,” he said. “I hit a lot of good golf shots. I didn’t miss many greens, and therefore I could avoid a lot of bogeys.”

When asked “how” he came about his performance, Kaymer spoke about the confidence he gained from winning the PLAYERS Championship earlier this year.

After winning the PGA Championship in 2010, the German had one top-10 each in 2011 and 2012 and just three in 2013 in PGA Tour events. And he hadn’t really started off the 2013-2014 season all that well either, with just one top-10 through nine Tour events heading into the PLAYERS.

So he changed things.

“I wouldn’t call it a slump, I would call it a learning process, an adjustment,” he said. “I stopped working on technique pretty much the middle of March, beginning of April.”

During the fourth round of the PLAYERS, Kaymer suffered through a 91-minute rain delay while holding a three-shot lead on Jim Furyk. He had a birdie putt lined up when play got called off.

“After the rain delay, for me the day was over,” he said. “I didn’t think we were going to play again. I was already somewhere having sushi and planning when I was going to have to get up in the morning. And all of a sudden the referees come up and said we have to go out again, in 15-20 minutes you have to be back in position.”

After parring the hole he abandoned during the rain delay, he double-bogeyed the next hole and nearly lost his lead. But a big 28-foot par putt on the 17th hole at TPC Sawgrass helped him to his first PGA Tour victory since his PGA Championship win.

Kaymer said how he won that tournament helped him to regain some confidence headed into the rest of this season. And that confidence showed today.

“It’s always nice if you don’t think much about technique, and just focus on the main things, the yardages, and where you want to pitch the ball,” he said. “It’s pretty much very straightforward thinking, very positive thinking. So I see things very positive right now. There’s not much negative. And I really enjoy playing golf that way.”

His positive thinking led to the best score of day one and the 18-hole lead at the U.S. Open at 5-under par. But he doesn’t expect his score to stay that way.

“It’s only the first round and usually the golf course only gets more difficult,” he said. “So I think if you stay around level par, you can’t be that far away from winning the golf tournament.”

But eight-over?

“Hopefully that’s not going to happen,” Kaymer said.