SUNDAY AT THE U.S. OPEN: Martin Kaymer takes care of historic title
Martin Kaymer's walk through the pines to his first U.S. Open Championship title was never threatened Sunday afternoon as the national championship concluded at Pinehurst No. 2.
In reality, with only the barest of hindsight, his championship wasn't in doubt Saturday, or even on Friday. Kaymer becomes the first German and first player from continental Europe to win the U.S. Open. It's his second major tournament title.
Kaymer's final round 69 was easily enough to protect the five-shot lead he began the afternoon with. His back-to-back 65s Thursday and Friday set the new record for a U.S. Open round at Pinehurst No. 2 and the lowest score through 36 holes in a U.S. Open.
The closest glimmer of a challenge to Kaymer's dominance came late during Sunday's front nine.
Erik Compton, a 34-year-old who finished tied for second for the best result of his PGA Tour career, was five shots behind Kaymer starting the day and playing one group ahead of Kaymer and Rickie Fowler, who was also five back through three rounds.
Compton made a birdie four on the fifth hole and gave himself a good opportunity to move to five under par, at the time four back of Kaymer, on No. 7, one of the most difficult holes of the week.
Compton's approach shot settled 15 feet from the pin. He ran the birdie try four feet by the hole and missed the par putt.
Compton and Fowler were the only other players in the field to finish better than par; both carded two-over 72s Sunday finishing at one-under 279.
Throughout the championship, Kaymer felt he was having outstanding success with a balance of playing his game and not being overly aggressive. There's no doubt his combination was perfect.
"You have to convince yourself. You have to believe. You have to play brave," he said.
"If you hit a bad shot, you hit a bad shot. But that's the way you want to play golf or at least the way I want to play golf."
A "bad shot" was relative through all 72 holes for Kaymer and even when finding a little trouble, he turned in unbelievable shots.
On Friday, back to back sand saves for pars on Nos. 7 and 8 keyed his five-birdie, bogey-free day.
On Saturday, after a hint of letting the field back in the hunt, Kaymer turned a drive into Pinehurst's natural "broken ground" into a brilliant approach shot and short eagle putt.
His first U.S. Open comes shortly after his Players Championship win, though after some struggles after his 2010 PGA Championship title.
"Some people, especially when I went through that low, called me the one-hit wonder and those things," he said. "So it's quite nice proof, even though I don't feel like I need to prove a lot of people, but somehow it's quite satisfying to have two under your belt."
Fowler, 25 and with one PGA Tour victory in his career, began his round paired with Kaymer with three pars before a double-bogey six, his only double bogey in 72 holes, on the 528-yard No. 4.
Compton, of Miami, Fla., reached the U.S. Open through sectional qualifying in Columbus, Ohio, in 36 holes plus two playoff holes, on June 2.
Taking a long road to the U.S. Open, let alone being in contention on Sunday, was not the main reason he became a fan favorite this weekend.
At age 12, Compton received a heart transplant three years after being diagnosed with viral cardiomyopathy
Compton suffered a severe heart attack at age 28, in October 2007, and had a second heart transplant eight months later.
His only major tournament before this U.S. Open was the 2010 U.S. Open. His best professional result before last week was winning the Web.com Tour's Mexican Open in 2011.
Following his first record-setting 65, Kaymer said Pinehurst No. 2 could get a big lead in a hurry. He said he still felt plenty of pressure holding the lead with a round to go in a major.
"Well, the pressure was there from the first tee. I would lie if I wouldn't have felt pressure or if I wouldn't have been nervous. Of course you're nervous when you're leading a major championship. You can't tell me that you are calm," he said.
If Kaymer remained nervous all the way around the course Sunday, it never showed and it didn't change the impeccable way he controlled Pinehurst No. 2.
Even on the 72nd hole, his drive missed a little right rolling near a tuft of wiregrass. He blasted a wedge out about 50 yards safely into the fairway. He didn't need to save par, but did anyway.
"The challenge was not to think too much about that trophy," he said once he had the trophy for the first time and once he had simplified the challenge for four straight days.