One round of the 2014 U.S. Open is in the books, and Martin Kaymer has positioned himself as the man to beat.
With the small nature of the greens and the dearth of eagle opportunities, some thought that scoring might be down at the tournament this year, even if the rain held off.
Somebody should tell that to Kaymer. The 29-year-old posted a five-under 65 on Thursday, grabbing a three-stroke lead over Kevin Na, Graeme McDowell, Brendon de Jonge and Fran Quinn.
Kaymer joins Mike Weir and Rory McIlroy as the only three players to have shot five under or better in Round 1 of the U.S. Open in the last decade, per ESPN's Chris Fallica:
In last 10 yrs, only 2 players shot -5 or better in 1st rd of U.S. Open - Rory McIlroy in '11, Mike Weir in '09. Martin Kaymer now the 3rd— Chris Fallica (@chrisfallica) June 12, 2014
The 65 broke the course record at Pinehurst No. 2 for lowest single-round score, per Golf Central:
Of course, this means that Kaymer's pre-tournament prediction for the final score will likely be woefully off the mark, per GolfChannel.com's Jason Sobel:
Martin Kaymer was asked yesterday to predict the winning score. His answer: 8-over. So, yeah... a 5-under 65 is pretty good.— Jason Sobel (@JasonSobelGC) June 12, 2014
The German star already has one big-name tournament win to his name in 2014: The Players Championship back in May. As Sobel pointed out, he could be the first golfer to win the Players and the U.S. Open in the same year:
Martin Kaymer trying to become first to win Players and U.S. Open in same year. Even cooler: First to win on Mother's Day and Father's Day.— Jason Sobel (@JasonSobelGC) June 12, 2014
After heading into the clubhouse, Kaymer commented that his triumph at Sawgrass gave him the necessary boost before the year's second major tournament.
"I needed a win," he bluntly said, per Paul Newberry of The Associated Press, via ABCNews.com. "Whether it was The Players or a regular PGA Tour event, I just needed it for my confidence, for all the hard work I've put in the last couple of years."
With the scoring likely to remain pretty low over the next three rounds, Kaymer positioned himself extremely well for this weekend.
One golfer who wasn't so lucky was last year's champion, Justin Rose. A defense of his 2013 U.S. Open title always seemed like an unrealistic expectation, but few would've predicted that he'd start out in a tie for 50th at two over.
His round could best be summed up by his butchered approach shot on No. 8. Both his club and a hunk of the fairway went flying and nearly outdistanced the ball:
At least he gave hope to golf fans everywhere, per Fox Sports Live:
"I can do that!"- everyone who just watched Justin Rose fluff his chip shot. #USOpen— FOX Sports Live (@FOXSportsLive) June 12, 2014
Another star who struggled on Thursday was Rory McIlroy. The 2011 champion had little positive to say about his round after shooting a one-over, good enough for a tie for 36th:
Rory McIlroy: "When I three-putted at 16, the first thing I thought of was Jack (Nicklaus). I know how much he hates three putts." #USOpen— PGA TOUR (@PGATOUR) June 12, 2014
One of the golfers to watch on Friday is Quinn. He's a complete unknown, and here he is, tied for second after the first round of a major tournament. Here's a little perspective about the last time he was in a U.S. Open, per Doug Ferguson of The Associated Press:
The last time Fran Quinn played in a US Open, Greg Norman was No. 1 in the world and Tiger was still an amateur. So yeah, it's been awhile.— Doug Ferguson (@dougferguson405) June 12, 2014
At least he's in the same company as a rap legend and one of the best players in baseball, per Golf Channel's Justin Ray:
What do Jay-Z, Mike Trout, Fran Quinn and me all have in common? The same Official World Golf Ranking (N/A).— Justin Ray (@JustinRayGC) June 12, 2014
Quinn's decline will likely be as swift as his rise, but at least he's had one moment in the sun.