Martin Kaymer turned in a stupendous display of golf in Thursday's afternoon wave at the 2014 U.S. Open. The former world No. 1 elevated his game as Pinehurst No. 2 got firmer, finishing the first round with a five-under 65 and a three-stroke lead.
There are plenty of excellent players in close range, though, and with how difficult this course figures to play at the season's second major championship, Kaymer has his work cut out to hang on during Day 2.
Golf Channel's Justin Ray offered a silver lining for the rest of the field after Kaymer laid waste to them in the opening 18 holes:
Last 11 U.S. Opens, the eventual winners after 18 holes: 2 led or were 1 shot back, 3 were 2 shots back. SIX were 4+ shots back.— Justin Ray (@JustinRayGC) June 12, 2014
Here is a look at the live stream and TV coverage for Friday's action, along with a few predictions as to how the next round of the tournament will unfold.
|9 a.m.-3 p.m.||ESPN|
*Live stream available at Watch ESPN.
Day 2 Predictions
Jordan Spieth Stays Strong
Nothing seems to faze the 20-year-old prodigy, who has to be considered the next big thing in American golf at this point. While he likely won't be on Tiger Woods' level, it's hard to dismiss Spieth based on the fact that he was in the final group at both the Masters and Players Championship.
A similar fate may be in store for Spieth following a one-under 69 in Round 1. Ryan Burr of Golf Channel recorded a bold pre-tournament quote from the young gun:
Jordan Spieth says "I am here to win. This course fits my game. These greens are really tough to hit."— Ryan Burr (@RyanBurr) June 9, 2014
Spieth lived up to the hype yet again, managing to find 13 of 18 greens in regulation and keeping his round going with clutch par saves throughout.
A three-putt bogey at his final hole was the only blemish on what was otherwise a solid start, which Spieth has proven he can maintain for at least three rounds under the most pressure imaginable.
Fellow 20-something competitors in Rickie Fowler and Hideki Matsuyama should feed off of each other in the second round, but this will be another instance where Spieth rises above the rest.
Until Spieth adds to the lone PGA Tour win on his resume, his doubters will persist. What he's doing, though, is extraordinary and should be appreciated.
The best way to prove detractors wrong is by getting results. There aren't any discernible holes in Spieth's game to suggest he'll slip on the second day at Pinehurst.
Prediction: Spieth shoots a one-under 69; trails by three strokes entering Round 3.
Rory McIlroy Rebounds from 2nd-Round Woes
Opening with a one-over 71 wasn't catastrophic by any means. It would have looked far better if not for Kaymer's late surge in the afternoon wave. There is work to do, but a twist of fate from Mother Nature may help McIlroy climb the leaderboard on Friday.
RTE Golf's Greg Allen couldn't have better described how the storms following Thursday's play work in McIlroy's favor:
With all the rain in Pinehurst tonight,the odds on Rory must have shortened.Needs to find some putts but he hit 14 greens in his opening 71.— Greg Allen (@gregallenRTE) June 13, 2014
But that comes with the caveat that he putts better.
McIlroy took 33 putts in the first round. That can be excusable in a U.S. Open, since a lot of players hit to the middle of the green or further from the pin to avoid bogeys.
However, considering McIlroy leads the PGA Tour this season in putts made from 25-plus feet away, he should be two or three strokes better than he stands now.
Among the other weak points in McIlroy's game as it stands, his inability to score well in the second round stands out. This problem surfaced at the Masters and Players Championship, where he fought to make the cut on the number.
He also shot a 78 at the Memorial after opening with a 63, going on to tie for 15th.
Poor scrambling has played a part. McIlroy ranked 172nd in that statistic entering this week. Wet conditions will not only help McIlroy against the rest of the field due to his distance, but it will also make Pinehurst's greens more receptive.
Pouring in birdies has been no problem for McIlroy—it's those par-savers that have given him fits. If he continues his prowess from tee to green, McIlroy figures to be in the top five entering the weekend.
Prediction: McIlroy shoots a three-under 67; trails by three strokes entering Round 3.
Martin Kaymer Maintains Lead
Winning the Players Championship at TPC Sawgrass proved Kaymer is on an upswing. Now, the 2010 PGA Championship winner is showing that his resurgence is real. There's no sign he'll slow down on Friday, either.
PGATour.com's Brian Wacker notes the history Kaymer could make with a win:
Even more impressive, he could win both the Players and the U.S. Open in wire-to-wire fashion. That is a feat no one may ever replicate, and it speaks to the type of talent Kaymer has.
Driving the ball is so important at the U.S. Open. Just as the long course will help McIlroy in that regard, Kaymer is in prime position to retain his lead. The German star is fourth on the tour in total driving in 2013-14 and 11th in all-around ranking.
All the pieces of his game are working to suggest another red number is in the cards, though Kaymer's testimony before the U.S. Open began suggests scores will balloon, per Golf Channel'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
Lag putting is the big key. Kaymer is 179th on tour in putting from five to 10 feet, so he won't want many of those to save par moving forward. As long as he can get inside five feet with his first putts, he should keep cruising along nicely.
Which star will post the best Round 2 score at the U.S. Open?
Plus, Kaymer ranks 140th with a final-round scoring average of 72. Even if he holds the 54-hole lead, there's little reason to endorse him to seal the deal.
Six-time runner-up Phil Mickelson shot level par and any number of players at that spot or better on the first day should challenge. Among those are some of the most accomplished veterans seeking their maiden majors. Matt Kuchar, Brandt Snedeker, Henrik Stenson and Dustin Johnson are all one under par.
Many will be clawing for position and trying to be aggressive on Friday while also keeping in mind that this is a U.S. Open.
Even under the redesigned Pinehurst No. 2 without thick rough flanking the fairways, the perils of these putting surfaces can cause even the world's best to miss the cut in a hurry.
It's a fine line—just one element to what makes this major test of golf so unique and entertaining.
Buckle up for Day 2 of the U.S. Open. If the first round hinted at what's to come, other than a Kaymer romp, this is bound to be an ever-tightening championship.
Prediction: Kaymer shoots an even 70; leads by one stroke through 36 holes.