Birdies were supposed to be hard to come by at Pinehurst No. 2 this week. Apparently, Martin Kaymer didn't get the memo.
The German, who won the Players Championship last month, is 10-under par after two rounds. At the time he finished his round on Friday, he led the rest of the pack by eight strokes.
That's a lead of historic proportions. The are only two other 36-hole starts in U.S. Open history that can compare: Rory McIlroy's start in 2011 and Tiger Woods' in 2000. After two days of play at the Congressional Country Club three years ago, McIlroy was at 11-under par and held a six-stroke lead. Fourteen years ago, Woods was eight under after two days at Pebble Beach, and also led by six.
That's pretty good company to be in, especially considering that both McIlroy and Woods cruised to victories in their respective years.
Kaymer even has an edge on those legends. His 36-hole score of 130 was both his personal record and a U.S. Open record as well.
After the German came off the course relaxed and grinning, he spoke with Tom Rinaldi on ESPN. When asked about his round, he was abut as matter-of-fact as can be. "[It was] very solid again," he said. "I didn't make a bogey, which is nice. I didn't miss many fairways, didn't miss many greens."
Still, the former No. 1 knows that he has a long way to go. "It's not a done deal. There's never really a time where you can take it easy...you have to set your own goals and keep playing well."
At this point, the rest of the field has to hope that Kaymer won't follow his own advice and that he will take it easy on Saturday and Sunday. It would help them if he could shank a shot or five as well.
It's safe to say that Kaymer did not go into this tournament expecting to start with course-record back-to-back 65s. In fact, he figured an eight-over par would be a good score.
But the 29-year-old made the dangerous Pinehurst No. 2 look like child's play on Thursday, hitting four birdies on his last nine holes late in the afternoon, when the course conditions were supposed to be getting more difficult, and finishing with a course-record 65.
While that was impressive, most, including Bill Dwyre of the Los Angeles Times, figured that USGA officials would make the course much tougher overnight.
Kaymer and his brethren know what is coming. They're braced for three days of hell. None of these guys just fell off the turnip truck.
When the sun set and the leaderboard had 15 players under par and 20 more at even par on the devilish Pinehurst No. 2 course, the buzz among players was to get a good night's sleep because the handcuffs will start getting tighter Friday.
Remember, the lowest U.S. Open final score ever at Pinehurst was Payne Stewart's one under to win in 1999. Kaymer's 65 was the lowest Open score ever shot at Pinehurst.
However, on a Friday the 13th that will feature a full moon, Kaymer showed no signs of fear. Cool as a cucumber, the 29-year-old started off right where he left off, shooting two birdies in his first five holes. Overall, he shot five birdies and 13 pars to equal his round on Thursday and leave the rest of the field shaking their heads.
There are still 36 long holes standing in the way of his second major championship, but he has a history of closing well after 36-hole leads.
It has been quite a resurgence of late by Kaymer, who had struggled after winning the PGA Championship in 2010 and climbing to the No. 1 ranking back in 2011.
Earlier in 2014, Kaymer had fallen all the way to No. 63 in the world before finally loosening up and returning to the swing that took him to the top of the game. Since Augusta in April, Kaymer hasn't missed a cut. He's also finished in the top 20 three times and won the second-biggest tournament of his career, at the Players Championship last month.
What's remarkable about Kaymer is that after seeing his confidence and game disappear in tandem for a couple of years, he now has both of them back in stride. His cool demeanor on the court makes quite an impression on his competitors.
Saturday and Sunday will be huge tests for the German, who looks to be playing better golf than he was even when he was ranked No. 1 in the world. The trophy isn't his yet, but with his phenomenal play on the first two days, Kaymer has a cushion that most greats could only dream of.
The 2014 U.S. Open at Pinehurst No. 2 is officially Kaymer's tournament to lose. Great finishes make champions, but strong starts certainly don't hurt.
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