Martin Kaymer has stripped the 2014 U.S. Open of its usual tension by steamrolling the competition through two days.
Heading into the weekend, the 29-year-old is lofted above everyone else on the leaderboard with a seven-stroke lead at Pinehurst. Several golfers are holding their own, but it'll take a breakthrough day to close the cavernous gap between them and Kaymer.
Nevertheless, Day 3 could be the day this becomes a fair competition again. Either that or Kaymer chases a record-setting performance, which is also well worth watching.
When: Saturday, June 14
Where: Pinehurst Resort and Country Club, Course No. 2, Pinehurst, North Carolina
TV: NBC (Noon - 7:30 p.m. ET)
Live Stream: WatchESPN
Martin Kaymer Will Fall Back to Earth, but Maintain Lead
Through two rounds, Kaymer has a golfed a sensational 10 strokes under par to gain a sizable lead over the pack.
He spread the annihilation out evenly throughout Thursday and Friday, finishing both rounds at five-under while no other golfer has tallied better than a three-under combined through 36 holes.
Simply going off the law of averages, it's difficult to fathom Kaymer sustaining this sizzling rate over the weekend. If he did, he'd shatter the tournament record after already recording the best 36 holes of golf in U.S. Open history, per ESPN Stats & Info:
Martin Kaymer set the all-time U.S. Open record for lowest 36-hole score (130). He's 10-under through 36.— ESPN Stats & Info (@ESPNStatsInfo) June 13, 2014
This is not saying he'll blow his mammoth, seven-stroke lead during the weekend. With all due apologies to NBC executives crossing their fingers for some drama, Kaymer should have little trouble nailing down his second major championship.
Just don't expect another 65 to filter his scorecard. Simply scoring on par during the final 36 holes will likely secure a victory, but an insurance birdie here of there wouldn't hurt.
Phil Mickelson Brings Score Back to Par
After Kaymer, it's anyone's game on a congested leaderboard. Finishing in second or third won't offer much solace for somebody chasing the illustrious title, but it's better than nothing.
One of golf's mainstays of steady success, Phil Mickelson momentarily looked like Kaymer's biggest threat for a late rally, but he'll now have to settle for a respectable finish to bolster his pride. Look for him to veer back to par by erasing a three-over deficit.
Lefty was not his usual self during the opening round, offsetting three birdies with a trio of bogies to finish even par on the day.
According to Golf.com, he lamented his putting game, which caused him to bogey on the 15th hole:
Phil on his opening round 70: "I didn't make any of the putts needed to have a good round. I let one get away on No. 15."— Golf.com (@si_golf) June 12, 2014
He looked crisper early Friday, storming out of the gate with birdies in the second and third holes en route to recording a one-under for the day. That did not last long, as he later piled up five bogeys with some frustrating putting to finish three-over.
Mickelson has garnered five major championships, but he has yet to win the U.S. Open despite coming painstakingly close with six runner-up finishes. He discussed the significance of becoming the sixth player to win all four majors with the Boston Globe's Michael Whitmer.
“I feel like the five players that have done that have separated themselves from the other players throughout all time,” Mickelson said. “If I’m able to do that, I would look upon my career differently. That’s why it means so much, in addition to the fact that it’s our national championship.”
Even though he's dug too deep of a hole to win, or even become the top loser on the leaderboard, look for the experienced Mickelson to pick up his game on a testing Pinehurst course.
If anything, Kaymer's dominance and Mickelson's lackluster start removes any pressure with everyone likely playing for second.