Biggest Questions Entering Moving Day at 2014 US Open
The first two days of Pinehurst No. 2 are in the books, and as it turns out, this course isn't as intimidating as it was made out to be. Or, at least it's not for Martin Kaymer.
Kaymer brought his good form and confidence from his Players Championship win over to the sand hills of North Carolina and heads into the weekend at 10-under par, six strokes ahead of major rookie Brendon Todd, who is alone in second place.
But there are still a lot of other big names hanging around at the midway point. Rory McIlroy, Adam Scott, Phil Mickelson and Jordan Spieth, among others, made the cut and will be trying to move up the leaderboard on Moving Day. If Kaymer slips up, there are plenty of talented players who are ready to take advantage.
Here are the biggest questions leading into Saturday at the 114th U.S. Open.
Can Martin Kaymer Follow in the Footsteps of Rory Mcilroy and Tiger Woods?
Right now, this tournament is in one man's hands. If Martin Kaymer can carry his great play from the first 36 holes into the weekend, he will join Tiger Woods and Rory McIlroy as runaway U.S. Open champions.
Kaymer shot back-to-back 65s on Thursday and Friday and goes into Saturday with a seven-stroke lead. The Associated Press (via USA Today) broke down just how great his rounds were in the first two days:
Martin Kaymer shot the best 36-hole score in U.S. Open history Friday with his second straight 5-under 65.
Taking advantage of a course softened by overnight rain, Kaymer was at 10-under 130 midway through a tournament he is turning into a rout. He matched the 36-hole mark at any major championship, set by Nick Faldo in the 1992 British Open at Muirfield.
Now the entire focus this weekend will be on whether Kaymer can keep his momentum going, or if he will follow a historical start with a humiliating collapse.
In 2000, Woods led by six shots at Pebble beach after the first 36 and ended up winning by 15 strokes. In 2011, McIlroy led the field by six shots at Bethesda after two day and won by eight.
Kaymer, who is a former No. 1 like Woods and McIlory, heads into the weekend hoping that he can duplicate their success.
Will Brendon Todd Win in His Major Debut?
Talk about beginner's luck! In his first major championship, 28-year-old Brendon Todd will start the weekend in the final group with Martin Kaymer.
Todd shot four-under par through the first 36 holes, putting him "only" six strokes behind Kaymer. Though he's had a great season, climbing from No. 182 at the start of the year all the way to No. 55 in the world this week, few expected him to be here. But he's been playing great golf recently, finishing in the top 10 of his last three events, including a victory at the HP Byron Nelson Championship, his first win on the PGA Tour.
Todd has had six birdies and only two bogeys throughout the first two rounds, and hit a nice bunker shot at the 17th hole to keep him in the final grouping. So far, he's taking pretty well to this major championship thing. Now we just have to see how he handles the pressure of being a contender.
Can Kevin Na Cap off His Comeback with His Best Finish at a Major?
Kevin Na is currently sitting at three-under par, seven strokes behind the lead. Usually, that would seem like an insurmountable amount, but he actually sits in a tie for third place.
The American was off of the tour for much of last year due to a bulging disc, and he used this U.S. Open as motivation to come back. Alex Meyers of Golf Digest talked to Na about this inspiration.
'I knew that the U.S. Open's going to be at Pinehurst and I heard about no rough and about the collection areas and people told me, 'This is a great golf course for you.' And I heard it over and over,' Na said. 'My caddie [Kenny Harms] came and he said, 'We're going to the U.S. Open no matter what and we're going to have a chance there.''
The 30-year-old has never had much success at the U.S. Open—he's only made the cut once in his career, back in 2012, and then he finished tied for 29th. His best finish at any major was a tie for 10th at the 2011 PGA Championship.
But Na has had a great 2014, finishing second at the Valspar Championship and the Memorial Tournament presented by Nationwide Insurance. Now, he just might be headed towards his best ever finish at a major, one year after he was watching from the couch.
Does Phil Mickelson Have a Miracle Left in Him?
It's unlikely that Mickelson is going to be able to slay his U.S. Open demons this weekend, but he made the cut, so the redemption narrative is still alive.
Fifteen years ago, Mickelson started his contentious relationship with the U.S. Open here at Pinehurst No. 2 when he finished as runner-up to the late Payne Stewart.
Lefty is currently sitting at three-over par, tied for 33rd. That means he is a mammoth 13 shots behind Kaymer. It would take multiple strokes of luck and a complete collapse from the German for Mickelson to finally finish in first place at the major where he's been a runner-up a heartbreaking six times.
But hey, it's golf. Stranger things have happened. The course is supposed to get tougher this weekend, and that might help Mickleson, who will be looking for a miracle.
Will Any of the Pre-Tournament Favorites Be a Factor on the Weekend?
Before this tournament began, nobody was talking about Martin Kaymer, Kevin Na or Brendon Todd. Instead, it was the usual suspects on the tip of everyone's tongue: Rory McIlroy, Adam Scott, Phil Mickelson, Bubba Watson, Henrik Stenson, Jordan Spieth, Justin Rose and Matt Kuchar were sitting at 25-1 odds or better.
So, will any of those guys be in the conversation this weekend? Well, if Kaymer lets them they will be. Most of the top guys, with the exception of Watson (who missed the cut at six over), Mickelson and Rose (one over) are lingering in the top 20.
Scott, who is currently the world No. 1, shot a 67 on Friday to bring him to even par. McIlroy's 68 took him to one-under at the halfway point, where he joins Spieth and Kuchar. Stenson is at two-under par.
With guys that talented still hanging around, Kaymer isn't going to be able to let up one bit.
Can Anyone Surprising Shake Things Up with a Kaymer-Like Round This Weekend?
If it wasn't for Kaymer's record-shattering first 36, this U.S. Open would be absolutely wide open heading into the weekend. That being said, that means that if the fearless leader does falter, most of the field could get back in contention very quickly. There are currently 20 players at even par or lower.
There are under par rounds out there, and so if Kaymer can't find the birdies and another player can shoot two-or-three under par on Saturday, Sunday could be very interesting.
Besides the favorites, players to keep an eye on are Keegan Bradley, who is dancing at two-under par, Dustin Johnson, who also sits at two under, and Brandt Snedeker at three-under par.
Hideki Matsuyama, Chris Kirk, Brooks Koepka and Brendon de Jonge are all hanging out under par waiting to strike as well. This might feel like a one-man race right now, but winners are never crowned at the halfway point.