Martin Kaymer played so well over the first two days of the 2014 U.S. Open that the scores make it seem like he was playing a different, much easier course. The German holds a six-shot lead at 10 under par heading into the weekend.
Quite simply, if he maintains the same form over the final two rounds, there's no chance anybody will be able to chase him down at Pinehurst No. 2. That said, the pressure that comes with trying to lock up a major title tends to make things interesting.
In other words, the tournament isn't over yet despite Kaymer's terrific play and sizable lead. So let's check out a current look at the leaderboard, followed by a preview and some predictions for Day 3 of the season's second major.
2014 U.S. Open Leaderboard
Day 3 Outlook
The belief when the tournament began was that any golfer under par heading into the weekend would be in great shape. Pinehurst hasn't provided the type of test most expected—at least not yet—meaning those golfers a stroke or two under par are actually well off the pace.
Now the question becomes exactly how the trailing pack decides to play Round 3. Do they start being far more aggressive with hopes of getting on the birdie train or continue with their game plan and hope Kaymer comes back to the pack? It's a tough call.
A lot has to do with the conditions. Players will have to decide on the fly whether they think Pinehurst is going to dry out and become more difficult during the course of the day. It's an advantage for Kaymer because he'll be able to keep tabs on the action ahead of him.
Ultimately, those looking for weekend drama should probably cheer for easy conditions. It would at least give those chasing Kaymer a fighting chance to get hot and make a run rather than relying on him to fall apart.
Golf Talk America passed along the hole locations the golfers will face in Round 3:
There are plenty of big names in the mix should Kaymer fail to close. Brandt Snedeker, Dustin Johnson, Keegan Bradley, Henrik Stenson, Matt Kuchar, Rory McIlroy and Jordan Spieth are among the players under par to start the third round.
In fact, if it wasn't for Kaymer running away from the pack, fans would be settling in for an extremely intriguing finish. That could still be the case if the leader falters, of course.
Everything always comes back to Kaymer. Any scenario to prevent the tournament from becoming a total romp includes him slowing down his pace.
Bob Harig of ESPN provided remarks from the 2010 PGA Championship winner, who was even surprising himself with how well things were going:
It's just very, very satisfying. I said to my caddie [Craig Connelly], there were a couple of shots today that I was surprised how good they were. Because I was not expecting to hit it that close, because it was a tough pin and all of a sudden you end up with a very good birdie chance and you would have taken 4 from the fairway.
So I'm just hitting the ball very solid right now, and I think it's important to keep going and not try to relax. There's still a lot of stuff to improve on, but the way I played now is quite nice.
The one thing to watch is his work on the greens. His approach shots have left him with a lot of mid-range and tap-in putts. If his work from the fairway drops off even a little bit, things could get very interesting.
Which side would you take heading into Round 3?
That's because he's nothing more than average with the putter. He ranks 111th on the PGA Tour in strokes gained putting. If that club goes cold on him and he's not knocking it close virtually every time, the door could open back up for everybody else.
All told, with the way Kaymer played over the first two days, it's hard to imagine a scenario where he gives it all back in one round. There's a good chance a more conservative approach from him will make things a little closer going into Sunday, though.
There's enough talent in that next wave of golfers to keep the pressure on him. Playing with that big of a lead isn't easier, either. It's possible to get caught between trying to build the lead and not wanting to take any risks.
Predicted Top 5 After Round 3