Although Martin Kaymer cooled off a bit from his red-hot start, he remains in first place heading into the final day of the 2014 U.S. Open, leading by five strokes at eight under par.
However, this tournament is far from a runaway with Erik Compton, Henrik Stenson, Rickie Fowler and others all keeping themselves in position to move up the leaderboard on Sunday. Then again, the fact that only six are in the red after 54 holes shows just how good these top players have been performing to this point.
Still, anything can happen at Pinehurst No. 2 in the final 18 holes. Here is a look at the current leaderboard with a breakdown of Saturday's action:
Kaymer shot a five-under 65 in each of his first two days in this tournament, totaling the lowest score through two rounds in U.S. Open history. However, he slowed down with some wild shots right off the bat Saturday, as described by Trey Wingo of ESPN:
Thru 1st two rounds at Pinehurst Martin Kaymer: 2 bogeys and 3 missed fairways. He's got 2 bogeys and 3 missed fairways in 5 holes today— trey wingo (@wingoz) June 14, 2014
This type of inaccuracy usually causes players to lose ground on tough courses, but Kaymer just kept making shots, including an impressive eagle on the fifth hole.
Jay Busbee of Yahoo Sports joked about the German's ability to play out of bad situations:
Kaymer has hit the ball into damn near every patch of sand this side of Kitty Hawk and yet he's extended his lead by 1.— Jay Busbee (@jaybusbee) June 14, 2014
Kaymer had a few more bogeys on the back nine as well, but he was at least able to save the round with a birdie on No. 18 to end with a respectable two-over 72.
It would have obviously been extremely difficult for Kaymer to keep carding his ridiculously low numbers, but he did enough to remain in the lead at the end of the day. If he can avoid a major collapse on Sunday, he should be able to win his second major title.
He certainly fared much better in Round 3 than his playing partner Brendon Todd. The 28-year-old came into the day four strokes under par but started missing his shots right from the beginning, as noted by Farrell Evans of ESPN:
Brendon Todd has looked uncomfortable from the first hole. And it's showing.— Farrell Evans (@EvansESPN) June 14, 2014
Todd ended up finishing with a third-round score of 79, putting him far out of contention.
Of course, moving day was not difficult for everyone. Fowler was especially impressive in showing that birdies were possible, totaling five on the day to go with just two bogeys.
Mark Lamport-Stokes of Reuters notes how good this performance was compared to the rest of the field:
Rickie Fowler shoots a 3-under 67, the lowest score so far in U.S. Open 3rd round where the average score is 74.3 on a difficult day.— Mark Lamport-Stokes (@MarkLamport) June 14, 2014
Fowler explained that his strategy was basically to ignore the leaderboard and play his own game:
Fowler on Kaymer: "I look at it kind of how Bubba was playing at the Masters when he was way ahead. You just can't focus on them." #USOpen— PGA TOUR (@PGATOUR) June 14, 2014
While the American was someone that analysts might have expected to make a run, Compton seemed to come out of nowhere to move into a tie for second place with a score of three-under.
Compton came into the day at even par, but his third round was certainly more adventurous with plenty of circles and squares. He had four bogeys, five birdies and an eagle as he was all over the place on the course.
It will be difficult for him to keep up this strong play, but you can be certain that fans will be rooting for the 34-year-old player based on his impressive story, as noted by Yahoo Sports:
If you didn’t know — Erik Compton, T-2, has had two heart transplants. Had to go through qualifying to get to Pinehurst.— Devil Ball Golf (@YahooDevilBall) June 14, 2014
He will have to compete with a some more experienced competitors on the final day like Henrik Stenson, Dustin Johnson and Brandt Snedeker.
Kevin Na possibly could have been in this group, but a pair of double-bogeys down the stretch dropped him to even for the week and into a tie for seventh heading into the final round.
This tournament appears to be a race for second as Kaymer holds a significant lead going into Sunday. However, he was far from perfect in Round 3 and this course makes it possible for any player to have a bad round.
If that happens, the next group of players better be ready to shine to take over at the top of the leaderboard.
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