Martin Kaymer wasn't exactly his best on Saturday in the third round of the 2014 U.S. Open, but he didn't need to be in order to maintain his stranglehold on the leaderboard.
The 29-year-old set Pinehurst No. 2 ablaze with his back-to-back 65s in the first two rounds. Heading into Round 3, he had a six-shot lead on the next closest guy. That was a near unassailable lead, and Kaymer knew he would almost have to consciously throw it away in order to lose the U.S. Open.
Saturday illustrated that point. Kaymer finished with a two-over 72. That's not a great score, but he still holds a five-stroke lead on Rickie Fowler and Erik Compton.
The German looked a little shaky early on, with bogeys on Nos. 1 and 3. An eagle on No. 5 made everything better again. GolfChannel.com's Jason Sobel thought that that shot at least helped some fathers and sons plan their Father's Day celebrations a little early:
Martin Kaymer makes eagle, extends lead to seven and potentially changes everyone's Father's Day plans to fishing instead.— Jason Sobel (@JasonSobelGC) June 14, 2014
Kaymer did open the door a bit for his competitors, but as GolfChannel.com's Will Gray pointed out, nobody was taking advantage of those chances:
Is there some rule that whenever Kaymer bogeys, one of his closest competitors has to screw up within the next 60 seconds?— Will Gray (@WillGrayGC) June 14, 2014
Fowler did well to at least get within shouting distance. His three-under 67 tied his career best for lowest single-round score at a major, per ESPN Stats & Info:
Rickie Fowler shot a 67 to match his best career round in any major #USOpen— ESPN Stats & Info (@ESPNStatsInfo) June 14, 2014
He and Compton's 67s were the only scores under par on the day, per ESPN.com's Bob Harig:
Rickie Fowler's 67 low round of the day by 3, only score under par so far. #usopen— Bob Harig (@BobHarig) June 14, 2014
However, the U.S. Open is still very much Kaymer's to lose.
Kyle Porter of CBSSports.com thinks that Fowler should try and haunt him with Retief Goosen's final round at the 2005 U.S. Open. Goosen had a three-stroke lead heading into Sunday but shot 11 over in Round 4 to essentially let Michael Campbell back into the tournament and pick up the win:
Fowler is going to have somebody deliver Retief Goosen's 2005 final-round highlights to Kaymer's rental house tonight.— Kyle Porter (@KylePorterCBS) June 14, 2014
On the final day, most golf fans will be pulling for the man tied with Fowler for second, Compton. His story is the stuff of fiction. Only 34, he's already had two heart transplants, and yet here he is fighting for the 2014 U.S. Open title, per Golf Channel's Kelly Tilghman:
I'm pressed to think of a better story in sports than 2x heart transplant recipient Erik Compton winning golf's hardest championship.— Kelly Tilghman (@KellyTilghmanGC) June 14, 2014
His toughness must be in his genes, per GolfChannel.com's Randall Mell:
Erik Compton isn't only tough one in family. His mom, Eli, is a cancer survivor. His brother, Christian, recovered from a broken neck.— Randall Mell (@RandallMellGC) June 14, 2014
After his round, Compton took to social media to thank all of his fans:
If he can pull off the miracle on Father's Day, it would be one of the greatest stories in tournament history. You can't blame him if he'd want to go out on a moment like that, per Golf Digest's Dan Jenkins:
Erik Compton, on what it would mean to win the U.S. Open on Father's Day: "I might just sail off and never play golf again."— Dan Jenkins (@danjenkinsgd) June 14, 2014
So much of the attention on Sunday's final round will be focused on whether Kaymer throws his lead away. It's obviously happened before, so you can't eliminate the possibility altogether.
For narrative's sake, would it hurt him to let Compton win?