Martin Kaymer is in the driver's seat to win his first-ever U.S. Open championship, but Pinehurst No. 2 could have other ideas.
Only two players shot under par in Saturday's third round at Pinehurst, and while the field was only able to shave one stroke off Kaymer's commanding lead, which now stands at five shots, the German star will be feeling the pressure over the final 18 holes.
With Rickie Fowler, Erik Compton and others lurking, Kaymer's challenge is clear: Don't let up.
With fourth-round play underway, we'll get you updated with the latest leaderboard updates and predict how the 2014 U.S. Open will conclude.
Martin Kaymer Will Conquer Pinehurst, Secure Second Major
It's difficult to understand the level of pressure Kaymer has been under since storming out of the gate and into the lead on Thursday, but to this point, that stress hasn't revealed itself. What's more, he is approaching his potentially career-defining moment with a relaxed attitude, per ESPN.com's Bob Harig:
I am looking forward to see how I feel, how I react to certain situations. Anything can happen. I can lead by seven or eight shots after nine holes. I can be down to all square. So it will be an exciting round. For me, personally, it will be interesting how I handle it.
A champion at the 2010 PGA Championship, Kaymer is no stranger to this kind of pressure, and while his two-over 72 on Saturday proved he's human, he never appeared rattled or overwhelmed by the moment. Bogeys are inevitable at a course like Pinehurst No. 2, and his ability to avoid making additional mistakes on Saturday bodes well for his chances this weekend.
More importantly, many of the players chasing him have yet to break through at a major.
Defending U.S. Open champion Justin Rose will begin the day nine shots back of Kaymer and has shot just one round under par this week.
Kaymer doesn't need to be spectacular on Sunday in order to win, but we know he's capable of it. After all, he set a tournament record by shooting a 10-under 130 through the first two rounds on Thursday and Friday. If the conditions are right and Kaymer finds himself in the zone again, he's capable of running away with the title on Sunday.
Although there's a lot of talent chasing Kaymer, he won't fear anyone who is close behind him. Adam Scott and Rory McIlroy are 11 shots back, and only five other players are even under par coming into the final round.
ESPN Stats and Info points out an alarming statistic—but one that doesn't take Kaymer's five-stroke lead into account:
Beware Martin Kaymer. Only 2 of the last 9 54-hole leaders went on to win the U.S. Open (Rory McIlroy in 2011 & Tiger Woods in 2008)— ESPN Stats & Info (@ESPNStatsInfo) June 15, 2014
In 2011 McIlroy entered the fourth round with an eight-stroke cushion and went on to win by the same margin. In this case, Kaymer isn't nursing a one- or two-stroke lead; he's in control in the same way that McIlroy was at Congressional three years ago.
As a result, watch for Kaymer to finish the job on Sunday and avoid a catastrophic collapse.
Given how he's fared at Pinehurst over the past three days and the lack of elite competition breathing down his neck, he is in prime position to bring home his second major championship this weekend.
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