While he might have cooled off just a bit on Saturday afternoon, Martin Kaymer still holds a considerable five-stroke lead heading into the final round. The German has just 18 holes standing in the way of a wire-to-wire victory in the 114th U.S. Open.
No German has ever clinched the U.S. Open, but golf fans will have to wait until later this afternoon before Kaymer and some of the other big dogs tee off at Pinehurst No. 2.
Following a huge run on Thursday and Friday, Kaymer will need another steady round to hold off a group that includes Rickie Fowler, Erik Compton and Dustin Johnson. For now, golfers that are well behind the pack are trying to play catch up on the famed course in North Carolina.
Graeme McDowell, who won the 2010 U.S. Open at Pebble Beach, got off to a hot start on Thursday before wilting down the stretch. The Northern Irish golfer spoke about just how difficult the course has been thus far, per the Associated Press (h/t BostonHerald.com):
It's very, very difficult mentally, to stay in it. You start thinking to yourself, "I'm not even sure if I want to play tomorrow." It's not really enjoyable. It's not enjoyable. It's very difficult. But it's the U.S. Open.
... This is a hard golf course for me because it's so long. I don't get a lot of wedges in my hands, short irons in my hands. That's the strength of my game. ... My iron play hasn't been bad. I just haven't given myself enough opportunities.
It's the US Open, golf's toughest test. And they were right today.
McDowell once again jumped out to a good round on Sunday, holding a score of two-under through the early going. Along with McDowell, Louis Oosthuizen also started strong with three birdies through the first 10 holes.
Before some of the most notable players in the sport begin their day on the course, here's a look at some of the top players from early on in the final round.
Louis Oosthuizen: -4 through 13; +8 overall
Better late than never. For Oosthuizen, the 2010 Open Championship winner, his hopes for a title ended on Saturday with an eight-over 78 in the third round.
Rather than falling off the pace even further on Sunday, Oosthuizen turned his weekend around with a strong showing in the early holes on the final day. Mike O'Malley of Golf Digest takes a look at Oosthuizen's round through the first few holes:
Though he missed his opportunity to do any actual moving on Saturday, the South African has been the biggest surprise of the final round. Without a chance to catch players like Kaymer or Fowler for a chance at the lead, Ooosthuizen is simply playing for pride.
Will Gray of GolfChannel.com provides a look at Oosthuizen's phenomenal closing round:
Given the fact that his march up the leaderboard is coming just a day after a horrid round, Oosthuizen doesn't have a chance to play for a win. But with a sensational day already and just a few holes remaining, the South African will leave with slightly more confidence heading into the Open Championship.
Graeme McDowell: -1 through 4; +6 overall
Though he didn't experience a Friday or Saturday to remember at Pinehurst No. 2, McDowell is closing out his tournament the same way he started it.
Starting off with two birdies through the first three holes, the 2010 champion was unable to keep that pace on the fourth which he bogeyed. Regardless of how he plays, today's round is a special one for the soon-to-be father, as he noted on Twitter:
While the one-under start certainly isn't the hottest of the day, McDowell has clearly gotten over his woes from earlier in the weekend. The Northern Irish golfer came up slightly empty on moving day but has some motivation working on Father's Day.
Though he won't have a chance to contend at six-over par, look for McDowell to continue a strong run back into the top 30.
Daniel Berger: -3 through 12; +8 overall
He's not one of the biggest names on the tour, nor one that even avid golf fans know, but Daniel Berger is closing out with a memorable round at Pinehurst.
Ashley K. Mayo of Golf Digest notes the great start for the American early on:
Berger is clearly well off the pace, but his strong round might be a telling sign of what's to come for some of the top contenders on Sunday. With both Kaymer and Fowler throwing down outstanding rounds earlier in the tournament, could either be on the cusp of another huge day?
The American's run through Pinehurst has been much better than his play on Saturday and could set up another fun round of golf later on Sunday. With a final round that has Kaymer still well atop the leaderboard, Berger's start could set up a crazy finish to the U.S. Open.
Follow R. Cory Smith on Twitter.