From the opening tee on Day 1 to the final putt on Day 4, one thing was abundantly clear: Martin Kaymer was playing the best golf at the 2014 U.S. Open, and it wasn't even close.
Kaymer's wire-to-wire victory earned him the second major of his career and his second PGA Tour win in 2014; he convincingly won The Players Championship back in May.
Course No. 2 at Pinehurst Resort in North Carolina was supposed to flummox the best golfers in the world. Few players in the tournament could claim any sort of familiarity with Pinehurst, as it last hosted the U.S. Open in 2005 and had since undergone extensive renovations.
Here is the final leaderboard from this year's edition of the U.S. Open:
Eight strokes separated Kaymer from runner-up Erik Compton in this one, and his dominance drew praise from all corners of the media landscape.
Golf Digest's Dan Jenkins was amazed at Kaymer's ability to scramble and save certain shots:
There's supposed to be a penalty for missing a fairway badly. Kaymer making eagle by hitting a par 5 with 7-iron out of vegetation isn't it.— Dan Jenkins (@danjenkinsgd) June 15, 2014
ESPN's Mike Greenberg compared Kaymer's play to one of the tour's biggest stars:
Last time I saw anything like what Martin Kaymer did the last two days, it was Tiger. Fourteen years ago. #USOpen— Mike Greenberg (@Espngreeny) June 14, 2014
There would be no late-stage upsets or crumbling collapses at Pinehurst; Kaymer made sure the drama was confined to the rat race for second place.
After posting back-to back scores of 65 on Day 1 and Day 2 of the tournament, Kaymer shot a two-over on Day 3 but maintained a sizable four-stroke lead over Compton and young Rickie Fowler.
Kaymer continued his stellar play on Day 4. As the majority of the field struggled to gain any sort of handle on its fourth trip around the course, Kaymer only got better.
ESPN Stats & Info points out just how much of an outlier Kaymer was on Day 4:
Martin Kaymer (-1) was only player in the final 8 groups to play the final rd under par. The other 15 players were a combined 52-over par.— ESPN Stats & Info (@ESPNStatsInfo) June 15, 2014
Kaymer's dominance on the wide fairways and turtleback greens overshadowed the dramatic struggle for the right to finish just under his name at the top of the leaderboard.
Rickie Fowler was buried in the rankings after shooting even par for the first two days, but his consistent play allowed him to take third place in the tournament. Fowler is one of golf's rising young stars, and he believes his patience paid off in the tournament.
Compton's runner-up performance was an incredible story in its own right. On Twitter, ESPN's SportsCenter noted his amazing performance and the difficulties he overcame to get to that moment:
Incredible story for Erik Compton. In his 2nd career major, after 2 heart transplants, he's tied for 2nd at the U.S. Open.— SportsCenter (@SportsCenter) June 15, 2014
Compton took to Twitter to tell his fans what his second-place finish really had him excited for:
Lets be honest here twitter....I am very excited to play in my first @The_Masters in 2015.— Erik Compton (@ErikCompton3) June 16, 2014
There were plenty of other risers and fallers in the tournament. Early challengers such as Brendon de Jonge and Kevin Na faded down the stretch, while young Hideki Matsuyama imploded with back-to-back 74s over the final two days.
Does Kaymer have what it takes to become the No. 1 golfer in the world again?
The fact that so many players finished around par speaks to Kaymer's mastery of the course compared to his peers.
Kaymer is the currently the 28th-ranked player in the world, but he is certain to shoot up the rankings following his U.S. Open dominance. A former World No. 1, Kaymer's two victories in 2014 should increase his profile among golfing fans the world over.
His brilliance also rids him of the stigma of being a one-major wonder. Kaymer can relax and play golf to the best of his abilities in the coming years. At just 29 years old, he should have plenty of time to make headlines on the PGA Tour.