Pinehurst, United States – Martin Kaymer began the third round of the US Open at Pinehurst trying to turn a record-setting start into a major title and avoid an epic golfing collapse.
The 29-year-old German finished 36 holes with a six-stroke lead, matching the largest in US Open history, after setting an Open record by starting the tournament with back-to-back 65s.
At 10-under par 130, Kaymer matched the lowest 36-hole total in major history. No player had ever gone as low as 65 in each of the first two rounds at a major.
“A six-shot lead is a big lead,” Kaymer said Saturday. “The challenge is just to keep going because it's only half-time right now.”
The only larger lead at a major entering the third round was the nine-stroke edge enjoyed by Henry Cotton at the 1934 British Open.
Only once in major history has a lead such as Kaymer built been squandered to lose a major. At the 1920 British Open, Abe Mitchell led by six after 36 holes but finished fourth behind George Duncan.
Kaymer seeks his second major title after taking the 2010 PGA Championship. He is coming off a Players Championship victory last month that snapped a three-year win drought on top-level tours.
World number one Adam Scott birdied the par-5 fifth hole to pull within nine strokes of Kaymer while Rory McIlroy was one-over through four holes for the round, 10 adrift of the lead.
“If I can put together a couple of good rounds, I might be able to creep up on him,” Scott said.
“The US Open is a difficult test and there are still a lot of holes to play.”
Kaymer's effort had rivals comparing him to Tiger Woods, the injured 14-time major champion who began a run of four major wins in a row with a 15-shot romp at the 2000 US Open.
“Tiger Woods 2000 is here. He just looks like Martin Kaymer this week,” said US PGA veteran Bo Van Pelt.
Japan's Toru Taniguchi, who fired a 72 and a 73 to start, shot an 88, a sign of how wrong things could go.
“The golf course is going to be a lot more difficult,” Kaymer said. “I got a bit lucky. I'm not really excpecting to shoot another 5-under par. I will just take it as it comes.”
Keegan Bradley, the 2011 PGA Championship winner, took a bogey at the second to fall nine back. He says it's too soon to focus on Kaymer.
“It's way too early,” Bradley said. “Even par will go a long way today. A couple under could go a really long way. It's like shooting 63 or 64 at a regular event.”
Scott and Bradley said a solid round Saturday could produce a rise on the leaderboard as others stumble in the difficult conditions on unforgiving turtle-backed greens with sand and weeds awaiting off-target shots.
“There's a double (bogey) on every hole if you're not careful so stick to the game plan,” Bradley said.
American Brendon Todd, making his US Open debut, was second on 136 and in the final third-round pairing with Kaymer. Americans Kevin Na and Brandt Snedeker were another stroke adrift after each opened with a par.
Kaymer has been called “The German-ator”, playing off Arnold Schwartznegger's “Terminator” movie character, for his unwavering precision and composure under pressure.
In seven events with a 36-hole lead, Kaymer has four wins and two runner-up efforts.
“He's as dialed in as I've seen,” Bradley said. “He's just very steady. He doesn't seem to get too up and down. That's a pretty good combination for the US Open.”
McIlroy, who won the 2011 US Open and 2012 PGA Championship, likes what he sees in Kaymer as well.
“He's an incredibly hard worker,” said McIlroy. “I see him all the time on the range. I see him all the time in the gym. So he's put the work in there.” – Sapa-AFP