Martin Kaymer, Pinehurst #2, or Erik Compton….in all three cases an emphatic YES!
Martin Kaymer torched the field by 8 shots in this U.S. Open return to Donald Ross’s fabled Pinehurst #2. As the fourth biggest margin of victory on record, this performance is on level with the runaway wins of Tiger at Pebble in 2000 and Rory at Congressional in 2011.
The scoreboard doesn’t lieEmbed from Getty Images
His back-to-back 65’s in the first two rounds were the first time anyone has had two 65’s in a U.S. Open. The 9-under finish was the third lowest score to par in U.S. Open history. With stats like 77% fairways hit, 63% greens in regulation, average driving distance of 305 yards, and 110 putts, an average of 1.53 per hole, he was hitting it in play, sticking it close, and making the putts that mattered. There is no wonder he waxed the competition.
Another first, Kaymer has won a quasi-major (The Players) and a major (The U.S. Open) in just six weeks……and he beat two of the strongest fields of the year….leading wire-to-wire. This is Ubergolf if we have ever seen it….it puts him comfortably among the top performers of his generation.
Kaymer got everything he asked for and moreEmbed from Getty Images
Golf journalist Rex Hoggard said, it was like Kaymer was playing the more pedestrian Pinehurst #5 for four days while the rest of the field was playing the championship Pinehurst #2. As we saw with Tiger and Rory sometimes one player shows up at a major with a game the rest of the field cannot recognize.
Pinehurst #2 held up to the expectations of the USGA in fine fashion. Mike Davis continues to break the mold of playing U.S. Opens on monster long emerald green layouts with knee high rough. It started with bringing the Open to a municipal course at Bethpage Black in 2002 and continued by returning it to the more modest distances of Merion last year. Aligning with the Pinehurst powers to restore #2 to it’s original Ross character by removing 40 acres of Bermuda rough and allowing the adjacent areas to the fairway to return to their native roots, the USGA presented a fast and firm challenge that looked more like an Open Championship than a U.S. Open. With Chambers Bay and Erin Hills on the schedule two of the next three years this sand based, brown is beautiful campaign will likely continue.
Pinehurst #2 was not your typical day at the office for these guysEmbed from Getty Images
The players seemed to relish the challenge presented by unpredictable lies off the fairway and the unique domed greens of Pinehurst #2. Sand shots took on a totally new connotation when any ball was wayward. The green side recovery shots we witnessed were a far stretch from the typical hack and flop of a U.S. Open weekend. Putts on greens in regulation took on a whole new meaning since more than one of the guys putted off a green he had already hit in regulation. If you remove the outlier of Kaymer’s 9-under performance there were only two others in red figures at 1-under par. That passes a U.S. Open litmus test every time.
Then there was the Erik Compton story. Clawing his way to a second place finish at 1-under par in the pressure cooker of a U.S. Open with his second transplanted heart (the useful life of his original and it’s first replacement had been spent) Compton mustered resolve, courage, and fortitude that would make John Wayne feel proud. For the last three days Compton did what major winners like Justin Rose, Keegan Bradley, Adam Scott, Rory McIlroy, and Jim Furyk could not do-he took on every challenge that #2 presented shooting 3-under when it mattered and did not give any ground to the blitzkrieg of Martin Kaymer.
Erik Compton handled all the challenges at #2Embed from Getty Images
This from a man who has seen his life pass before his eyes at least twice already and who takes more medications in a month than many of us take in a life time.
As Randall Mell said of Compton’s inspirational play, “They’ll never forget what this remarkable man did here……nearly trumped the Miracle at Merion, Ben Hogan’s victory in his return from a nearly fatal car accident in the 1950 U.S. Open”.
LPGA pros in the on-deck circleEmbed from Getty Images
And if you haven’t had enough of the all-you-can-eat Pinehurst experience the Women’s U.S. Open Championship begins at the same venue starting today. Shorter tees, hotter temperatures, same native rough areas and turtle back greens…..just another stern USGA test with a different set of protagonists in soft spikes.