US Open Day 1: Kaymer Impresses
Day 1 report from sports writer Derek Clements
Martin Kaymer produced what was probably the best round of his career to lead after the first round of the US Open at Pinehurst. The German's 65 contained just one dropped shot, six birdies and a quite astonishing display of holing out and recovery shots on the rare occasions when he did find himself in trouble.
One thing is certain - the new-look Pinehurst No 2 will get progressively more difficult as the tournament unfolds as the USGA are not known for their sense of humour when so many golfers break par. Kaymer admitted as much after his round, and knows full well that if he can finish on 280 (level par) on Sunday, the chances are that he will be adding a second major title to his resume.
After spending a couple of years in the doldrums, Kaymer proved when winning the Players Championship that he is back to his best, and it would surprise nobody if he remains in front for the rest of the tournament. A three-shot lead after 18 holes sent him to bed in good heart, especially after finishing his round with a seven-foot putt on the 18th green to save par.
"I hit very good shots, and I didn't miss many greens. It's always nice not to think about technique," said Kaymer.
It was a good day for Europe, with 2010 champion Graeme McDowell in second place after a marvellous 68 in which he missed just one fairway and hit 13 greens in regulation. McDowell is becoming a US Open specialist and will hope that he can maintain this form after a poor start to the season.
The leaderboard was packed with players who had been mentioned as possible winners in the run-up to the tournament on a day when top golfers got themselves into position to score really well before being found out by Pinehurst's notorious turtle-back greens. Stopping a ball on these surfaces is impossible unless you hit precisely the right spot. Justin Rose was one of many in the field to suffer, as a succession of superb approach shots trickled off the greens, leaving him with a number of devilish pitches.
For a time, it looked like the defending champion was heading for a round in the high seventies, but he battled back brilliantly to finish the day with a 72, and will hope he has got his bad round out of the way. Rose was paired with Phil Mickelson and Matt Fitzpatrick, the English teenager who won the US Amateur championship last year and plans to turn professional on Monday.
For much of the day, Fitzpatrick played the best golf in the threeball and looked to be heading for a sub-par round until a couple of late slips. But a 71 proved that he is a very special talent.
And what happened to Mickelson? Coming into the week with no form, and no confidence, he was thrilled with the new-look course. Effectively, there is no rough, and the fairways have been widened, allowing him to give it plenty with the driver. In fairness, he actually drove the ball really well but it turned out to be a typical Mickelson round. If you had offered him a 70 before he hit a shot, he would have taken it, and that's what he signed for. But he will definitely feel that it should have been better.
Henrik Stenson shot a 69, and will be a factor. Brandt Snedeker, like Mickelson having a miserable year, raced to the turn in 31 and looked certain to post a low number. But the course found him out on the back nine, and he required 38 shots to negotiate them.
Matt Kuchar is fancied by many, and he got it to three under before having to settle for a one-under-par 69. Rickie Fowler finished on 70, having made the decision to honour the late Payne Stewart (winner here in 1999) by donning plus-fours. Here's a fashion tip for you Rickie - there was only one Payne Stewart. Please don't wear that outfit ever again!
Bubba Watson stumbled to a 76, Adam Scott needed a birdie at the last for 73, Lee Westwood looked out of sorts all day and finished with a 75.
Rory McIlroy, the pre-tournament favourite, hit 14 greens in regulation and played superb golf all day, but he needed 31 putts. His 71 was the worst he could possibly have scored, and he will take heart from that.
But on day one, nobody came close to matching the peerless Kaymer. Pinehurst will get its revenge - you can bet your life on it.
Derek Clements is a sports journalist with a particular passion for golf with over 12 years of experience covering golf and other sports including Chief Sub-Editor on the sports desk of The Sunday Times. To contact Derek email direct via [email protected]
Be part of the action with a selection of unique golf tournament experiences, from playing in a pro-am with the stars to watching the action at golf’s most illustrious events. Whether it’s the Masters or The Open, The Ryder Cup or WM Phoenix Open, build your own bespoke package with the experts at Golfbreaks.com.
What do you think? leave your comments below (Comments)
Tags: us open