US Open Day 3 Round Up
Post from sports writer Derek Clements
A sell-out crowd at Pinehurst No 2 had only one question as the third round of the US Open got under way. How would Martin Kaymer cope with being so far ahead of the chasing pack?
All too often in the past, we have seen players fritter away big leads because they had changed their gameplan and tried to defend. But in this very championship we have also seen Tiger Woods and Rory McIlroy leaving the rest for dead - Woods by 15 shots at Pebble Beach in 2000 and McIlroy winning by eight at Congressional three years ago.
Woods was still at home nursing his back, while McIlroy began the third round nine adrift and looking for a round in the order of a 63 to get back into contention - that assumed that Kaymer would come back to the field, and he had done nothing over the first two days to suggest that was likely to happen.
To shoot one 65 on a course as difficult as this is impressive enough - to open with two of them defies belief, as did the fact that he had recorded a single five, while everything else was twos, threes and fours. While the rest of the field suffered assorted trials and tribulations, Kaymer had one bogey in 36 holes and his 130 total was a record low.
But could he keep it going? And could anybody make the sort of move that would get his attention?
The good news for Kaymer was that when he teed off he was still six clear. The only leading player who had been able to make progress was Rickie Fowler, whose two early birdies moved him to two under for the tournament, but he was eight shots distant.
There was early cause for alarm for the German, however, when he dropped a shot at the second to fall back to nine under, by which time his nearest challenger, five adrift, was the Zimbabwean Brendon de Jonge. He is not the most elegant figure on tour, nor is he the fittest, but he knows how to play and two birdies moved him to four under par. And with Kaymer finding trouble off the tee at the fourth hole, suddenly it was game on.
He had to take a penalty drop and could only pitch his ball back onto the fairway. Kaymer left his approach 20 feet from the hole and, staring a double-bogey in the face, he rammed the ball home to drop just one shot. He had fallen back to eight under, but was still five in front as De Jonge was also dropping a stroke.
Normal service was resumed at the par-five fifth when Kaymer struck a magnificent shot from the rubbish to six feet and holed the putt for an eagle. He was now back where he started, but had increased his lead to seven shots.
Kaymer was playing with Brendon Todd, a recent winner on the PGA Tour. He imploded in spectacular fashion and was lucky to break 80.
And so the afternoon unfolded, with players such as Dustin Johnson and Brandt Snedeker taking one step forward and two back. The leader continued to drop shots, but kept battling back.
At the end of a brutal day, there were just six players under par - Snedeker at one under, Johnson and Henrik Stenson at two under, Erik Compton and Fowler at three under. Oh yes, and Martin Kaymer. Withstanding everything this course could throw at him and suffering his share of bad luck for the first time, the man who won The Players Championship earlier this year holed a seven-foot putt on the final green for a birdie, a round of 72 and a five shot lead.
Compton and Fowler both recorded 67s but the German's six-shot lead at the start of the day had been reduced by a single stroke. Compton, of course, has had two heart transplants and by most standards has no right to be out here. He is an incredible human being and will have 95 per cent of the gallery on his side.
But nobody really expects Kaymer to falter. For the record, McIlroy began the final round 11 adrift.
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]
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