Chipping In - Pioneering decision by the USGA
Post by Golf Journalist Nick Bonfield
Martin Kaymer produced one of the best performances of the decade to win his second major championship at the US Open.
The German seized the lead mid-way through the first round and never looked like relinquishing his advantage, despitethe treacherous nature of the golf course and the potential for a tournament-ruining score present around every corner.
But Kaymer evaded those obstacles brilliantly over the first three days and entered the final-round six strokes clear. Given his form, it was going to take something truly special to usurp the German. As it transpired, something truly special probably wouldn’t have been good enough – testament to the quality of a performance that will go down as one of the most clinical in the history of the esteemed championship.
On Sunday, Kaymer made two steady pars on the first two holes before driving the green of the short par-4 3rd and two-putting for birdie. He pulled six clear with a fine birdie at the 9th and made back-to-back birdies on 13 and 14 to ensure the final four holes were nothing more than a pleasant stroll. Given the difficulty of the course, the fact the tournament was effectively over after Sunday’s front nine goes some way to demonstrate the sheer dominance of a man at the very peak of his powers.
It takes both mental and physical prowess to win the US Open, and Kaymer displayed both in abundance. He’s proved over his relatively short career he has the mental fortitude to cope with the most pressure-laden situations, as demonstrated at the 2010 PGA Championship – where he holed a 15-footer to get into a play-off he’d go on to win – and the 2012 Ryder Cup, where he casually brushed home a 6-footer with all the pressure in the world on his shoulders.
His all-round game was also exemplary. Over the course of the week, he ranked 9th in Fairways Hit, 18th in Greens in Regulation, 3rd in Total Putts, 1st in Birdies and 7th in Driving Distance. Simply put, he was head and shoulders above the rest of the field from the get-go.
He became the first player in major history to open up with two consecutive rounds of 65 or better, the first German, and indeed continental European, to win the US Open and the 8th person to win the US Open leading from start to finish.
What’s more, he recorded the fourth-highest victory margin in US Open history and notched the second-lowest score (271) in the 114-year existence of the championship.
It was a simply sensational display in every sphere, and one that sits in the same bracket as Tiger Woods’ victory in 2000 and Rory McIlroy’s in 2011. That is some praise, given the nature of those other two performances and the players who produced them.
Kaymer looked back to his very best, and proved unequivocally that he’s one of the world’s very best players when he’s at the top of his game.
Best week of Compton’s life
What a brilliant performance from Erik Compton, who recorded his best finish on the PGA Tour in the biggest event of his career. Most column inches pertaining to the American tend to relate to his two heart-transplant surgeries, and as he pointed out after his round, it’s nice to be in the news for something else. His Saturday 67 – one of only two sub-par scores and a round that must surely register as the finest of his career – put him in a tie for second, but he garnered little attention ahead of the final round. The talk focused on the likes Rickie Fowler, Dustin Johnson and Henrik Stenson, but it was the little-known American who birdied the 8th to reach four-under-par. He did drop shots on the back nine, but holed a gutsy 10-footer at the last to win the biggest cheque of his career. He earned almost $800,000 for his tie for second place – more than he accrued from 2004-2012 combined. What a great story.
Rickie Fowler may have only won once on the PGA Tour, but he’s increasingly showing he’s a big-game player with the skill, character and temperament to challenge in the majors. He finished inside the top 5 at Augusta – his best-ever finish at the time – and held himself together admirably in the final group at Pinehurst, despite a potentially round-wrecking calamity at the tough 4th hole. He looks a far more complete player under Butch Harmon’s stewardship and I’m convinced he’ll end his career with at least one major to his name, especially now he’s proved he’s got the game to contend in all conditions on any type of golf course.
Pioneering decision from USGA
This year marks the first time the US Open and US Women’s Opens are staged on the same golf course in consecutive weeks, and I think it’s a great idea. It’s more likely to attract better coverage as media and broadcasters will already have cables, studios and other facilities in place, also saving on various logistical and transport costs. Plus, there’s the added intrigue of seeing how the ladies fare on the same golf course (admittedly a course set-up slightly differently). The US Women’s Open has gleaned far more pre-tournament coverage because of the arrangement, and that should help build some momentum heading into tournament week. Yes, there are concerns about the state of the golf course, but the positive factors more than outweigh the negatives. It’s also nice to see the stars of the men’s and women’s game mingling, as their paths rarely cross.
Next week, a host of top Europeans, including Rory McIlroy and Graeme McDowell, will be in Ireland for the Irish Open, while the PGA Tour heads to Connecticut for the Travelers Championship.
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