PINEHURST, N.C. – No Weiches ei allowed.
Weiches ei is the German term for wimp, or more accurately translated “soft egg,” and it’s become something of a mantra for Martin Kaymer as he has driven himself from the depths of a competitive abyss to the doorstep of his second major championship.
On Friday at the U.S. Open, the only thing that was soft was Pinehurst, sautéed by overnight rains and a more user-friendly setup.
Maybe a better translation would be dominante, which is the only way to describe Kaymer’s clinic through two laps at what is starting to look more and more like a pitch-and-putt Pinehurst.
For context, consider that through 36 holes at the 2000 U.S. Open, widely considered the litmus test for runaway major championship performances, Tiger Woods was a half dozen clear of the B flight.
Or back in 2011, where the field also spotted Rory McIlroy six strokes through two rounds. Those two episodes ended in 15- and eight-stroke blowouts, respectively.
So imagine the field’s chagrin when Kaymer carded his second-consecutive 65 for a 10-under total and a six-stroke cushion heading to the final 36 holes.
“I was thinking maybe 10 over par winning the tournament was more what we were looking at during the practice rounds,” said Brendon de Jonge, who is among five players at 2 under par. “That’s incredible.”
Ever the subdued German, even Kaymer was flummoxed by his 36-hole display.
“There were a couple of shots today I was surprised how good they were,” Kaymer said.
Like on the par-4 fourth hole. From 212 yards Kaymer figured any approach hit to the middle of the green would be acceptable. Instead, he feathered a high, drawing 6-iron to 12 feet for an unlikely birdie. “I was not expecting to hit such a good shot,” he smiled sheepishly.
Nor was the field expecting to get boat-raced on what by most accounts was going to be the most demanding Open venue in recent memory.
Instead, Kaymer blazed to the lowest 36-hole score in Open history and became just the second player, after McIlroy in 2011, to reach double digits under par at the intermission.
Kaymer’s performance is particularly curious considering that at halftime at the 1999 and ’05 Opens played at Pinehurst the leaders were 3 under and 2 under, respectively.
And the sports world thought the San Antonio Spurs have been the most dominant sports figure this week.
But as solid as his birdies were – just two of which came from outside 10 feet – Kaymer likely sealed his status as the man to beat this week with a “sneaky” bunker shot at the sixth to 3 feet to salvage his par.
“I don’t know what to say,” Kaymer conceded. “It gets boring the words that I use, but I mean there’s not much to say. It’s just good right now the way I play golf.”
What the 29-year-old lacks in hyperbole he more than makes up for with performance.
The man who gutted out an emotional victory at last month’s Players Championship on Mother’s Day seems poised to complete the Ma & Pa Slam on Father’s Day this Sunday at Pinehurst.
A victory this week would give Kaymer the U.S. Open, PGA Championship and The Players trophies, and a spot in an exclusive club of players that have won all three including Tiger Woods, Jack Nicklaus, Lee Trevino and Raymond Floyd.
For Kaymer, however, it is the moments not the mementos that matter. His playoff victory at the 2010 PGA, his clinching putt at the 2012 Ryder Cup, his clutch finish last month at TPC Sawgrass are what drives him.
“I really believe that by the end of your career it comes down to the big, huge moments where you could handle the challenges,” he said. “It makes you grow as a person.”
Not that Kaymer was planning to spend Friday afternoon crafting his acceptance speech.
The final 36 at the U.S. Open are always into wind. Maybe Pinehurst still has a little punch left in her. Maybe the field will wake up and realize this is not your father’s Pinehurst Open.
The only guarantee is that Kaymer will not go down like ein weiches Ei. The course may beat him. Some scrappy soul may refuse to go quietly, but Martin 2.0 won’t beat himself.
On Thursday following his opening 65 Kaymer dismissed the idea that he could keep that pace up all week.
“So no one really should expect me to shoot another 5 under par the next three rounds. I don't,” he said after Round 1.
On Friday after his second consecutive 65 he tried that same line of reasoning again despite his bogey-free effort on Day 2.
“It’s very, very difficult to play four rounds of great golf,” he cautioned. “I’m sure there is going to be a day here and there where you struggle.”
If you say so.