Kaymer tough enough through 36 holes at Pinehurst

By Rex HoggardJune 13, 2014, 7:31 pm

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.

NBC Sports

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.

Getty Images

Watch: Moore does impressions of Tiger, Poults, Bubba

By Grill Room TeamJuly 16, 2018, 10:36 pm
Getty Images

Johnson begins Open week as 12/1 betting favorite

By Will GrayJuly 16, 2018, 5:15 pm

Dustin Johnson heads into The Open as the top-ranked player in the world, and he's also an understandable betting favorite as he looks to win a second career major.

Johnson has not played since the U.S. Open, where he led by four shots at the halfway point and eventually finished third. He has three top-10 finishes in nine Open appearances, notably a T-2 finish at Royal St. George's in 2011.

Johnson opened as a 12/1 favorite when the Westgate Las Vegas Superbook first published odds for Carnoustie after the U.S. Open, and he remains at that number with the first round just three days away.

Here's a look at the latest odds on some of the other top contenders, according to the Westgate:

12/1: Dustin Johnson

16/1: Rory McIlroy, Rickie Fowler, Justin Rose

20/1: Jordan Spieth, Justin Thomas, Tommy Fleetwood, Brooks Koepka, Jon Rahm

25/1: Jason Day, Henrik Stenson, Tiger Woods

30/1: Sergio Garcia, Francesco Molinari, Paul Casey, Alex Noren, Patrick Reed

40/1: Hideki Matsuyama, Marc Leishman, Branden Grace, Tyrrell Hatton

50/1: Phil Mickelson, Ian Poulter, Matthew Fitzpatrick

60/1: Russell Knox, Louis Oosthuizen, Matt Kuchar, Bryson DeChambeau, Zach Johnson, Tony Finau, Bubba Watson

80/1: Lee Westwood, Adam Scott, Patrick Cantlay, Rafael Cabrera-Bello, Thomas Pieters, Xander Schauffele

100/1: Shane Lowry, Webb Simpson, Brandt Snedeker, Ryan Fox, Thorbjorn Olesen

Getty Images

Woods needs top-10 at Open to qualify for WGC

By Will GrayJuly 16, 2018, 4:34 pm

If Tiger Woods is going to qualify for the final WGC-Bridgestone Invitational at Firestone Country Club, he'll need to do something he hasn't done in five years this week at The Open.

Woods has won eight times at Firestone, including his most recent PGA Tour victory in 2013, and has openly stated that he would like to qualify for the no-cut event in Akron before it shifts to Memphis next year. But in order to do so, Woods will need to move into the top 50 in the Official World Golf Ranking after this week's event at Carnoustie.

Woods is currently ranked No. 71 in the world, down two spots from last week, and based on projections it means that he'll need to finish no worse than a tie for eighth to have a chance of cracking the top 50. Woods' last top-10 finish at a major came at the 2013 Open at Muirfield, where he tied for sixth.

Updated Official World Golf Ranking

There are actually two OWGR cutoffs for the Bridgestone, July 23 and July 30. That means that Woods could theoretically still add a start at next week's RBC Canadian Open to chase a spot in the top 50, but he has said on multiple occasions that this week will be his last start of the month. The WGC-Bridgestone Invitational will be played Aug. 2-5.

There wasn't much movement in the world rankings last week, with the top 10 staying the same heading into the season's third major. Dustin Johnson remains world No. 1, followed by Justin Thomas, Justin Rose, Brooks Koepka and Jon Rahm. Defending Open champ Jordan Spieth is ranked sixth, with Rickie Fowler, Rory McIlroy, Jason Day and Tommy Fleetwood rounding out the top 10.

Despite taking the week off, Sweden's Alex Noren moved up three spots from No. 14 to No. 11, passing Patrick Reed, Bubba Watson and Paul Casey.

John Deere Classic champ Michael Kim went from No. 473 to No. 215 in the latest rankings, while South African Brandon Stone jumped from 371st to 110th with his win at the Scottish Open.

Getty Images

Spieth takes familiar break ahead of Open defense

By Rex HoggardJuly 16, 2018, 3:50 pm

CARNOUSTIE, Scotland – As his title chances seemed to be slipping away during the final round of last year’s Open Championship, Jordan Spieth’s caddie took a moment to remind him who he was.

Following a bogey at No. 13, Michael Greller referenced a recent vacation he’d taken to Mexico where he’d spent time with Michael Phelps and Michael Jordan and why he deserved to be among that group of singular athletes.

Spieth, who won last year’s Open, decided to continue the tradition, spending time in Cabo again before this week’s championship.

Full coverage of the 147th Open Championship

“I kind of went through the same schedule,” Spieth said on Monday at Carnoustie. “It was nice to have a little vacation.”

Spieth hasn’t played since the Travelers Championship; instead he attended the Special Olympics USA Games earlier this month in Seattle with his sister. It was Spieth’s first time back to the Pacific Northwest since he won the 2015 U.S. Open.

“I went out to Chambers Bay with [Greller],” Spieth said. “We kind of walked down the 18th hole. It was cool reliving those memories.”

But most of all Spieth said he needed a break after a particularly tough season.

“I had the itch to get back to it after a couple weeks of not really working,” he said. “It was nice to kind of have that itch to get back.”