Kaymer grabs lead at US Open
PINEHURST, N.C. -- Germany's Martin Kaymer stunningly birdied four of his last nine holes in the toughest conditions of the day to seize a three-shot lead in the U.S. Open first round at Pinehurst Resort on Thursday.
PINEHURST, N.C. - Germany’s Martin Kaymer stunningly birdied four of his last nine holes in the toughest conditions of the day to seize a three-shot lead in the U.S. Open first round at Pinehurst Resort on Thursday.
Seeking a second major title after clinching his first in the 2010 PGA Championship, Kaymer produced sizzling form on a hot and sunny afternoon as he fired a 5-under-par on Pinehurst’s fabled No. 2 Course.
Out in 1-under, the 29-year-old German stormed home with birdies at the 10th, 14th, 16th and 17th on a layout becoming increasingly firm and fast to take control of the second of the season’s four majors.
Former champion Graeme McDowell, without playing at his best, delivered a consummate display of course management to card 2-under-par during the morning and ended the round level with American Kevin Na and burly Zimbabwean Brendon de Jonge.
McDowell, who claimed his only major title in the 2010 U.S. Open at Pebble Beach, was delighted with his start.
“I played it very conservatively,” the Northern Irishman said after carefully negotiating Pinehurst’s No. 2 Course where danger lurked on virtually every hole because of the challenging turtle-back greens. “I positioned the ball great off the tee. I drove it really well all day. I generally kept the ball exactly where I wanted to going into the flags, short of a lot of the greens on the correct side of most of the flags.
“It wasn’t my best ball-striking display this morning, but you don’t have to strike it amazing around here, you just have to position the ball correctly at all times.”
Defending champion Justin Rose of England, aiming to become the event’s first back-to-back winner in 25 years, launched his title defense with a 2-over-par.
“I hit every tee shot just as I wanted to,” Rose said after mixing three birdies with five bogeys and totaling 30 putts. “I’m swinging it much better than I have been. I played the par-3s really well. Just my short game was very poor. I need to work on that.”
Rose played in a high-profile trio that attracted the biggest galleries of the day and included British Open champion Phil Mickelson, who has suffered more U.S. Open heartache than any other player.
The American left- hander, who has been a runner-up in his national championship a record six times, ground out an even-par 70 in the opening round to finish five strokes off the pace.
“I drove it great,” said five-times major winner Mickelson, whose most recent runner-up finish at the U.S. Open came last year at Merion. “Every time I hit driver, I hit the fairway.
“I putted OK but didn’t make the ones you need to make, the 15, 20-footers, you need to have a good round.”
Northern Irish world No. 6 Rory McIlroy, the 2011 U.S. Open champion at Congressional where he blew away the field with a stunning eight-stroke victory, opened with a 71.
Scott, Watson anything but masters at U.S. Open
World No. 1 Adam Scott was far from his best in the first round of the U.S. Open at Pinehurst on Thursday, but managed to dig himself into a hole not quite as deep as Masters champion Bubba Watson.
Australian Scott carded a 3-over-par 73 that left him eight shots back of leader Kaymer while American left-hander Watson was tied for 122nd after an error-strewn 76 on Pinehurst’s No. 2 Course.
Watson needs a strong second round today simply to make the halfway cut and keep alive any thoughts of becoming the first player since Tiger Woods in 2002 to win the Masters and U.S. Open in the same year.
“Today wasn’t my day for ball-striking, so that’s why I shot six-over,” Watson said, adding that some tee shots at Pinehurst do not set up well visually for him.
Scott, meanwhile, blamed his game around the greens for his mediocre score.
“I just put it down to my short game not being spot on today,” he said.
Scott and Watson played together with South African Charl Schwartzel in a high-profile trio of Masters champions.
Schwartzel scored best with an even-par 70, but it is probably fair to say that it was Scott and world No. 3 Watson who commanded most of the interest from the large gallery.