PINEHURST, N.C. -- Martin Kaymer stepped on the course Friday as the 2014 US Open Round 1 leader and, while certainly the top favorite before Friday, a pretty good bet to come back toward the pack a bit. By the end of the day a combination of good luck, brilliant course management and just a great round of golf turned Kaymer into a runaway train with the field not even in the rearview mirror.
Kaymer's first-round 65 was more impressive than you could imagine given the conditions. His second-round 65 was easier thanks to improved weather conditions, but to shrug off the pressure of the first one and offer up a repeat? That's never happened in major championship history. Yes, Martin Kaymer became the first player to ever throw up back-to-back, opening-round 65 or better in a major.
There were other low scores in the afternoon on Thursday but a scorched No. 2 isn't card friendly. Friday morning? An entirely different ballgame.
A 30-minute evening monsoon -- a typical late shower in these parts -- resulted in almost 3/4 an inch of rain and soaked the state's southern parts. Fluffed-sand pedestrian walking areas looked like the tide throttled them, hardened to reasonable walking weight. The rest of the course just took an efficient beatdown from the robot-like German en route to his 36-hole U.S. Open record.
Greens softened up and invited players to take advantage. Kaymer got lucky with a morning round, but he was still utterly and completely eingewählt.
Kaymer's round was a beautiful blend of aggressiveness and intelligence as he steadily piped the ball into the fairway and aimed for the middle of most greens.
"He's as dialed in as I've seen," playing partner Keegan Bradley said. "He's very steady, doesn't seem to get too up and down and that's a good combination for the US Open."
When he found himself at a good yardage, Kaymer took his shots. The driveable par-4 No. 3 was a perfect example, as Kaymer mashed his tee shot within 20 feet of the hole with an eagle look. Though he "only" birdied, it was a perfect example of Kaymer letting the course come to him and getting aggressive when it made sense.
"Yesterday and today, the way I worked my way around the course … I didn't play too aggressive but when I had a good number I went for the flag," Kaymer said. "I didn't make many mistakes on the green. I didn't three putt, I made a lot of good putts yesterday and today."
Even when he faltered a bit -- Kaymer's tee shot on the par-3 sixth and second shot on the par-4 seventh -- the former No. 1 overall player still scrambled to prevent any slippage. A pair of beautiful sand shots from a pair of difficult lies helped Kaymer card pars on six and seven respectively.
"I didn't make many mistakes. I got a little tired the last three or four holes but I made good up and downs, especially on six and seven," Kaymer said. "I hit enough fairways and greens to give myself a few chances. I hit a couple longer putts today. I didn't make many mistakes and I never really got into bad spots."
The championship isn't over by any stretch. A lot can happen, or at least we can tell ourselves a lot can happen.
An eight-stroke lead, which Kaymer held following his back-to-back 65s, doesn't guarantee a victory in what would be a fun-looking weekend were it not for Kaymer's mauling of Pinehurst the first two days.
Twenty three players were either 2-under, 1-under or even-par when Kaymer left the course, leaving a pile of golfers in theoretical contention but for the name atop the leaderboard.
"At the moment it continues to be a heck of a tournament … if you take Kaymer off the top," Scott Van Pelt remarked on ESPN.
Kaymer doesn't plan on doing anyone the favor of removing himself.
"It's not a done deal," Kaymer said after his round. "And there's never a time when you can relax. There's never really a time when you can take it easy and say I'm leading by two or I'm leading by five. You've got to set your own goals and play well."
It's hard to set your goals any higher than back-to-back, record-breaking and record-tying rounds at one of the most famous and difficult golf courses in the country.
And it's even harder to meet those goals. Kaymer's played so well through Friday, though, tit might not matter as long as he doesn't completely implode.