Martin Kaymer slips but fails to crack at US Open
German five clear of Rickie Fowler and Erik Compton as Irish challenge fades
Martin Kaymer celebrates after a birdie putt on the 18th green during the third round of the US Open at Pinehurst No 2 in North Carolina. Photograph: Ross Kinnaird/Getty Images
Although not as clinical nor as efficient as he was for the first two rounds of this 114th US Open, Germany’s Martin Kaymer retained his grip on the championship with a third round 72 for a 54-hole aggregate of 202, eight-under-par, and a five-stroke cushion on his closest pursuers, Americans Rickie Fowler and Erik Compton.
On a day when firm greens and some fiendishly difficult pin placements made for an extreme examination, Kaymer – showing the first signs of vulnerability with two bogeys in his opening four holes – kept to his task with due diligence, an eagle three on the Par 5 fifth providing his principal highlight.
Indeed, Kaymer went through 17 holes without a birdie until managing one on the finishing hole, where an approach to eight feet and a successful conversion with the putter enabled him to restore a five-shot advantage.
As if to prove that some players will always find a way to conquer a course, Fowler and Compton, a two-time heart transplant recipient, each shot 67s to move into a share of second place on 207. Henrik Stenson and Dustin Johnson, who each shot 70, were a stroke further back. Only six players reached the 54-hole stage with sub-par aggregates.
“No, it wasn’t good,” conceded Kaymer afterwards, who had incurred only one bogey in his opening two rounds but suffered no fewer than five in a third round where he was required to show patience with some errant driving. “I kept it very well together . . . the USGA put the pins in very, very tough positions.”
Those pin placements were generally tough, with only one or two exceptions. One of those favourable placements was on the 18th and, as Kaymer put it, “I could take care of it. Eight under after three rounds is a good score.”
Kaymer heads into the final round with a five stroke cushion and seeking to be a wire-to-wire winner. A winner of the US PGA in 2010 and of the Players Championship last month, Kaymer – if he were to go on and win – would become the fourth European winner of the championship in five years.
Compton, competing in only his second career Major and yet to win on the PGA Tour, retained his composure to stay very much in the mix. His is a remarkable story, having twice received heart transplants and journeying on the web.com tour before moving on to the PGA Tour. He has three career top10s, but no win, on the main tour.
Fowler – like Compton – had a best-of-the-day 67 to move to the head of those in pursuit.
“I look at it as similar to what Bubba (Watson) was doing at the Masters,” said Fowler. “He was so far out in front that you can’t focus on him. I can put myself in contention with the rest of the group, and see what Martin does. If he goes out and posts double digits, it’s going to be impossible for us to catch him. It’s like a second tournament going on.”
The two Irish players who made the cut suffered disappointing third rounds. Rory McIlroy covered the front nine in a card-wrecking 40 strokes and, even though he steadied the ship and came home in 34 to sign for a 74, for three-over-par 213, his hopes of a second US Open title to add to his 2011 success were effectively ended.
Graeme McDowell suffered a dreadful front nine – which included an untypical run of four successive bogeys from the sixth – as he carded a 75 for 217 to leave his dream in tatters. G-Mac headed immediately to the range after his round in an effort to sort out chinks in his swing.