GolfPinehurst Diary

US Open Digest: Martin Kaymer hoping old habits bring Pinehurst joy

Grayson Murray’s locker kept in place; Tom McKibbin adds new sponsor

Martin Kaymer of Germany during a US Open practice round at Pinehurst. Photograph: Ross Kinnaird/Getty Images

Maybe it is a superstition thing, but Martin Kaymer’s return to the Hotel Carolina – where he stayed for his US Open win in 2004 – has also come with staying in the same numbered room (which he has kept secret!).

The hotel has been modernised since the German’s putting exhibition saw him finish eight shots clear of the field for his second career Major but the management went to the trouble of ensuring he got the same number on his door.

Kaymer hadn’t been back to Pinehurst since that dominant display a decade ago, but refreshed his memory by watching a Golf Channel highlight reel of his win:

“They had a 20-minute highlights show on. It really stood out how well I putted within 10 feet. First of all, I really avoided all the big numbers, double bogeys, triple bogeys, which can happen here quickly


“But I feel like this week is quite difficult to get it in that circle around the hole, that eight- to 10-foot circle. That was the key, I think, to my success. Obviously I played well, yes, but I didn’t make many mistakes on the greens.”

McKibbin’s new deal

Tom McKibbin has another corporate logo on his shirt, after signing a new sponsorship deal with AIB (who have also signed up rookie Ladies European Tour player Lauren Walsh).

The 21-year-old Ulsterman – who came through qualifying at Walton Heath last month to punch his ticket to North Carolina – will be making his debut appearance in a Major but has been an avid television viewer of the US Open from afar.

PINEHURST, NORTH CAROLINA - JUNE 11: Tom McKibbin of Northern Ireland plays a shot from a bunker on the sixth hole during a practice round prior to the U.S. Open at Pinehurst Resort on June 11, 2024 in Pinehurst, North Carolina. (Photo by Gregory Shamus/Getty Images)

“I probably watched a little bit of G-Mac’s win,” recalled McKibbin of Graeme McDowell’s victory at Pebble Beach in 2010, “but I would have been into watching golf as much then. Probably the one Rory won [at Congressional in 2011] was probably the first one. Then the year after, from 2012, I watched every one since then.”

Local knowledge

First-time Major competitor Michael McGowan has probably played the No 2 course more often than anyone else in the field.

McGowan, at 33 years of age, is the grandson of Golf Hall of Famer Peggy Kirk Bell and the son of former PGA Tour player Pat McGowan and came through a number of qualifying tournaments – including a playoff involving Sergio Garcia – to earn his place in the field.

From nearby Pine Needles, McGowan – who has played the Korn Ferry Tour – is able to sleep in his own bed and make the five minutes commute to the course with a tee time in the first group off the first alongside Carter Jenkins and Logan McAllister.

“It’s like being a kid in a candy store,” said McGowan of his US Open experience so far.

Murray’s locker in place

The locker space originally reserved for Grayson Murray has been kept for him.

Murray – a two-time winner on the PGA Tour, including the Sony Open earlier this year – would have earned a place in the field through the official world rankings.

His death, by suicide, last month sent shockwaves through the sporting world but the USGA have retained Murray’s intended locker at Pinehurst with a suitably engraved plaque on the door in memorium:

“The USGA remembers Grayson and pays tribute to the playing accomplishments that merited his place in the 124th US Open Championship – Be kind to each other.”

Word of mouth

“I was joking with my caddie, ‘we should probably get our putter checked’. I’ve never swung so hard on my putter than I did today, just trying to get up and down mounds,” US PGA champion and world number two Xander Schauffele on how frequently he used his putter during practice.

By the Numbers: 2

The Italian Molinari brothers – Francesco and Edoardo – are both in the field for this 124th US Open. Francesco (his only Major win came in 2018 in lifting the Claret Jug) will be making his 14th appearance in the US Open (with a best finish of tied-13th in 2021); Edoardo is making his fifth (with a best finish of tied-35th, also in 2021).