After Martin Kaymer rolled in a par putt on the 18th green Sunday on Pinehurst No. 2, he dropped his club to the ground, leaned back with his arms raised, a huge grin on his face.
One of the dominant performances in U.S. Open history was complete.
Leading from start to finish, Kaymer, 28, a German, shot a 9-under-par, four-day total of 271 that blew the rest of the field away. He fired a 1-under 69 Sunday and really had only two legitimate pursuers during the final round. Erik Compton and Rickie Fowler – the only other players who were under par for the tournament – tied for second, eight strokes back at 1 under.
The Open, played on No. 2’s recently restored layout that stripped the course of its rough and replaced it with native vegetation and sand, was Kaymer’s second major title, the other coming in the 2010 PGA Championship. He also won the Players Championship in May.
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Kaymer’s victory approached historic proportions. It was the Open’s fourth-largest winning margin. Only Rory McIlroy (16 under in 2011) and Tiger Woods (12 under in 2000) posted lower 72-hole scores. Kaymer’s four-day total of 271 is second lowest in Open history to McIlroy’s 268 in 2011 at Congressional Country Club in Washington.
It didn’t take long Sunday for Kaymer to confirm that this Open was his. Entering the final round with a five-shot lead on Compton and Fowler, he birdied the third hole. The tournament effectively was over.
“If you lead by five shots, it’s not easy, you think it’s a cushion,” said Kaymer, who is the first player from continental Europe to win the Open. “If you have that attitude, it can be gone so quickly. It’s a challenge to stay away from that attitude. You want birdies, to go for the flag, to not hold back.
“I overcame that feeling and I’m very proud of that.”
As he did at the Players Championship, where he also was a wire-to-wire winner, Kaymer took early control and never came close to relinquishing it.
He made the tournament his own Thursday and Friday, taking advantage of soft conditions in posting identical 65s in what was the lowest 36-hole start in Open history.
When Pinehurst toughened up Saturday, he kept the field at bay with a solid 72. Sunday, he returned to his dominant self, allowing Compton to briefly get to within four strokes, but otherwise keeping the tournament in a stranglehold.
“He kind of killed it off on Thursday and Friday,” said Henrik Stenson, who tied for fourth at 1 over with Keegan Bradley, Jason Day, Brooks Koepka and Columbia’s Dustin Johnson. “He left everybody in the dust.”
Compton, a two-time heart transplant recipient, had a brief chance to make Kaymer uncomfortable. He drew to within four shots but fell back when he posted bogeys on the 11th and 12th holes.
“I was watching the leader board and I knew we were all playing for second,” said Compton. “I had a few opportunities to put a little heat on (Kaymer), but, all in all, finishing second makes this whole week really sweet.”
Fowler, Kaymer’s playing partner, took himself out of the running quickly. A double-bogey on the fourth hole dropped him eight shots behind Kaymer.
It was the second consecutive top-five finish Fowler in a major (he tied for fifth at the Masters).
“I couldn’t stay close enough to put any pressure on Martin,” said Fowler. “But it was good to watch him keep control of himself all day.”
Kaymer never left any doubt.