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Runaway leader Martin Kaymer evokes memories of Rory McIlroy with blistering display at US Open

Rory McIlroy hangs his head after missing a putt on the 18th hole

Rory McIlroy hangs his head after missing a putt on the 18th hole

  • by Phil Casey
 

Ryder Cup hero Martin Kaymer evoked memories of Rory McIlroy’s runaway victory in 2011 as he continued his remarkable domination of the 114th US Open.

Kaymer said after his opening 65 – the lowest score ever in the US Open at Pinehurst – that no-one should expect him to do it again, but that was precisely what he did on Friday to set another record.

The 29-year-old’s halfway total of 130 eclipsed the previous championship best of 131 set by McIlroy at Congressional, although the Northern Irishman was 11-under and Kaymer ‘only’ 10 under after 11 birdies and just one bogey over the first two days.

McIlroy’s halfway lead of six shots three years ago equalled the record set by Tiger Woods at Pebble Beach in 2000 – Kaymer was eight ahead of Zimbabwe’s Brendon de Jonge and American trio Keegan Bradley, Dustin Johnson and Brooks Koepka as the afternoon starters headed onto the course.

“It’s not a done deal,” insisted Kaymer, who joined McIlroy as the only players to get to double digits under par in the first two rounds. “You don’t approach Saturday and Sunday in a relaxed way.

“It’s never a time when you can relax, unless it’s Sunday afternoon and you are raising the trophy. There’s never a time you can take it easy, you have to set your own goals and keep playing well.”

Looking to become the first person to win the Players Championship and US Open in the same year, Kaymer played down concerns over the strapping on his left wrist, adding: “It’s just (down to) a lot of practice and golf the last few months but it’s no problem, I’m feeling good.

“I played very solid again, did not make a bogey which was nice. I struggled a bit the last few holes but kept it together well.”

Kaymer had covered the back nine in 31 on Thursday and quickly demonstrated his liking for it yesterday, making light of the 627-yard par-five 10th – his opening hole – by holing from six feet for birdie.

The former world number one missed from 12 feet for birdie on the 12th but quickly made amends, holing from twice the distance on the next.

Asked on Wednesday what score he would be happy with after four rounds, Kaymer had said eight over par. Another birdie from 25 feet on the 16th took him to eight under after just 25 holes.

The tee on the par-four third had been moved forward to bring the green into range and Kaymer took full advantage, driving the green from 315 yards and two-putting for his fourth birdie of the day.

Another soon followed on the fifth and despite a number of mishit iron shots on the closing stretch, Kaymer kept a bogey off his card to leave the chasing pack facing a monumental task to deny him a second major title.

His first came in the US PGA Championship at Whistling Straits in 2010, when Johnson was famously denied a place in the play-off between Kaymer and Bubba Watson due to a two-shot penalty on the 72nd hole, the 29-year-old grounding his club in a bunker that he thought was a waste area.

McIlroy battled his way to a second round of two-under-par to sit one under overall.

It leaves the Holywood star nine shots behind Kaymer going into the weekend.

Northern Irish compatriot Graeme McDowell endured a frustrating day at Pinehurst as he carded a second round of four-over-par to sit on two over.

Darren Clarke’s US Open ended as he reached the halfway stage on seven over par – with the projected cut at five over. Ireland’s Shane Lowry was also below the cut line on six over.

 

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