The 2014 U.S. Open is in the books. When one looks back on the results plenty of conclusions will be made. “It wasn’t much of a tournament.”, “Blowout.”, “Americans falter.” Add whatever comments you wish but the real story is that Martin Kaymer played some of the best golf a U.S. Open has ever witnessed. Not since Tiger’s domination at Pebble Beach in 2000 has anyone taken control of a major championship so handily.
Coming off his Player’s Championship victory, the handsome German quietly displayed golfing skills suited to the restored Pinehurst #2 layout. Only three players finished under par. Ricky Fowler, he of the plus fours on Thursday and Erik Compton, the man with more hearts than Cupid, finished at -1, eight shots behind Kaymer. The only major winner within earshot was 2011 PGA Champion Keegan Bradley who shot 67 on Sunday. That stellar round allowed him to finish tied for fourth, ten shots back. World #1 Adam Scott grabbed a ninth place finish at +2. If you were hoping for a weekend shootout in the North Carolina sandhills, Kaymer’s back-to-back 65’s on Thursday and Friday pretty much sealed the runaway. All he had to do was avoid food poisoning and a traffic accident.
The story of the week had to center on Compton, a player who has been on and off the tour struggling at times to find his game. His well documented battle with heart disease as well as two heart transplants has defined much of his career. But he insisted on Sunday after he finished that he was a player who had survived two transplants, not a two-time heart recipient who could play. Twist the semantics anyway you’d like, Compton is a gritty competitor that may have found the switch to carry on his solid play. Sure, Tour events often demand double-digit under par scores but the confidence gained by Compton bodes well for the near future. He’ll be exempt into the next three majors, the highlight revolving around a drive up Magnolia Lane.
The shot of the week came down to the final put on the final green. Some might say there were other more notable shots but Kaymer’s determination was on display until the end. He was engaged from his opening tee shot on Thursday to his twelve foot par par on the 72nd hole. Sure you can mention Senior Tour Member Kenny Perry’s eagle two out of the “restored area” on 14, Zach Johnson’s hole-in-one at #9 on Sunday or Kaymer’s Saturday approach to #18 which gave him a much needed birdie. In the end it was the pride displayed in finishing off his week. He could’ve taken six whacks at the putt and still won by two. Maybe it was a touch on the shoulder from 1999 Champion Payne Stewart encouraging Kaymer to finish his victory off in style, a lil’ Payne karma. Whatever it was, the smooth swinging German is now the best player in the game.
The event also marked the last time NBC will be televising the U.S. Open. As they bid golf fans farewell, Dan Hicks and Johnny Miller looked back on twenty years of televised memories. Their emotions were evident. They would miss America’s grandest golf stage dearly. Now its up to Fox Sports to get out of the way and let the players script the story for 2015. Hopefully Joe Buck and Greg Norman can hold their tongues a bit.
So with two majors down and two to go the Tiger-less season marches on towards the Ryder Cup. Who will step up at Royal Liverpool? Who will grab the Wanamaker Trophy at Valhalla? Who will challenge Herr Kaymer? We will have to wait and see.
While there were several highlights from Pinehurst the past week in an odd way Martin Kaymer wasn’t a part of them. Television commentators agreed his performance overshadowed what McIlroy did at Congressional in 2011. They were right. Highlights capture single moments. Kaymer’s play encompassed every second, every shot he was executing. He produced a full-feature blockbuster that left all of the other players at the popcorn stand. Now he can go on and add the sequel. I’ll be watching.