Thursday, June 12

Martin Kaymer Breaks From Pack With 65

Martin Kaymer leads at Pinehurst. (©USGA/Hunter Martin)
THE FIRST-ROUND LEADERBOARD OF THE U.S. Open looked like the Pinehurst off ramp on I-73. It was jam-packed, backed up and bumper-to-bumper with 68s, 69s, 70s and 71s. Then along came a resurgent Martin Kaymer on Thursday afternoon.

Kaymer's 65 that included six birdies quite possibly will be the low round of the tournament. The recent winner of The Players Championship will take a three-shot lead into Friday's second round at Pinehurst No. 2.

Needing only 25 putts on No. 2's notorious greens, Kaymer made his afternoon's work look relatively easy compared to his fellow competitors who grinded their way to rounds in the vicinity of par.

"It was very playable," Kaymer said about No. 2. "[I]t's quite nice when you play late on Thursday, that you can watch some golf in the morning and try to adjust mentally because you know going into the first round. Last night I thought that it's going to be very, very firm in the afternoon....But actually it was more playable than I thought. I think that made a big difference mentally that you feel like that there are actually some birdies out there, not only bogeys."

Four players are at 2-under 68: Kevin Na, Brendan de Jong, Graeme McDowell and Fran Quinn.

Quinn is a 49-year-old who hasn't played in a U.S. Open for eighteen years. "It was a dream start," he said. "It was everything I could want and more."

McDowell, the 2010 champion, also liked his start, saying he was "very pleased" with a non-stellar ballstriking round during which he still managed to put his golf ball in acceptable positions for the most part.

Ten players carded 69, including Brandt Snedeker, Henrik Stenson, Matt Kuchar, Jordan Spieth, Dustin Johnson and Keegan Bradley.

Rory McIlroy and Phil Mickelson, two of the favorites, were both content with even-par 70.

Calling it "a solid day," McIlroy figured he only missed one fairway and was on 14 of Pinehurst's greens in regulation. After talking to the media, Rory headed off to work on the pace of his putts.

Mickelson's 70 included three birdies and three bogeys. "I played well today," Lefty said, adding that he didn't make any putts.

Masters champion Bubba Watson said "the golf course is better than me right now" after a 76. Former world No. 1 Luke Donald struggled to a 77.

It will only get harder. Unless it rains. A lot.

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