Martin Kaymer was able to extend a huge lead at Pinehurst on Sunday at the U.S. Open, eventually winning by eight shots to claim his second major championship.
Martin Kaymer entered the day on Sunday at Pinehurst with a five-shot lead on Rickie Fowler and Erik Compton, and even though there was obviously a chance that someone could force his hand, it never seemed overly likely that Kaymer would falter enough to allow someone else to take this championship.
Kaymer held strong the entire way, and even when it looked like he would slip up a little bit, no one was close enough to really take advantage and force him to do something that he didn't want to do. There were very few bad shots from Kaymer on Sunday, and when he did hit them, he had enough wiggle room to take a real big number out of play and make sure that he didn't lose too many strokes.
There were 156 players in the field this week, and only three of them finished under par. That's supposed to happen at the U.S. Open. Systematic destruction is also supposed to happen at the U.S. Open, but not from the player to the course. Kaymer went out this week and dominated a U.S. Open venue like it was a regular PGA Tour event, and he did it for four straight days.
We'll probably never see a more dominant performance than Tiger Woods at Pebble Beach in 2000, but much like Rory McIlroy at Congressional in 2011, Kaymer's play this week was pretty special.
Golfers by nature tinker with everything. Every year, you'll hear stories of players switching caddies, management, clubs and apparel, all with the intention of getting some kind of edge on the competition. The more quiet changes though typically come when a player messes with their swing.
Tiger's gone through almost as many swing changes as he has major championship wins. Padraig Harrington essentially started from scratch after winning three majors in a six tournament stretch in 2007 and 2008, and Martin Kaymer tried to completely change things as well. After winning the 2010 PGA Championship at Whistling Straits and ascending to the number one spot in the Official World Golf Rankings, Kaymer decided to go away from the cut that he had been hitting for his entire career and tried to start favouring a draw with an eye on winning at Augusta National.
It didn't go well. Kaymer just barely got in on points at the 2012 Ryder Cup, and was considered the weak link on a strong European side, and while he made the clinching putt to defeat the Americans, he didn't really do much else of note the entire week. Kaymer eventually fell out of the top-10 in the OWGR and spiralled past 60th, with many people suggesting that he was a fluke number one and that he was one of the worst major champions in recent golf history. It seemed like every time he had a good round or a good week either on the PGA Tour or in Europe, something bad was right around the corner.
That all changed at the Players Championship this year, when he dominated an incredible field at TPC Sawgrass for his first win in nearly two years. Just over a month later, he wasn't even challenged at any point at the U.S. Open, and is now a multiple major winner in the prime of his career. He'll move to 11th in the OWGR, and will without question be on Paul McGinley's Ryder Cup team in September.
He's gone back to his old swing, and he's playing better than ever before. Kaymer suggested after the round that he might need to make some changes to win at Augusta, but it's difficult to see why he would contemplate something like that after such a dominant run.
Golfers never change.
The U.S. Open has been broadcast on ESPN since 1982, and has been a joint production with NBC over the last 20 years. That's due to change next season as the USGA opted to go with Fox for their event coverage for the next 12 years, so both ESPN and NBC dedicated the end of their broadcasts this week to a final sign-off.
Chris Berman handled the duties for ESPN, while Dan Hicks and Johnny Miller spoke on behalf of NBC. At points, both broadcasts got pretty emotional and you can tell that everyone involved, Miller especially, really care about this event. A lot of great memories have been broadcast by both companies over the years, and despite the warranted criticism that both have received recently, especially as it relates to Berman and Miller, it's going to be tough for Fox to come in and improve on the product.
Both Fowler and Compton backed up a bit on Sunday, and even though they probably had no chance to win with Kaymer so far in front, it was still an important day for both players.
Fowler secured his second top-five finish in a major this season, and looked good all week with the exception of a couple of loose swings from the tee on Sunday. The putter is usually his issue, but he was solid on the greens all week and the swing changes that he's implemented with Butch Harmon over the past few months seem to be working. After missing out on the Ryder Cup at Medinah back in 2012, it's difficult to believe that Tom Watson will leave him off again in September at Gleneagles.
For Compton, the two-time heart transplant recipient has been on the PGA Tour bubble for a few years now, and this kind of finish should allow him to keep his card assuming that he doesn't do anything too disastrous the rest of the way. He also secured his first ever trip to the Masters next season.
With the U.S. Women's Open being held at Pinehurst next week, the women were on the course with the men today, and the USGA won't set it up any easier than they did this week. Can't imagine anyone gets to Kaymer's score, and realistically, the winning number is probably going to be around even or something over par.
The next men's major championship will be the Open Championship, held at Hoylake next month, while the U.S. Open will head to a brand new venue next year, as Chambers Bay in Washington will play host in 2015.