Martin Kaymer reminds everyone at Pinehurst of Tiger Woods

Stuart Franklin

Tiger’s not in Pinehurst this week -- at least not yet -- but his name was on everybody’s lips as Martin Kaymer put together an historic 36 holes of U.S. Open golf that brought back memories of Woods at Pebble in 2000.

There’s a rumor floating around the U.S. Open that Tiger Woods will make an appearance at Pinehurst some time this week.

Whether or not Woods and his superstar pal actually roll into town (and we would bet against it), there’s a guy at the top of the leaderboard reminding just about everyone in the golf world of the 14-time major champion in his heyday.

Van Pelt was hardly alone in broadcasting his awe for what Martin Kaymer has accomplished in his record-setting 36 holes of U.S. Open golf.

"Reminiscent of Tiger’s performance back in 2000," NBC’s Dan Hicks said late Friday, long after Kaymer had posted a second straight round of 5-under 65 and pre-round marquee names like Phil Mickelson and Rory McIlroy were way back in the pack of golfers playing for second place.

Hicks’ TV partner, Johnny Miller, agreed.

"I give Martin Kaymer a sold ‘A," Miller said. "Outstanding play, right there with Tiger at his best."

Woods is not the only golfer to get to double digits under par after two rounds; Rory McIlroy accomplished the feat in 2011 on his way to an eight-shot rout at Congressional Country Club. But it wasn’t the two-time major champion, who’s toiling, at 1-under, along with the rest of the field heading into the weekend, to whom everyone was comparing Kaymer.

No, it was Tiger’s boffo performance at Pebble Beach, when he clocked his colleagues by 15 strokes, that Kaymer’s head-spinning play matched up with.

Consider what the 29-year-old German, who won the 2010 PGA Championship, knocked in the winning putt in the 2012 Ryder Cup, captured the Players Championship last month, and whose best finish in a U.S. Open is T8, has accomplished in two days. He posted the lowest 36-hole score ever in a U.S. Open by bending what’s billed as the toughest challenge in golf to his will.

Specifically, through 36 holes, Kaymer has:

  • Hit 11 greens in regulation on Thursday, 15 (15!) in round two
  • Found 13 and 12 fairways
  • Made one (1!) bogey in round one, 0 on Friday
  • Carded 11 birdies
  • Missed 0 putts from 10 feet

Tiger-esque enough for you? ICYMI, Woods had game, lapping the field by an even dozen in his first Masters win in 1997 and skating to an eight-shot British Open victory a month after that 15-stroke laugher at Pebble in 2000.

The talking heads were not the only ones making the Marty-Eldrick correlation. Those in the net flight who were looking way up at Kaymer offered brave words about their chances to get back into the contest but could not mask the awe the 12-time PGA and European Tour winner had inspired with his inspired play.

"Martin seems to be playing a different golf course. Ten-under is incredible." -Brooks Koepka

"Martin seems to be playing a different golf course. Ten-under is incredible," said Brooks Keopka, who finished his first two rounds in a five-way tie for fifth at 2-under. "But just take care of myself and I should be fine come Sunday."

Adam Scott said it best about what he and the others with weekend tee times had to look forward to on Sunday.

"If he [Kaymer] does it for two more days," said the 2013 Masters champ, "then we’re all playing for second spot."

For sure, Kaymer may be as close as one could come to matching a tourney-ending 12-under, which Woods did in his first national championship, oh so long ago.

But it ain’t over ‘til it’s over. Consider Gil Morgan, who got to 12-under at the 1992 U.S. Open before collapsing and finishing in 13th place. Or Dustin Johnson, who imploded in a cloud of dust at Pebble in the 2010 Open.

Or Mickelson, who, after opening with 70-73, will have to play his guts out over the weekend just to earn a record seventh runner-up finish.

"It’s a great first two rounds and a great start to the Open. [Kaymer’s] a very solid player," a less-than-ebullient Mickelson told ESPN after his disappointing start to the one major he needs to win to complete the career grand slam. "I expect him to play well this weekend but you see things like Gil Morgan at Pebble Beach ... That stuff can happen."

Kaymer, who fell from No. 1 in the world in February 2011 to 63rd by April 2014, knows there’s a lot of golf left and he was not publicly putting Pinehurst in the win column.

"Anything can happen over the next two days," said Kaymer, who will take a six-shot lead over the immortal Brendon Todd into the weekend. "Hopefully, I can talk to you on Saturday and Sunday in a positive way, so we'll see."

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