It's been a battle for Martin Kaymer on the front nine of the third round at the U.S. Open, but he's still left the door firmly shut for any of the chasers deep down the leaderboard in the "B group" this week at Pinehurst. The course is an entirely different test on Saturday, with stronger wind coming out of the north for the first time. The pin placements are almost extreme, and the greens have dried out considerably to repel almost everything off their Donald Ross deisgned turtleback shape.
An even-par round of 70 might be the best score of the day, and Kaymer went out in just 1-over and is still clear by five shots. The course average at the moment is 75, and there was no way he was going to approach those two opening rounds of 65. But he started to leak a little oil on Friday, hitting some loose iron shots that maybe gave the field a sliver of hope. He's certainly not had the same game as the first two days, but managed to keep it together while everyone else tries to hold on for life on a brutalizing Pinehurst.
The biggest swing of the day for Kaymer came at the 4th and 5th holes. At No. 4, he made an all-world bogey after his ball went wandering into the woods and settled in one of the worst lies you can get at a U.S. Open. After taking an unplayable off in the pinestraw, Kaymer punched out to 160 yards and somehow got up-and-down to mitigate the damage with just a bogey.
On the very next hole, he'd get that shot back, and the one he dropped earlier with a bogey at the second, by making an incredible eagle to get to 10-under. For the second straight hole, Kaymer's drive was wild but this time, instead of settling in an unplayable lie, it landed in the hardpan junk that's everywhere on this restored venue. It wasn't looking good, but the German managed to pop it out of the native waste area and up onto the green in two, well within eagle range. It was a dazzling recovery to get back in play.
He'd clean up that eagle to finish off the two-hole save and deflate the hopes of group in second and third. Getting just a bogey at the 5th, and then pulling off the eagle with his top form clearly not there, could be the swing that wins him the U.S. Open.
Kaymer dropped a shot on the 7th, when he misjudged a lengthy putt from the front of the par-3 green. He blasted it right through the damn green, his ball trickling off the back edge of these slippery mushroom-topped putting surfaces. It was a pretty bad gaffe, but it's the kind of scene we keep getting at this course with the current conditions.
He'd settle for a bogey and drop to 9-under. He continues to fight a much more shaky game off the tee and with his irons, but he's holding on mostly with his putter and not giving the group behind him much hope as the amount of holes continue to dwindle. Kevin Na and Brendon de Jonge are currently in second, five shots off the pace. Erik Compton has the round of the day going, a two-time heart transplant survivor who everyone would be pulling for on Sunday. Compton played one five-hole stretch in 5-under, which is remarkable given the scoring conditions.
Here's a current snapshot of the leaderboard:
|T2||Brendon de Jonge||-4||-2||11|
|T51||Bo Van Pelt||9||5||F|
|T55||Billy Hurley III||10||5||F|