U.S. Open 2014 scores: Martin Kaymer holds 5-shot lead over Rickie Fowler, Erik Compton

Ross Kinnaird

It wasn't as smooth as the record-setting first two rounds, but Martin Kaymer kept the rest of the field at a distance and will head to Sunday with a sizable five-shot lead at the U.S. Open.

Martin Kaymer is just 18 holes away from becoming the first German to ever win the U.S. Open. After setting a U.S. Open record with back-to-back 65s in the first two rounds, Kaymer came back to the field just a bit in the third round at Pinehurst, finishing 8-under overall and five shots clear.

Kaymer did not have the same form that overwhelmed the field and the course in the first two rounds, but he held it together up on the green to keep some distance on all the chasers. He got a little loose with iron shots late on Friday and was even shakier in the third round, sending several drives off the course and misfiring on approach more than we had seen. He missed more fairways on Saturday (four) than he did in the first two rounds combined. But he was always able to mitigate the damage and avoid the total implosion that seemed necessary in order to get the rest of the field back into it.

The biggest swing for Kaymer probably came early in his round at the 4th and 5th hole. His drive at No. 4 was really wild, rocketing left into the trees and rattling around before falling into the pinestraw -- or so he thought. When Kaymer got up to his ball, he found a brutal lie in some hardpan up against a wall of pinestaw. He couldn't get relief from the wash-out hardpan, because it wasn't ground under repair. If he'd tried to move the pinestraw, which he had the right to do as a loose impediment, his ball would have probably moved for a penalty. So Kaymer decided to take an unplayable lie and move his ball two club-lengths out into the middle of the pinestraw.

Kaymer_lie_1_medium

After taking his drop, he pulled off one of the great "bogey saves" you'll ever see. He punched out from the pines, but still had some 160 yards into the green. From there, he pulled off an incredible up-and-down to keep the damage at one shot.

Following that adventure, Kaymer came to the 5th two shots worse than when he started just an hour earlier. But he promptly got it all back, and again with some amazing work out of the native area junk that's all over this restored Donald Ross design. The tee ball was left again at the par-5 5th, but must have caught a better lie this time because the shot he played up to the green was flawless.

He tapped in that eagle and all of a sudden the early hopes of a chase-down were slammed shut, the 36-hole leader right back to 10-under. That two-hole stretch -- the bogey after that disastrous lie at No. 4, and then the eagle at No. 5 -- could be the weekend swing that delivers Kaymer his second major title.

The closest chasers of Kaymer are Rickie Fowler and Erik Compton, who both posted ridiculous 3-under rounds of 67. The scoring conditions were entirely different in the third round, with a stronger wind from a new direction, firmer and faster turf, and extreme pin placements. Kenny Perry said after the round that it was the most difficult setup of hole locations he'd ever seen at a major championship. Phil Mickelson said he'd be shocked if someone posted a round in the red and broke 70.

But there were Fowler and Compton, getting in the house at 67 to climb to 3-under. Fowler seems to be coming into his swing under coach Butch Harmon, who took over as his instructor at the end of last year. Compton, a two-time heart transplant survivor, will be the guy everyone's pulling for on Sunday and would be an incredible story after getting through sectional qualifying just to earn a spot. Fowler, who posted 67 first, will play in the final pairing with Kaymer

But both Fowler and Compton are up against it with the way Kaymer is cruising. There were those struggles on the front nine, which he mostly mitigated with the eagle. And then after making two bogeys on the backside, and his lead "shrinking" to as little as four shots, he decided to play the final hole perfectly from tee-to-green. The bombed drive and dart approach shot into the pin set up a reasonable birdie try, which he converted to push the margin back to five. It had to be demoralizing for the longshot "B group" this week.

Kaymer's already got a decorated resume with a major title, a Players Championship, and that Ryder Cup clinching putt in 2012, but after the struggles experimenting with his swing, this would be a signature week for the German. He'll try to become just the third player in the last 40 years, joining Rory McIlroy and Tiger Woods, to hold the outright lead from wire-to-wire at the national championship.

Here's the leaderboard as we head to the final round at Pinehurst:

Place

Player

Score

1st Round

2nd Round

3rd Round

1

Martin Kaymer

-8

65

65

72

T2

Rickie Fowler

-3

70

70

67

T2

Erik Compton

-3

72

68

67

T4

Henrik Stenson

-2

69

69

70

T4

Dustin Johnson

-2

69

69

70

6

Brandt Snedeker

-1

69

68

72

T7

Matt Kuchar

E

69

70

71

T7

Brooks Koepka

E

70

68

72

T7

Kevin Na

E

68

69

73

T10

Justin Rose

1

72

69

70

T10

Jordan Spieth

1

69

70

72

T10

Chris Kirk

1

71

68

72

T10

Brendon de Jonge

1

68

70

73

T14

Victor Dubuisson

2

70

72

70

T14

Francesco Molinari

2

69

71

72

T16

Garth Mulroy

3

71

72

70

T16

Jimmy Walker

3

70

72

71

T16

Jason Day

3

73

68

72

T16

Marcel Siem

3

70

71

72

T16

J.B. Holmes

3

70

71

72

T16

Adam Scott

3

73

67

73

T16

Rory McIlroy

3

71

68

74

T23

Shiv Kapur

4

73

70

71

T23

Lucas Bjerregaard

4

70

72

72

T23

Aaron Baddeley

4

70

71

73

T23

Steve Stricker

4

70

71

73

T23

Ian Poulter

4

70

70

74

T23

Hideki Matsuyama

4

69

71

74

T23

Keegan Bradley

4

69

69

76

T30

Ryan Moore

5

76

68

71

T30

Retief Goosen

5

73

71

71

T30

Bill Haas

5

72

72

71

T30

Phil Mickelson

5

70

73

72

T30

Brendon Todd

5

69

67

79

T35

Sergio Garcia

6

73

71

72

T35

Cody Gribble

6

72

72

72

T35

Ernie Els

6

74

70

72

T35

Billy Horschel

6

75

68

73

T35

Webb Simpson

6

71

72

73

T35

Patrick Reed

6

71

72

73

T35

Jim Furyk

6

73

70

73

T42

Nicholas Lindheim

7

72

73

72

T42

Zach Johnson

7

71

74

72

T42

Kenny Perry

7

74

69

74

T42

Graeme McDowell

7

68

74

75

T46

Zac Blair

8

71

74

73

T46

Stewart Cink

8

72

72

74

T46

Scott Langley

8

72

71

75

T46

Gary Woodland

8

72

71

75

T46

Seung-yul Noh

8

70

72

76

T51

Paul Casey

9

70

75

74

T51

Bo Van Pelt

9

72

72

75

T51

Harris English

9

69

75

75

T51

Danny Willett

9

70

71

78

T55

Billy Hurley III

10

71

74

75

T55

Justin Leonard

10

75

70

75

T57

Clayton Rask

11

73

71

77

T57

Alex Cejka

11

73

71

77

T57

Daniel Berger

11

72

71

78

T57

Fran Quinn

11

68

74

79

T61

Matthew Fitzpatrick

12

71

73

78

T61

Louis Oosthuizen

12

71

73

78

63

Kevin Stadler

13

77

68

78

64

Boo Weekley

14

71

73

80

65

Kevin Tway

15

72

72

81

66

Russell Henley

16

70

74

82

67

Toru Taniguchi

23

72

73

88

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