There have been momentary blips for Martin Kaymer on Sunday, but no one is putting a scare in the German machine as he hits the back nine on Sunday. The course was watered last night and this morning, and the pin placements aren't quite as brutal as Saturday's third round so there are birdie opportunities out there. But the closest its come for Kaymer is four shots, and that was only for a moment before Kaymer rolled in a birdie and Erik Compton made bogey.
Kaymer went out in 1-under 34, wrapping up his front nine with a birdie on the shorter par-3 9th. We saw Zach Johnson make a hole-in-one at the 9th earlier in the day, so the pine placement was gettable and Kaymer posted a "2" on the shortish 172-yard hole. That red number pushed him back to 9-under for the championship, and for the moment, back in front by six shots.
Erik Compton is the closest chaser, but he's can't quite put a birdie run together. Every red number he's posted has been followed promptly by a bogey, exemplifying again just how much a U.S. Open inhibits movement on the leaderboard on Sunday. Unlike the Masters, where players believe they still have a realistic shot if they're within five shots at the start of their final nine, it's almost impossible to make a run at the national championship. The chasers have to hope the leader or leaders implode on a hole or two and recede back to the field.
Of course, Compton just being in the mix, just playing golf at all, is an incredible accomplishment on its own. He's on his third heart, surviving two transplants -- one as a 12-year-old and another in 2008, when he drove himself to the hospital while suffering a heart attack. He's had moments on the PGA Tour where he's contended, but this is obviously the biggest move he's made in his career. He's good enough to win at the highest level, and has been close enough to think that win is coming soon.
Compton's just facing a guy playing some of the best U.S. Open golf we've ever seen. Kaymer dropped a shot to start his back nine by bungling a couple short game swipes on the easier par-5 10th, but there's really been no relent throughout his 27 weekend holes. Both he and Compton are at even-par on the day, and it looks like his final eight holes will be a nice little cruise to his second major championship.
Rickie Fowler, who is playing with Kaymer in the final pairing, had his longshot chance end with a double-bogey at the fourth hole. But at least Kaymer was there to offer some words of encouragement!
Here's a snapshot of the leaderboard as we get late in the day in the Sandhills of North Carolina:
|T24||Brendon de Jonge||6||5||15|
|T48||Billy Hurley III||11||1||F|
|T63||Bo Van Pelt||18||9||F|