Martin Kaymer has set a blistering 10-under pace at the midway point of the 114th U.S. Open. Earlier in the week, no one would have thought consecutive 65s were possible, but the USGA and Mother Nature softened up the course enough to make the holes locations at Pinehurst No. 2 accessible. Kaymer benefited the most from the conditions, and his six-stroke lead tied the record for the largest lead after 36-holes at the U.S. Open.
The 29-year-old won The Players in May, and has an opportunity to put the U.S. Open out of reach on moving day. He is the only player in history to start a major championship with 65 or better in the first two rounds. Kaymer is playing lights out golf, and the field can only watch if he continues his record-setting pace.
Several world class players are bunched in the even-par to four-under range, but reports are saying the hole locations in round three will make a low round extremely difficult.
Brendon Todd (-4) is the closest competitor to Martin Kaymer, and he is on a hot streak with a win and two top-10s in the weeks leading up to the Open.
Kevin Na and Brandt Snedeker are tied for third at three-under. Na lost in a playoff a couple weeks ago, and Snedeker has a new putter in the bag for the first time in eight years that seems to be doing the trick.
Keegan Bradley, Dustin Johnson, Henrik Stenson, Brendon de Jonge, and Brooks Koepka are in the two-under group. Bradley won the 2011 PGA Championship, and Dustin Johnson and Henrik Stenson are two of the best to have yet to win a major.
There are a few players at one-under and even-par who may make a move. Rory McIlroy, Matt Kuchar, and Jordan Spieth are at one-under and Adam Scott, Ian Poulter, and Rickie Fowler are at even-par.
The cut was +5, which is the lowest cut of the three U.S. Opens at Pinehurst (+7 in ’99 and +8 in ’05). The wider fairways and lack of rough have helped. However, if it doesn’t rain, the course will firm up, and we may get a better idea of how difficult the newly restored Pinehurst No. 2 can play.
Some of the notable players to miss the cut are Hunter Mahan, Jason Dufner, Bubba Watson, Lee Westwood, and Luke Donald.
Notes about the 2014 U.S. Open, courtesy of the USGA:
The 36-hole cut of 145 is tied for the fourth-lowest cut in U.S. Open history. The lowest cut of 143 occurred at Olympia Fields in 2003.
Comparing the three U.S. Opens at Pinehurst No. 2. through 36-holes:
Players under par through 36 holes – 1999: 7; 2005: 5; 2014: 13
Cut – 1999: 147 (+7); 2005: 148 (+8); 2014: 145 (+5)
Fairways Hit – 1999: 66%; 2005: 52%; 2014: 71%
Greens in Regulation – 1999: 47%; 2005: 50%; 2014: 57%
Birdies and Eagles through 36 holes – 1999: 555; 2005: 569; 2014: 670
Scoring Average through 36 holes – 1999: 74.14; 2005: 74.21; 2014: 73.06
Drivable par-4 third hole was a success, hopefully they bring it back for the final round:
The par-4 third hole was moved up to 315 yards in the second round, and it was the easiest hole with a stroke average of 3.60.
Round three course set up, courtesy of the USGA:
Weather Conditions Affecting Course Setup: We luckily avoided showers last evening, so with less humidity today and a light breeze out of the northeast (opposite of prevailing southwest wind), the course should see firmness similar to Round One. If northeast breeze continues, the long par 4s (2, 4, 12 and 16) will play into the wind, while the 7th hole (drivable) and two par 5s (5th and 10th) will be downwind.
Green Speeds – Today’s green speeds are averaging 12½ feet on the USGA Stimpmeter.
Total Course Yardage for Saturday (tee marker settings to flagstick) = 3,665 yards out; 3,757 yards in = 7,422 total yards
Hole 1 – 411 yards; the hole location is in the back-left portion of the green; putts from the middle of the green will be fast; shots missed over the green will be a relatively easy up and in.
Hole 2 – 515 yards; the hole location is in the back portion of the green.
Hole 3 – 394 yards; tee markers have been placed on the back teeing ground; the hole location is on the top-right back portion of the green.
Hole 4 – 542 yards; tee markers have been placed on the back teeing ground; the hole is located in the back-center portion of the green; the hole should play into the northeast wind.
Hole 5 – 530 (par-5) yards; tee markers are placed on the front of the three back teeing grounds; the hole is placed in the dangerous front-left portion of the green, bringing the severe left fall-off into play.
Hole 6 – 224 yards; tee markers have been placed on the middle teeing ground; the hole location is in the back-left portion of the green.
Hole 7 (Drivable par-4) – 371 yards (315 yards tee markers to flagstick); tee markers have been moved up 48 paces; the challenging front-left hole location is just above the bunker on a plateau; players will have a few options off the teeing ground: (1) lay up in the normal drive zone, but be faced with a tough second shot into the tucked hole location, (2) cut the right corner and play short and left of the green to give a better angle into the hole location, or (3) attempt to drive the green.
Hole 8 – 480 yards; the hole location is on the front-left portion of the green, bringing the severe fall-off on the left of the green into play.
Hole 9 – 198 yards; tee markers are placed on the back teeing ground; the hole location is in the back center of the upper left half of the green.
Hole 10 (par-5) – 589 yards; tee markers have been moved forward 30 paces; playing downwind, the hole should be reachable in two shots for some players; the hole location is up on a plateau just over the front-left bunker.
Hole 11 – 486 yards; the hole location is placed up against the right undulation; putts from the back portion of the green will be affected by this mound.
Hole 12 – 489 yards; tee markers are on the back teeing ground; the hole will play into the wind; the hole location is in the back-left portion of the green; most putts will have a right-to-left break.
Hole 13 – 362 yards; the hole is placed in the narrow front-right portion of the green; putts from the center of the green will be very tricky and will be affected by a pronounced undulation that ties into the back-right bunker.
Hole 14 – 479 yards; the hole is positioned in the far back-center of the green bringing the fall-off behind and to the left and right into play.
Hole 15 – 199 yards; tee markers have been placed on the back teeing ground; the hole is placed on the flat plateau several paces over the false front.
Hole 16 – 531 yards; the hole should play into the breeze; the hole is located in the far back center of the green.
Hole 17 – 186 yards; the tee markers are placed on the middle-left teeing ground; the hole location is halfway back on the far right side of the green.
Hole 18 – 436 yards; the hole is placed about a third of the way into the green on the left side, where the green subtly falls away toward the center trough.
Weather Forecast for Saturday (provided by Jake Swick with Thor Guard Weather) We lucked out again last night (amazingly!) with only a trace of precipitation. The short term models for this morning suggest some extra clouds could mix with our sunshine at times, but the satellite imagery doesn’t support that at this time, so we’ll just call it a mainly sunny morning. Northerly winds will start picking up over the next few hours with a high wind gust around or just past 10 mph, then the wind should gradually drop back this afternoon as it become more northeasterly. Last night’s weak front will fall apart today just to our south near the NC/SC border. Therefore, I’ve got a 20 percent chance of a shower or storm for a few hours this afternoon when we see the clouds start rebuilding, but we should stay dry today with any activity closer to Fayetteville and the coast. Tonight will be a very quiet night as the clouds clear out before sunset. Sunday will hopefully be sunny to mainly sunny most if not all day. The wind will stay light on Sunday (less than 10 mph), but will be more east to southeasterly gradually increasing the humidity. Then look for the heat and humidity to become even more noticeable and uncomfortable from Monday on.