Martin Kaymer hit a rough patch early in his round on Saturday, but limited his mistakes to turn in a two-over 72. At eight-under for the tournament, Kaymer holds a commanding five-stroke lead over Rickie Fowler and Erik Compton.
It wasn’t a fair fight the first two rounds. Kaymer’s consecutive 65s set the record for the lowest 36-hole total (130) in U.S. Open history, and he had a six-stroke lead.
In the third round, Kaymer had a rough start that could have been much worse. He bogeyed the second hole, and hit it left into the trees on four. The wayward drive ended up next to a pile of pine straw, and he wisely took an unplayable. After punching out and hitting his approach to 18-feet, Kaymer made a great bogey putt to go to two-over through four.
On the par-5 fifth, Kaymer hit his drive left again, but he had a clear shot from the native area, and he hit a perfect 7-iron to about five-feet for eagle. The eagle brought him back to even-par on the day.
After a bogey on the par-3 sixth hole, Kaymer settled down with several pars before a couple bogeys on the back nine. A birdie on 18 gave Kaymer a respectable 72, and a five-stroke lead heading into the final round.
The 29-year-old spoke about grinding out a decent round despite not having his best game, “I made three bogeys the first six holes. Therefore, I kept it very well together. I didn’t play as good as the first two days.”
He added that the course set up made shooting a low score difficult, “Today, what I said earlier to you, I think the USGA, they listened yesterday, unfortunately, and they put the pins in very, very tough positions. I think 18 was the only pin where you could be aggressive. The other flags, if you hit it to 25 feet, it was a good shot. So I didn’t see many birdies out there, I guess Erik and Rickie, they saw a few more. But overall, 2-over par, the way I played today was fun.”
Kaymer doesn’t mind the tucked pins and the firm conditions. In fact, he seems to prefer courses that emphasize ball-striking, which is exactly what Pinehurst No. 2 is all about, “Well, I mean, it would be nice if they make it difficult again. Because then it really becomes or it’s all about ball-striking. I enjoy playing those courses a lot more than just a putting competition.”
Pinehurst will do a good job of limiting the number of contenders on Sunday, and Kaymer will look to extend his lead, “The biggest challenge is that you keep going, that you don’t try to defend anything. If you try to defend, then you change your game plan, and you don’t swing as free as usual.”
Kaymer’s swing is working, and there is no reason to change his game plan with his second major within reach.