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Wire to Wire – Kaymer Joins Distinguished Group of Start to Finish Winners of U.S. Open

PINEHURST, NC – Martin Kaymer may have won this U.S. Open at breakfast this morning – he walked into the Pinehurst Starbucks and ordered oatmeal.

Who does that? Normally it’s grande lattes with cloyingly sweet flavor syrups, or fattening sugary donuts, or some meat, egg and cheese calorie bomb.

Ordering oatmeal at Starbucks when everybody else is giving into urges: that takes discipline.

It’s that kind of focus and control that defined Martin Kaymer’s inexorable, unstoppable march to an eight shot victory at Pinehurst No. 2. He birdied the first hole and he never looked back, taking the lead for good woth a 31 on he back nine on day 1 and ultimately became just the seventh player in U.S. Open history to go wire-to-wire without sharing the lead at any time.

To put that in historical perspective, only six other golfers have done that. Five of them are golfing royalty and the sixth may get there soon enough. Kaymer joins the following group of golfing royalty:

***In 2011 Rory McIlroy razed Congressional Country Club’s storied Blue course like Godzilla tore apart Tokyo. (Godzilla ate trains, Rory ate Y.E. Yang and his hideously ugly golf outfits.) Although Kaymer wrested the 36 hole scoring record from McIlroy, Rory still holds the 54, and 72 hole scoring records as well as lowest aggregate (268) and lowest score to par (-16);

***Tiger Woods turned the trick twice, once in 2000 when he decimated everyone by 12 shots at Pebble Beach, then again in 2002 at Bethpage Black. While Bethpage was more of a slow boring grind, at Pebble he wallpapered the resort with the rest of the field. He even lined them up floor to ceiling, carefully smoothing out all the lumps. Nobody does that any more, not even the really classy decorators;

***In 1970 England’s Tony Jacklin not only won by a whopping seven shots, he became the first golfer to play all four rounds of a U.S. Open under par, (71-70-70-70 at par 72 Hazeltine National). Like Kaymer, Jacklin appeared to be playing a different golf course than everyone else. Feeling right at home in windy conditions more akin to the Baskerville heaths, he was also the only player under par that week on a course that the rest of the players loathed. (Especially runner-up Dave Hill, who had his second place check lightened heftily by a fine for intemperate comments such as, “They ruined a good farm when they built this course….Robert Trent Jones must have had the blueprints upside down;”

***Ben Hogan won his fourth and last U.S. Open at Oakmont in 1953 by opening with a 67 and never looking back, “romping through Oakmont’s furrowed bunkers [furrowed!!] and lightning greens like they didn’t exist,” as veteran scribe Dan Jenkins wrote. He slammed poor Slammin’ Sammy Snead by six shots.

***In 1921 Cornwall, England’s James Barnes won at Columbia Country in Chevy Chase, Maryland by a whopping nine shots over Walter Hagen. Long Jim as he was known was a four time major who also bagged two PGAs, (including the first ever contested in 1916), and a British Open at (by nine shots) and one British Open at Prestwick.

“He’s a Hall of Famer,” said the USGA’s seminal historian and museum director Rand Jerris, “One of the true great of the Golden Age.”

***Walter Hagen also won wire-to-wire, (making what Barnes did to him even more astounding). He won at Chigago’s Midlothian Country Club in 1914 by opening with a 67, then holding off Chick Evans.

Some of you may be saying, “Wait a minute! What about Jack Nicklaus?” Nicklaus won wire-to-wire twice, but there were ties. In 1980 he was tied after the first round with Tom Weiskopf, when they both set the opening round record with those blistering 63s. The same thing happened at Pebble in 1972. Although he opened with a 71, so did five other golfers, though none of them stood a chance. You can take Kermit Zarley, (Kermit Zarley!!! People still name their kids Kermit?), Mason Randolph, Tom Shaw, Chi Chi Rodriguez, and Orville Moody. I’ll take Jack.

For those of you scoring at home, here are the other golfers who won start to finish with ties:

Retief Goosen – 2001, Southern Hills, in a playoff with Mark Brooks;

Payne Stewart – 1991, Hazeltine, in a playoff against Scott Simpson;

Hubert Green – 1977, Southern Hills, the year some woman called the golf course and said some men were on their way to the tournament to shoot him. Green told officials he thought it was some ex-girlfriend, let’s keep playing, but he stayed away from his caddie and playing partners nonetheless. Caddie Shayne Grier recalls the incident with some levity:
“I said, ‘Hey, Hubert, I grew up in the streets in Worcester, Massachusetts. If someone’s going to hit me, they weren’t going to give me a telegram. Let’s just give them a bigger target to shoot at.”‘
Green birdied the next hole and put the tournament out of reach;
Tommy Bolt – 1958, Southern Hills (he was tied with Julius Boros and Dick Metz after a first round 71);

Chick Evans – 1916, Minikhada Club in Minnesota;

Alex Smith – 1906, Onwentsia Golf Club, Lake Forest Illinois; and

Willie Anderson – 1903, Baltusrol (Lower Course)

But getting back to Kaymer, it’s obvious Kaymer is a great front runner, perhaps our generations Ray Floyd, who also used to run away and hide in big tournaments. He won the PLAYERS wire-to-wire last month as well, becoming the first person to win both in the same year. The closest anyone came to doing that was Jack Nicklaus in 1978. (He finished sixth at Cherry Hills.) During the stretch when he was number one in the world, Kaymer won five out of seven tournaments he entered. Right about now the German national soccer team is hoping they can channel some of golfer Martin Kaymer’s dominance.

Talk about German Precision engineering, although h was tied for 18th in Greens in Regulation – normally one of the two most important stats in the U.S. Open – he was T-8 in driving accuracy and he kept getting up and down from Chapel Hill, Raleigh, Durham, and Greensboro, making every big putt when he had to. The defining moment came in Saturday when he survived a squirrely round. After hitting 26 of 36 greens the first to greens, he hit just nine, spraying the ball all over No. 2, No. 5, No. 7, and No. 10, and they haven’t even built 10 yet! From tee to green he played an 81 that would have had Rickie Fowler and Erik Compton in a playoff, but he scrambled like Ken Stabler, scoring a 72 that kept him in the driver’s seat.

That’s what you have to do to win the U.S. Open – keep it together on the day your swing takes he day off. You won’t play perfectly all four days, so you have to survive the moments when the wheels could come off.

The big shot was the 7-iron from the sandy waste area on the par-5 fifth which led to an eagle. That kept him in control and preserved the cushion he was able nurse all the way to the clubhouse. It made Sunday a leisurely stroll instead of a battle – a stroll as easy as ordering oatmeal for breakfast at a Starbucks.

“This is great! Nobody knows me in here,” he told the golf writers lucky enough to stumble upon him by accident. After his performance this weekend, they will now Martin. They certainly will now.


This is the first time Europeans have won back-to-back U.S. Opens since 1924-25, (England’s Cyril Walker and Scotland’s Willie Macfarlane).