The 114th US Open is over and it’s time to recap the moments that made us cringe and the moments that made us cheer. Martin Kaymer’s march to victory, the impossible Pinehurst turtlebacks, and the peripheral fireworks from Zach Johnson and Steve Stricker all made the second major championship of 2014 one to remember.
It seldom happens that a winner with strokes to spare will nail his par putt at the last, but Kaymer did exactly that. It capped off an unusual week in which the German put the field in his rear-view mirror with a pair of 65s during the first two rounds.
Sweden's Henrik Stenson summed up the 36-hole achievement in these words: “He (Kaymer) kind of killed the event in the first two days. He went out and shot two 65s and left everyone in the dust. And then it was more a question of if he would keep it under control and not drop too many in the next.”
The lowest 36-hole total in major championship history would not be easy to defend at Pinehurst…unless you came from Dusseldorf and played the weekend in one-over-par. Kaymer proved just how ready he is to return to world number one, and he did it one month after winning The Players Championship.
Irish sensation Rory McIlroy described that process. “I think this year Martin had been trending in the right direction, and then broke through at The Players, which I think was huge for him, huge for his confidence,” he said.
What Kaymer effectively did last week was leave the world’s best describing the incredible feat he had achieved.
Rickie Fowler’s bright orange Sunday kit forced a talking point, but his fellow runner-up Erik Compton (pictured right) had the really meaty backstory. You see, Compton is a two-time heart transplant recipient and a qualifier for the US Open.
As one of three to break par for the week, the 34-year-old from Florida became a hero for transplant patients the world over.
“I finally had that feeling of putting myself on the map,” Compton said. “I don't have anything to really prove to anybody anymore. If I never played golf again for the rest of my life, I think that I have made my mark in this game… I don’t think anybody would’ve thought I would’ve finished second in a U.S. Open.”
Adding excitement to the mix was Zach Johnson's hole-in-one at the ninth, which pitched 10 feet left of the pin and trickled all the way into the cup. Steve Stricker wrung some extra cheers from the crowd with a Sunday round that included two chip-ins from off the green. But Kaymer's choice to putt nearly everything he could from around the turtleback greens proved to be the most effective way to save shots.
On the home front there were good and bad surprises. Charl Schwartzel felt the burn of Pinehurst No.2 when his putts continued to sail past the hole and off the green during a 41-stroke back nine on Friday that led to a weekend off for the 2011 Masters champ.
Garth Mulroy (pictured left), a sectional qualifier out of Walton Heath, had quite the opposite story to tell and by Sunday morning shared 16th on three-over-par for the tournament. An unsatisfactory final round meant the North Carolina resident would finish tied for 40th alongside Louis Oosthuizen, but time at the top of a major championship is a valuable commodity for Mulroy.
Ernie Els had enough experience to see his way through the tournament with steady rounds of 74, 70, 72, 72 and finished on eight-over-par, which equated to a tie for 35th.
“The golf course was unbelievably good, but extremely demanding. If you were a little off with those shots into and around the greens, you were in for a tough time. To be honest, you were in for a tough time if any part of your game wasn’t totally dialled-in and it was easy to shoot some high numbers,” he said.
The Big Easy played Pinehurst in 1999 and again in 2005, but last week was his favourite trip thus far. The crowds didn’t disappoint and the tournament was a resounding success.
“It’s such a great course and everything fits so well in terms of the players’ facilities. It was perfect – the crowds, the weather and the golf course – all absolutely perfect,” he said.