I looked back through my US Open notes this morning and although Martin Kaymer played well, and won the Players Championship last month, not many people had the 29 year-old German on their short list at Pinehurst Resort Number Two. Playing in the afternoon session at the 2014 US Open, Kaymer was able to card a 5-under par 65 on Thursday, and take the first-round lead.
As it turns out, not only was Kaymer’s opening score at Pinehusrt good for a three shot lead, it is the lowest first 18 hole score for any of the nine rounds of US Open competition played at Pinehurst Number Two.
With everyone on the planet expecting Phil Mickelson to somehow turn a dismal 2014 season around long enough to finally win the US Open at a place where he lost the first of six runner-up finishes in the National Championship, or Bubba Watson to put together two majors in a row.
No one saw the 2014 Players Champ as being able to put together a five-under exhibition on Thursday, especially during the afternoon session, when the already crazy greens are marked-up, and made faster by the normal afternoon drying.
There has never been a Players Champ who ever lead the first round of the US Open in the same year, and none have ever finished the event higher than fifth. After what we saw from Kaymer at TPC Sawgrass in May, it doesn’t come as a surprise.
2010 US Open Champ, Graeme McDowell and the last entry in the field, Kevin Na had posted an early 2-under score that looked like it would stand overnight. Some players were able to get to 3-under during their rounds, but fell back by the end of the day.
For the most part, our Fantasy Picks here at Pro Golf Now were able to play respectfully throughout the day, and all but two-time Masters Champ, Bubba Watson will begin the second round within a few strokes of the lead.
I had mentioned in the Fantasy Picks that Bubba would be a solid favorite if he could hold his patience, and attitude in-check during the difficult conditions that come with the US Open every year. Bubba started struggling at the first hole, and it didn’t stop until he carded a six over par 76 at the end of the day.
Bubba appeared to be in the same state of mind that lost the Phoenix Open to Kevin Stadler back in February on Super Bowl Sunday.
Phil Mickelson was able to get in the clubhouse at even par after the first round, and could still be a factor for his first US Open win. Phil was able to make some par-saving putts during his round, but he missed a couple birdies putts that he should have made.
With Martin Kaymer getting hot in the afternoon, it put Phil a little further back than is comfortable, but the five-time major champ is still in it. He needs to make some birdies on Friday if he wants to contend on Sunday.
The USGA typically sets up the course a little easier during the opening rounds in order to speed-up play, and get all of the rounds in before the 36-hole cut. Then on the weekend we will see the real result of the Coore-Crenshaw restoration at the historic venue in the sand-hills of North Carolina.