Monday, June 16

Let's (Not) Hear It For Martin Kaymer

(©USGA/John Mummert)
I LEFT THE MEDIA CENTER at Pinehurst on Saturday afternoon. It was promptly after my last radio show appearance. I had been there since Wednesday, and, like last year, I departed before the final round because I wanted to be home with my wife and two daughters for Father's Day. So I shuttled to the Best Western, hopped in my car and drove to Virginia.

After church and brunch on Sunday, I would watch the final round of the 2014 U.S. Open in the comfort of my living room. I would see if Martin Kaymer could win the U.S. Open wire-to-wire. I wondered on Saturday morning as I talked to other golf writers and various radio shows if Kaymer might crack under the pressure. Or if Pinehurst No. 2 might deal him some bad bounces or other misfortunes that would allow his fellow competitors to close the gap and challenge his quest for a second major title.

None of the above. As we saw on the weekend, Kaymer was magnificent.

After opening with a pair of 65s, a record-breaking start, Kaymer shot 1 over on the last 36 holes, posting 72 and 69. His 9-under total and 8-shot victory obliterated the field. Only two other players finished in red numbers, runners-up Erik Compton and Rickie Fowler.

The men who finished a distant second offered a succinct assessment of what occurred in the North Carolina sandhills.

Fowler: "Martin was playing in his own tournament."

Compton: "No one was catching Kaymer this week."

I'll add one word for Kaymer: Bravo.

I've watched a lot of U.S. Opens, including many long before Tiger Woods arrived on the scene, and this was one of the most impressive and dominating performances in the U.S. Open or any major, period. In my mind, only Tiger's 2000 masterpiece at Pebble Beach surpasses it. That's no disrespect to Rory McIlroy's romp at Congressional in 2011, but that one didn't play like a normal U.S. Open, so, fairly or unfairly, I put an asterisk by it.

Kaymer is German, of course, the first player from Continental Europe to win a U.S. Open. He is only the eighth wire-to-wire winner in 114 U.S. Opens. He is also the first player to win The Players Championship and U.S. Open in the same season, leading both events from start to finish.

'Buzz was anti-buzz'

And yet, as Fox Sports columnist Robert Lusetich wrote (h/t to Adam Fonseca), the applause for Kaymer's historic performance was tepid at best.
Had Tiger Woods done this, they'd be hailing it as one of the greatest triumphs in golf history. 
Winning the United States Open by eight shots -- a margin eclipsed only once, by Woods in 2000, in the modern era -- and winning wire-to-wire -- achieved only eight times in more than a century -- is the stuff of legend. 
But, sadly, there was barely more than tepid, if polite, applause on Sunday as Martin Kaymer put on a master class in how to dominate a major championship from start to finish at Pinehurst No. 2. 
The buzz was anti-buzz. 
Boring, they called Kaymer's cool, clinical closing of his second major on social media. 
He was certainly guilty of sucking the drama out of the final round -- ably assisted by the chasing pack, who stumbled over their ambitions -- but isn't that what great champions do?
I'll answer that question. YES.

Kaymer is a great champion. American, no. Flamboyant, no. Tiger Woods, no. But, without a doubt, a great champion.

2 comments :

John Coyne said...

Kaymer is an 'old fashioned' pro who plays the game without the high-fives and high-jinks of the age. A throw back to the days when the game was played, as Hemingway said, "with grace under pressure."

Brian Kuehn said...

It is not Martin Kaymer's fault that his play was far superior to the rest of the field. Was the final result ever in doubt? Not really. I call that masterful, not boring or uninspiring.