US Open: Kaymer conquers Pinehurst

With so many moving parts yet to be settled at a new site, one important thing is in place for the 115th U.S. Open next June at Chambers Bay in University Place.

A defending champion.

That will be Germany’s Martin Kaymer, who methodically broke down and destroyed Pinehurst Resort and Country Club’s

No. 2 Course with his fearless shot-making and aggressive pin-hunting — two traits that rarely pay off like this at a U.S. Open.

Kaymer, 29, closed with a solid 1-under-par 69 to register an eight-stroke victory over Americans Erik Compton (72) and Rickie Fowler (72), the only other men who finished under par.

Kaymer’s 9-under 271 total is the second-lowest tournament total ever. Northern Ireland’s Rory McIlroy shot a 16-under 268 at Congressional Country Club to capture the 2011 U.S. Open.

But even McIlroy concedes that what he did three years ago isn’t quite as superhuman as what his fellow European Tour star accomplished this week on a faster, tougher Pinehurst No. 2 layout.

“I’m wondering how he did it, yeah,” McIlroy said. “It’s tough. I think I’ve made a total of nine birdies this week. I don’t see any more out there. But to do what he (did) ... it’s nearly more impressive than what I did at Congressional.”

With Kaymer holding a sizable five-stroke lead heading into the final round, it was hard to figure out who could challenge him. With that said, he turned this into a rout early on.

He drove the green at the par-4 third hole and two-putted from 40 feet for birdie to get to 9-under for the tournament.

About as close as a challenger would come was late in the front nine. Compton birdied No. 8 at the time Kaymer bogeyed No. 7. Suddenly his lead was just four shots.

Kaymer made a wonderful up and down at the eighth hole about the time Compton bogeyed

No. 9. A few minutes later, Kaymer knocked his tee shot close at the par 3 and coaxed in a 5-foot birdie putt to push his advantage back up to six strokes.

“I knew we were playing for second,” Compton said. “I had my opportunities to put a little heat on him when I got to 4-under. Then I made (that) bogey.”

For the fourth time in five years, the U.S. Open trophy heads over to Europe. Kaymer is the first German to win the title.

As the 18th man to hold U.S. Open and PGA Championship titles, Kaymer has to be mentioned among not only the best 20-something stars in golf, but also with the best players in the world.

After winning the 2010 PGA Championship, he admitted he wasn’t so equipped to handle all the off-the-course attention that comes with winning a major championship. He now says he feels more comfortable in his own skin.

“Four years ago, I didn’t know what was happening, you know? I was surprised. I was not expecting myself to win a major at 25 (years old),” Kaymer said. “I couldn’t handle a lot of the things that happened in Germany. ... And then becoming No. 1 in the world, that added another thing. And it was too much.

“Right now, I am OK with talking to you in a very calm, normal, relaxed way, as if we are having a normal conversation. It’s a lot easier for me.”

He also appears to enjoy playing golf on links-style layouts or on courses that utilize natural topography — like Whistling Straits for the PGA Championship in 2010, and like Pinehurst No. 2 this week.

And quite possibly like Chambers Bay next year?

“I just enjoy playing those courses the way we played this week — the way we played Whistling Straits,” Kaymer said. “They’re fast. There’s not much room for error. ... You have to work your way around. It’s a lot about feel.”

There is one more week of championship golf at Pinehurst No. 2. The U.S. Women’s Open starts Thursday. After that, the United States Golf Association’s focus will shift to Chambers Bay.

Pierce County Executive Pat McCarthy was in the University Place course’s pro shop to watch Kaymer sink his final 12-foot par putt on the 72nd hole.

“I think it’s going to be fabulous to (have Kaymer as the defending champion),” McCarthy said. “And I think the golfers are going to get a different golf experience here.

“The world will be given a different taste and flavor.”

Todd Milles: 253-597-8442