On his first day at Chambers Bay, the defending U.S. Open champion had a ball.
Kicked one over the ropes into the crowd, even.
Martin Kaymer was the charming champ during his first practice round for the 115th U.S. Open, as sunny as the glorious Monday morning astride Puget Sound in University Place.
After ascending and descending a maze-like set of stairs and crossing an overpass above the masses to reach the fourth tee, the 30-year-old German and two-time major winner stopped to sign a poster board for a redhead. The guy’s jaw about dropped to the fescue.
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Kaymer won last year’s Open at Pinehurst No. 2 after setting a tournament record-low score through two rounds. He has slumped lately this season, but his lower-trajectory shots might play well here.
They did Monday — in more ways than one.
On No. 4 he drilled a smooth line drive that bisected the fairway. A fan then tossed to him an official U.S. Open oversized, kickball-like golf ball — retailing for $12 at the official U.S. Open Merchandise Pavilion, by the way.
Kaymer seemed surprised by the weird souvenir landing at his spikes. He picked it up, inspected it curiously and dutifully signed it. After inquiring about its owner, Kaymer momentarily looked more like a member of his native country’s world champion soccer team.
He punted the inflated, freshly autographed ball.
On this first day, even his foot shots worked. The ball floated gracefully back over the ropes directly into the arms of the giddy woman who had chucked it to him.
“World Cup. Germany,” Kaymer said, with a grin.
Then he moved on down the fourth fairway amid laughs.