2014 U.S. Open: Kaymer stays on top as 54-hole leader, will play with Fowler

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PINEHURST, N.C. – While some of the band members changed, the song remained the same.

Martin Kaymer maintained his lead over the field at the 2014 U.S. Open on Saturday and led by five strokes to carry the 54-hole lead into the final round of play on Course No. 2 at Pinehurst Resort and Country Club on Sunday.

Rickie Fowler was only one of two players to score the low round of the day, a 3-under par 67, and along with Erik Compton, who matched him, sat tied for second place overall.

As a result of finishing before Compton, Fowler got the honor of entering the final round of play on Sunday in the last pairing of the day with Kaymer, his first time ever to do so in a major.

Fowler walked off the course by carding birdies on three holes (10, 13, 17) on the back nine that put him in second place while Kaymer maintained a healthy lead over a field that could only get one stroke closer to him.

“Very, very pleased with today’s work,” Fowler said.

“Swing-wise, I didn’t drive it very well today but kept it in play and stayed out of trouble when I could. Kind of minimized mistakes when I was in trouble and actually made some good swings in bad spots.”

For Compton, a double heart transplant recipient whose story continues to evolve into one of sentiment and appreciation for what he’s done by putting himself in contention while playing in only his second career USGA Open Championship, his finish had him appreciating every moment of it.

“I think it’s very special,” Compton said.

“When I’m out there, at times it’s hard to — when you look around and I realize where I have been, and then — but it shouldn’t matter. I’m just happy to be able to play golf. But to play at this high level and in such a big tournament, it is something that I carry with me. And it gives me a lot of strength when I do have moments where I feel like I get emotional for a second. But it’s right back to hitting the ball and trying to get the ball in the hole. I’m getting better with it. And hopefully in the future I will do some better things with it.”

With the field struggling to land the ball on firmer and faster greens with tougher pin placements, Kaymer also experienced more adversity than he had through his first two rounds of play.

He had an unplayable lie as his ball lay in a deep stack of pine needles and took a drop and penalty stroke on the fourth hole after his drive went offline into the waste area along the fairway.

He subsequently managed to land the ball in a great position on the green to putt it in for a bogey and minimized his loss to only one stroke.

“I needed to take a drop there,” Kaymer said.

“It was a very big putt to make that bogey because if you make double it’s a tough one. But to lose only one on a hole like this, where it’s almost a par-5 today, it’s okay.”

Following two bogeys after playing his first four holes, Kaymer recovered quickly and scored an eagle on his next hole, the par-5 fifth that brought him back to level par.

Though he got into some more trouble with three bogeys in his next 10 holes, level par on the rest and a birdie on the 18th allowed him to stay at 8-under par overall while only Fowler and Compton sat closest to him by the end of the day.

As much as Kaymer experienced problems in hitting fairways, the field felt it more as only five others besides him finished under par, cutting in half the total that started the day in red numbers.

With Fowler and Compton as the exceptions, all Kaymer and every other player who finished at even or over par could say about what happened was that they made mistakes and didn’t play well enough to score lower on a tougher golf course setup.

“Well, I knew what I did wrong,” Kaymer said.

“I missed the tee shots. So I didn’t make any mental mistakes or any strategy mistakes, it was just poor golf shots. I think even obviously after the first two days, for me, it’s okay to hit some poor shots as well once in a while, so it was acceptable. It was okay. You can’t play every day, great golf. Usually you have one of those poor days at one stage during a tournament, but the important thing is that you keep that poor day still okay. And that is what I did. Hopefully I will hit a few more fairways tomorrow.”