US Open 2014 leaderboard: Martin Kaymer left surprised with 'exceptional score' as Ryder Cup hero leads the way on day one

Kaymer carded an impressive five-under-par to lead by three shots in the same week that he admitted he would be happy with eight-over across the weekend

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The Independent Online

Asked on Wednesday what score he would be happy with after four rounds of the US Open this week, former world number one Martin Kaymer said eight over par.

Two days later the 29-year-old German went into Friday's second round at Pinehurst on five under, after a superb opening 65 containing six birdies and just one bogey.

Kaymer, who won the US PGA in August 2010 and became world number one for eight weeks the following February, became just the fourth European to win the Players Championship in 41 years last month.

And the man who ensured Europe would retain the Ryder Cup after the 'Miracle at Medinah' in 2012 reproduced the form he displayed at Sawgrass on Thursday, his 65 beating the previous lowest score in a US Open at Pinehurst of 66 by Peter Hedblom in 2005.

"When you win the Players it's pretty much as if you have won a major, the way the field is," said Kaymer, who equalled the course record with an opening 63 at Sawgrass.

"I needed a win, whether it was the Players or a PGA Tour event for my confidence, to feel it's worth it for all the hard work I have put in over the last couple of years. That was a nice, huge win and coming into the US Open and the next few weeks with big events it's nice if you've just won before. I'm very happy.

"I got asked what score I would take for the whole week and I said eight over par, so hopefully that's not going to happen. The course played more difficult on Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday - they must have put more water on the greens last night.

"It's an exceptional score and very nice to lead the tournament, but I was very surprised the course played fairly soft."

Until Kaymer's late surge - he birdied the 14th, 16th and 17th - Graeme McDowell's early 68 looked set to give him a share of the clubhouse lead alongside Americans Kevin Na and Fran Quinn and Zimbabwe's Brendon de Jonge.

And, after watching the 2010 champion plot his way around the course, playing partner Rory McIlroy backed his fellow Northern Irishman to challenge for a second major title.

"G-Mac didn't start the best but made that eagle on the fifth," said McIlroy, who returned a 71. "He gets the most out of it and misses it in the right places, has a really good short game, holes big momentum putts to keep his run going.

"This is his ideal sort of tournament, grinding it out, and the winning score not being too much under par. He knows how to do that well."

US Open Leaderboard after Day One:

5 under - Martin Kaymer (Ger) (after 18 holes)

2 under - Francis Quinn (USA) (18)

Kevin Na (USA) (18)

Brendon De Jonge (18)

Graeme McDowell (Nirl) (18)

1 under - Francesco Molinari (Ita) (18)

Hideki Matsuyama (Jpn) (18)

Matt Kuchar (USA) (18)

Harris English (USA) (18)

Dustin Johnson (USA) (18)

Keegan Bradley (USA) (18)

Brendon Todd (USA) (18)

Brandt Snedeker (USA) (18)

Henrik Stenson (Swe) (18)

Jordan Spieth (USA) (18)

Level - Seung-yul Noh (Kor) (18)

Joost Luiten (Ned) (18)

Danny Willett (Eng) (18)

Russell Henley (USA) (18)

Jimmy Walker (USA) (18)