Martin Kaymer is the US Open champion. Like him, you probably knew that on Friday when the foundations of this coruscating win were laid with that opening pair of 65s. Yesterday’s saunter around Pinehurst was effectively a lap of honour, a tour of duty required merely to formalise arrangements.
The lead, which stood at five at the start of the day, was not remotely under threat. To re-inforce his pre-eminence he drove the green at the par-four third to set up a tap-in birdie. Get back in your box was the message conveyed to those notionally in pursuit. Successive birdies on the back nine at 13 and 14 took him to 10 under par, out of sight as well as reach.
For those counting he won by eight in the end after a final round of 69, one of only three players to finish under par. So at 29 Kaymer is a two-time major champion, the US Open coming four years after his first triumph on this continent at the US PGA Championship.
Kaymer’s is a story that offers hope to all, a young man who tasted success early without quite understanding how. A period of destructive introspection and swing changes saw him tumble down the rankings from No1 in the world to 63. Only this year, after almost two years in the wilderness, did he begin to piece the puzzle back together. His win at the Players Championship last month presaged the monumental display here.
The secret has been to step back from analysis and to trust his instinct for the game. Though his swing has been reconstructed to a heightened level of excellence, the greatest gain is the understanding that not every ball comes out of the sweet spot, and when the game is on he knows how to get out of his own way.
The emphatic win is not what this tournament is ordinarily about. Only Tiger Woods 14 years ago and Rory McIlroy in 2011 have torn up the austere template. Kaymer’s performance ranks alongside both for its mastery of the conditions and dominance of the field. The spectacle suffered appallingly, but no blame attaches to him for that.
Kaymer’s is a lesson slowly being absorbed by McIlory, who has emerged from an epic slump of his own. McIlroy is hitting the ball as well as he ever has tee to green, but is at odds with himself when he fails to convert the opportunities he creates.
McIlroy was out with Adam Scott, the dream Sunday pairing for which the tournament hoped beforehand. Not on this occasion, sadly. The dam will break soon, maybe in Ireland this week, in Scotland or at the Open at Hoylake, the next stop on the major rosta. Like Kaymer, who began his round with a par, McIlroy has the capacity to erase the field, an unanswerable gear when so engaged. But yesterday was another round of frustration, a 73 leaving him on six over par.
It says much about Matt Fitzpatrick that he was sifting through his US Open experience to establish where it went wrong. This 19-year-old boy had just walked off the 18th green having negotiated the last round of the US Open in 69 strokes, one under par.
He was already the best placed amateur, emulating the silver medal at the Open and the Low Amateur award at the Masters. The last amateur to double up in Britain and America went by the name of Bobby Jones, who, you might say, had something of a career himself.
On the final green his local caddie, Duncan, took his hand and raised it high into the air. The packed gallery responded with emphatic applause. They knew they had witnessed something special. The next time he drops a tee in the ground, this week at the Irish Open in Cork, England’s Fitzpatrick will be putting for pay.
You get the feeling that Russell and Sue, his proud parents observing from the sidelines, will be handing in their notice soon. For now they must return to work when he does, sustained by the marvellous memories they take home from Pinehurst.
Playing alongside their son was 2010 Open champion Louis Oosthuizen, who laughed when asked what advice he might give the nascent pro. “He doesn’t need any from me. He is a great player already, hits the ball really nicely. He played really well. Anyone who goes around this course under par knows what he is doing,” Oosthuizen said.
Fitzpatrick is a slip of a lad with a face yet to engage in meaningful exchanges with a razor. You would fear for his safety going to the park alone, let alone setting about Pinehurst. Yet here he was walking up the 18th having had the better of a brutal course.
“It’s been a great week. My aim was to win the Low Amateur, and to achieve it is pretty pleasing,” Fitzpatrick said. “Playing with some of the biggest names, with Phil [Mickelson] and Justin [Rose], a practice round with Rory, playing with Louis on the last day, yeah, it’s been great.
“I read the other day that I was 10 per cent higher than the average in greens in regulation so that was a nice positive. I’m not too sure what went wrong this week. I would say I didn’t hole enough putts, but at the same time I’ve had previous weeks where it’s been the other way around. The week that it all comes together is the week where you play your best, I guess.”
Sounds like a tour vet already.