PINEHURST, N.C. -- Many U.S. Open observers felt the firm and fast conditions, the turtle-backed greens and tufts of gnarly grass in waste areas would cause a high percentage of contestants to struggle with the No. 2 course at Pinehurst Resort and Country Club.
Obviously at the halfway point of the 114th national championship, that high percentage does not include Martin Kaymer.
Kaymer, 29, a former PGA champion from Germany, enjoyed a record-setting day Friday at the Open. He fired his second consecutive 5-under-par 65 and set a new 36-hole scoring mark of 130. His 6-stroke lead over Brendon Todd tied another Open record.
"It's fun watching him hit every fairway and every green and make every putt," said Keegan Bradley, one of his playing partners for the first two days. "It was pretty awesome. ... He's as dialed in as I've ever seen.
"He's just very steady. He doesn't seem to get up and down. That's a pretty good combination for the U.S. Open."
The low-key Kaymer, winner of last month's Players Championship, was the beneficiary of a course softened by overnight rain. That enabled him to keep his confident go-for-it mind-set on a layout fraught with peril.
"I was expecting the golf course to play a lot firmer," he said. "Obviously that rain helped a lot and you could still be aggressive. We had perfect greens this morning but still you had to hit good shots. Obviously the record shows that it's very rare that somebody shoots 10-under par after two rounds. I didn't expect it."
Kaymer's 130 broke the U.S. Open record of 131 set in 2011 by Rory McIlroy at Congressional. It also matches the lowest 36-hole score in a major, a mark established in the 1992 British Open by Nick Faldo at Muirfield, and tied by Brandt Snedeker at the 2012 Open Championship at Royal Lytham.
His 6-stroke advantage at the halfway point ties the record set in 2000 by Tiger Woods at Pebble Beach and equaled by McIlroy in 2011. Kaymer is the sixth player in history to record double-digits under par at a U.S. Open, and the second to do it as early as the second round.
Kaymer started his round on the back nine and birdied 10, 13, 15, 3 and 5 to get to 10-under. He admitted he got "a little bit tired" down the stretch but saved par at Nos. 6 and 7 after hitting his approach shots into greenside bunkers.
The Open setup, which includes wider fairways and no rough, surely agrees with Kaymer.
"Usually at the U.S. Open, you know coming in it's going to be tight fairways, thick rough, fast greens, and this week's it's a little bit different," he said. "I think for us Europeans, especially the guys from the U.K., we're more used to playing these golf courses than 1/8those3/8 with thick rough or long holes with tight fairways. So I think it favors a little bit the European players."
It will be an uphill battle for those chasing Kaymer. Todd, whose profile has risen sharply since his win last month at the Byron Nelson Classic, fired a 67 for a 136 total and will play in the final pairing Saturday with Kaymer.
Snedeker carded a 68 to tie Kevin Na (69) at 137 and five players, including Bradley, are at 138. Rory McIlroy had a 68 and has nine shots to make up, and world No. 1 Adam Scott is 10 shots back after a 67.
Like his fellow challengers, Todd knows he will have his hands full.
"Kaymer's performance has been incredible," he said. "He's playing a brand of golf we haven't seen in a long time, since maybe Tiger. He might need to come back. I don't think there's too much opportunity to shoot 6- or 8-under on the weekend if he were to get a couple more 1/8under par3/8. We're going to go out and do our best."
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