PINEHURST, N.C.--There would be no scoring records Saturday at the U.S. Open.
For Martin Kaymer, who entered the day with the lowest two-round score in the history of the majors (130) and a six-shot lead, it was a day of survival.
The German putted a ball off a green, and he took a one-shot penalty when a drive was so wildly off target into the sandy wiregrass waste area that he had to take a drop. He made five bogeys, four more than he made in the first two rounds combined.
Yet somehow he persevered, helped by an eagle on the fifth hole and a birdie on the 18th, his only one of the day, to give himself a 2-over 72 and a five-shot lead entering Sunday's final round at 8-under 202.
"I made three bogeys in the first six holes, but thereafter, I kept it pretty well together," Kaymer said. "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 OK. And that is what I did."
Different players are now leading the chase pack. Eric Compton, who has undergone two heart transplant surgeries, and Rickie Fowler each had 3-under 67s, the only under-par rounds of the day, to get to 3 under overall.
Henrik Stenson and Dustin Johnson were at 2 under after shooting even par.
Kaymer bogeyed two of his first four holes but got those two dropped shots back after a long approach from the waste area on the par-5 fifth. It was one of the best shots of the day, finishing about 4 feet away, and he calmly sank the eagle putt.
Kaymer then finished in style, making about a 6-footer for a birdie on the 18th.
Compton is the only player to come through qualifying who remains in contention.
"I think that my attitude suits a U.S. Open style course because I don't ever give up," Compton said.
Fowler, who was tied for 10th at last year's U.S. Open, said he was able to minimize mistakes when he was in trouble.
"Very, very pleased with today's work," he said. "Today played significantly harder than the first two days. ... If you got it two paces in the wrong direction, you were off the green."
Fowler, 25, has not won in more than two years and has been working on his game with Butch Harmon, the former instructor for Tiger Woods.
"I'm definitely more in control of my golf swing and more in control of the golf ball," he said.
Kaymer will try to avoid the final-round issues that plagued Retief Goosen when he had a three-shot lead after 54 holes in the 2005 U.S. Open at Pinehurst No. 2. Goosen closed with an 81 to finish tied for 11th.
"The biggest challenge is that you keep going, that you don't try to defend anything," Kaymer said. "If you try to defend then you change your game plan and you don't swing as free as usual.
"Anything can happen. I can lead by seven or eight shots after nine holes. I can be down to all square. So it will be an exciting round."
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