PINEHURST, N.C. -- After firing back-to-back 65s on the first two days of the U.S. Open, Martin Kaymer declined to set goals for the weekend knowing anything could happen, particularly on the firm and fast layout known as Pinehurst No. 2.
"I'm not really into goals," he said. "I just want to play."
Wow, did he ever.
Thanks to steely nerves and an incredible display of putting, Kaymer lapped the field in the 114th national championship. He closed with a 69 and won by 8 strokes. He became the first German to win the trophy, carding the second-lowest score, a 9-under 271, in Open history.
With the victory, Kaymer, 29, became only the fifth player in history to win two majors -- he also captured the 2010 PGA Championship -- and hold the No. 1 world ranking for a time before the age of 30. He joins an impressive list that also counts Tiger Woods, Seve Ballesteros, Ernie Els and Rory McIlroy.
Kaymer became the seventh player in Open history to win after holding the outright lead following each of the first three rounds, and first since McIlroy at Congressional in 2011.
Still, Kaymer said the Sunday pressure was present right from the first tee, and he was presented with an additional test of not getting too far ahead of himself.
"The challenge was not to think too much about that trophy, not to think too much about ... what you're going to say," he said. "Not too much thinking about how you might celebrate on 18.
"It goes through your head and I'm sure a lot of players feel the same way. Not many talk about it but it is what it is. We do think about it. We are humans, we're not robots. So it was a tough challenge ... a lot of emotions, a lot of expectations."
However, Kaymer settled down after making solid shots in his first six holes and getting to 1 under for his round, which was "the most important thing, to stay in control of the golf tournament."
Rickie Fowler, who tied Erik Compton for second place at 279, played alongside Kaymer in the final pairing but didn't put much heat on him after a double bogey at No. 4. Compton got as close as 4 strokes when his birdie at the eighth hole moved him to 4 under and Kaymer bogeyed No. 7 to drop to 8 under, but that's as close as anyone got.
"It was fun playing alongside him and watching him on how he controlled himself out there," said Fowler, who shot a final-round 72, as did Compton. "He's a very deserving champion."
It has been a fabulous comeback for Kaymer. He defeated Bubba Watson in a playoff to win the 2010 PGA, and rose to No. 1 in the world rankings early the next year. But he then gradually slid notch by notch in the rankings, and dropped to a low of 63d in April.
However, his career arc changed after he went wire-to-wire and won the Players Championship last month. He grew more confident in the swing changes he had made, and showed this week that he had the complete package.
He was particularly impressive with his putting, whether on the green or a few yards off. In some situations, he putted from 10 yards or more off the green. On the seventh hole Sunday, he putted even as a bunker blocked his path to the hole and made bogey.
"I've always done fairly well to putt (from) off the green," he said. "I think a bad putt is still better than a bad chip, especially with the runoffs. If you hit (a chip) fat, you are pretty much in the same spot. My putting within 10 feet this week was good. If I get it within an 8-to-10-foot circle, I have a very good chance to save par. You really don't want to make worse than bogey."
Whatever he did this week, Kaymer found that it worked. Combined with shutting out the distractions and the expectations, it added up to a U.S. Open championship.
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