US Open 2014: Biggest Winners and Losers from Pinehurst
Take a bow, Martin Kaymer. What a show you put on during this 114th U.S. Open at Pinehurst No. 2.
Kaymer led from the first round until the last, finishing at nine-under par, an unfathomable eight strokes ahead of second-place finishers Rickie Fowler and Erik Compton. The former No. 1 player in the world now has two major titles, and with back-to-back wins at The Players Championship and the U.S. Open, is officially the hottest player in golf right now.
But although the composed German dominated this tournament, there were plenty of other stories taking place across the field. Former champions crumbled, future stars were tested and a two-time heart-transplant recipient inspired the world.
Here are all of the winners and losers from the 2014 U.S. Open.
Winner: Erik Compton
He didn't win the tournament, but Erik Compton's story is going to be a hard one to beat this year in the golfing world.
Compton, who started the year outside of the top 300 but is currently ranked No. 187, finished one under par and in a tie for second place with Rickie Fowler. This is only the second major of his career, and his first time making the cut. At 34, Compton has many great years of golf in front of him.
The remarkable thing about Compton is that he has had two heart transplants, one in 1992 and one in 2008. His off-course obstacles made his success this week just that much more special, as he told reporters on Saturday (via ASAP Sports):
To play at this high level and in such a big tournament, it is something that I carry with me. And it gives me a lot of strength when I do have moments where I feel like I get emotional for a second. But it's right back to hitting the ball and trying to get the ball in the hole. I'm getting better with it. And hopefully in the future I will do some better things with it.
An emotional Compton told NBC after his round that now he would be known as "more than just a two-time heart-transplant recipient."
Loser: Phil Mickelson's Career Grand Slam
The story of the 114th U.S. Open in the lead-up was Phil Mickelson's quest for his career Grand Slam at the site of his first U.S. Open runner-up finish, Pinehurst No. 2.
But Mickelson was off from the start, never finishing a round under par and ending up seven-over par and in a tie for 28th for the championship.
Mickelson has finished second at the U.S. Open a record six times, but he refused to be too discouraged by this week. He told NBC after his round that he was still confident that he would win this title in the next four to five years.
"I do think I will get it done," he said.
Winner: German Golf
There's no way around it: This was Martin Kaymer's week from start to finish. The only word to describe the German might as well be "Tigeresque." After shooting a record-smashing back-to-back 65s on Thursday and Friday, Kaymer was solid as a rock the rest of the weekend, letting the rest of the field implode around him.
Kaymer became the first German to ever win the U.S. Open—in fact, he's the first player from the European continent to with the U.S. Open. He now joins his idol, countryman Bernhard Langer, with two majors.
Langer is supportive of Kaymer, and Kaymer sees Langer as his inspiration, via the AFP:
'Bernhard has sent me very nice texts already,' Kaymer said. 'Just hearing something from him, obviously it gives you a lot of confidence and it’s really nice of him.
'He doesn’t have to do that, but he takes the time to send out a text and it does push me a little bit.'
Kaymer, who sank the winning putt for Europe in an emotional 2012 last-day comeback victory over the United States in the Ryder Cup, dreams of joining Langer at the Masters champions dinner at Augusta National one day.
Losers: Former U.S. Open Champions
None of the former U.S. Open champions ever really threatened to repeat this week at Pinehurst No. 2. In fact, it was easy to forget that many of them were still in the field.
Michael Campbell, who won the U.S. Open back in 2005, the last time it was at Pinehurst, didn't even play. Jim Furyk, who won this title back in 2003, was the highest former champion on the leaderboard, finishing at three-over par and tied for 12th. Defending champion Justin Rose had some flashes of brilliance, but also finished at three over par with Furyk.
Rory McIlroy, the 2011 champ who was the favorite coming into this event, was never a threat to Kaymer or anyone on the leaderboard. He finished at six over and in a tie for 23rd. The 2012 winner Webb Simpson finished 10-over, tied for 45th, Graeme McDowell (2010) finished at seven over, Ernie Els (1994, 1997) finished at eight over and Retief Goosen (2001, 2004) also finished at 10 over.
Geoff Ogilvy (2006), Angel Cabrera (2007) and Lucas Glover (2009) all missed the cut.
Winner: Father and Son Teams
On Father's Day weekend, it was great to see a few golfers really embrace the holiday on one of the biggest stages of golf.
Fran Quinn really kicked things off, having his 15-year-old son carry his bag for him throughout all four days of golf. Quinn, who had to qualify to get into the field, shot a 68 on the first day but eventually ended at 14 over par, tied for 56th.
Scott McNealy, a Silicon Valley tycoon, caddied for his son, amateur Maverick McNealy, throughout the first two days. On Friday, Kevin Kisner invited his father to caddie the 18th hole for him. Even though it was a bit of a mess, it was a moment they will never forget.
Zac Blair kept this tradition alive on Sunday, inviting his father to caddie for him on the 18th hole as well.
Heartwarming moments like this remind us all that this is much more than just a game.
Loser: Young Americans
Perhaps this is a harsh thing to say considering that the champion Martin Kaymer is only 29 years old, but what had looked to be a bright event for some rising stars in the game ended up being another missed opportunity for the next generation.
Jordan Spieth got off to a great start, shooting a 69 on Thursday, but the 20-year-old never could really get himself into contention on this difficult course, finishing at four over par and in a tie for 17th.
Rickie Fowler, the popular 25-year-old who started off the week with a touching tribute to Payne Stewart, launched into Sunday's final pairing with a 67 on Saturday, but never could put even a hint of pressure onto Kaymer. Fowler made a mess of the fourth hole, shooting a double bogey, and that ended up being too much distance for him to make up. He finished at one under par and tied for second, his best finish in a major, but his Sunday was anything but impressive.
It's no secret that American golf is looking for a new star with Phil Mickelson aging and Tiger Woods ailing, and while Spieth and Fowler remain promising candidates, they'll have to wait at least a month to become a major champion.
Winners: The Shots of the Tournament by Kenny Perry and Zach Johnson
I couldn't decide on just one, so I decided that the best shot of the U.S. Open would be a tie between Kenny Perry and Zach Johnson.
Perry, who was the oldest man in the field, holed out from the wiregrass on Saturday, scoring an unfathomable eagle on the 14th hole. The 53-year-old, who won the U.S. Senior Open last year, finished at seven over par and in a tie for 28th. Not bad for the senior.
On Sunday, Zach Johnson lit up the highlight reel as well, scoring a hole-in-one on the par-3 ninth. The best part of Johnson's shot might have been the celebration—since the Masters champion didn't have to putt, he took a lap around the green, high-fiving the fans like a rock star. He finished nine over par.
Great rounds make champions, but great shots electrify tournaments.
Loser: The World No. 1
There have been six different golfers at the No. 1 spot in the rankings since 2005: Tiger Woods, Lee Westwood, Martin Kaymer, Luke Donald, Rory McIlroy and Adam Scott.
However, they all have one unfortunate thing in common: Since Woods won the 2008 U.S. Open, no No. 1 golfer has ever won a major while he held the top ranking.
This week it was Scott feeling the curse. Though the Aussie had been successful since ascending to the throne a few weeks ago, winning the Crown Plaza Invitational and finishing in the top five at the Memorial Tournament, Scott never did threaten to win his second major title here at Pinehurst No. 2.
He had two great rounds of 67 and 69, but unfortunately they alternated with disappointing rounds of 73. Scott finished two over and tied for ninth. It was hardly an embarrassing performance, but it wasn't No. 1.
Winner: Pinehurst No. 2's Restoration
Coming into this week, there was a lot of focus on Pinehurst No. 2's new look, a result of a $2.5 million renovation in 2011 meant to restore the course to its original 1907 Donald Ross design.
This new/old Pinehurst No. 2 was notable for its complete lack of rough. Instead of the thick grass famous for trapping balls on either side of the fairways, this course featured native area that consisted of sand, weeds and wiregrass.
The biggest benefit to this is environmental. According to John Boyette of The Augusta Chronicle, this has reduced Pinehurst's yearly water usage from 55 million gallons to 15 million gallons. Mike Davis, the executive director of the USGA, thinks this is a great move for golf:
'We happen to think that, long-term, water is going to be the biggest obstacle to the game of golf, more than participation, more than anything,” Davis said. 'And I think certainly, in certain parts of this country, we’re already seeing it. It’s not going to just be a question of cost. It’s a question of, will you be able to get it?'
Ross called his original course design “the fairest test of championship golf I have ever designed," and Ben Crenshaw and Bill Coore's redesign three years ago preserved that mission. Great scores were there to be had, as can be seen by Martin Kaymer's pair of 65s and Daniel Berger's 66 on Sunday.
However, with only four of the best golfers in the world finishing under par, the course was one that rewarded nothing less than the best.
Loser: Hunter Mahan's Caddie
If it wasn't for bad luck, Hunter Mahan would have no luck at all. Or at least I'm sure that's how he felt as he saw his U.S. Open bid end in the cruelest way possible.
Mahan missed the cut line by one stroke, and during his round on Friday he was penalized two strokes for hitting the wrong golf ball midway through his round, an incredibly rare occurrence in professional golf.
His caddie, John Wood, took full blame for the incident, telling reporters (via ASAP Sports), "You can't imagine yourself doing something colossally as stupid as that, but I did it. I won't forgive myself very soon after this."
Emily Kay of SB Nation explained how the unfortunate mishap occurred:
It seems that after both golfers hit off the tee, their ninth hole of the day, Wood was first on the scene and scoped out the situation. Believing that Mahan's ball had settled toward the middle of the fairway, he found it and provided his man the yardage to the pin.
Mahan, without checking to be sure it was his ball, hit his approach, after which Donaldson and Francesco Molinari, who rounded out the threesome, did the same. Here’s where it gets weird for Mahan and Donaldson, both of whom use Titleist, as do most PGA Tour players: They both put slashes across the numbers, which Wood said 'is not a very common marking.'
Winner: Matthew Fitzpatrick, the Low Amateur
Nineteen-year-old Matthew Fitzpatrick finished his last tournament as an amateur in style, rebounding from a 78 on Saturday to shoot a 69 on Sunday and finish as the low amateur and tied for 48th.
It's safe to say that Fitzpatrick is going to be just fine on the pro tour, considering he put a lot of the pros to shame at Pinehurst No. 2.
His father, Russell Fitzpatrick, told Chip Alexander of The News & Observer that his son likes the big events:
'He seems to perform better on the bigger stage,' said Russell Fitzpatrick, Matthew’s father. 'I don’t know why that is. He plays at home and while he’s obviously a very good player he doesn’t set the course record week in or week out by any means. I just think he just seems to like people watching him for whatever reason.'
Loser: Tension on the Back Nine
I suppose that this could be titled, "tension throughout the entire tournament," but the lack of competition for the top spot was incredibly apparently on the back nine on Sunday, where golf majors usually begin to heat up.
But throughout this U.S. Open, only one player looked red-hot all four days, and that was the German Martin Kaymer, who ran away with this championship by eight strokes.
On the final day, there were five other players that begun the day under par and with a possible chance to push Kaymer. Erik Compton, Rickie Fowler, Dustin Johnson, Henrik Stenson and Brandt Snedeker all shot over par on Sunday, essentially sapping the end of the tournament with any and all hopes of drama.
While Kaymer's marvelous performance should be praised just as much as a domination by Woods would have been, a little doubt would have made for more exciting viewing.