By Simon Lewis
Martin Kaymer was crowned US Open champion on Sunday as he pulled away from the field to complete a dominant wire-to-wire, eight-shot victory at Pinehurst No.2.
The 29-year-old German had won the US PGA Championship in 2010 and risen to the world number one ranking before tumbling away from the peak as he put himself through swing changes. Kaymer was ranked as low as 63rd as recently as April but then came victory at The Players Championship in May, and now comes the second major of his career.
Kaymer secured a fourth European victory in five years at the US Open. In 2010 at Pebble Beach, Graeme McDowell had ended a 40-year drought for Europeans at the event stretching back to Tony Jacklin in 1970 and he was followed by fellow Irishman Rory McIlroy in 2011 and then Justin Rose of England 12 months ago.
Kaymer, the first champion from Continental Europe, had beaten McIlroy's US Open-record 36-hole total by one stroke with his back-to-back 65s here, and only given back a shot to the field on Saturday with his third-round 72.
Starting the day with a five-shot lead over Americans Erik Compton and Rickie Fowler, whose third-round 67s had been the only sub-par rounds of a gruelling Saturday at the US Open, Germany's Kaymer stretched his lead to eight strokes, the same margin of victory as McIlroy three years previously, with a closing one-under-par 69 that snuffed out any hope for the chasing pack, the round's three bogeys outweighed by four birdies.
Compton and Fowler failed to make inroads, both posting 72s to finish in a tie for second on one under par, the only other players aside from Kaymer to finish under par in this most gruelling and challenging of major championships.
Sectional qualifier Compton had plenty to celebrate in just his second major championship appearance, having contended just six years after a second heart transplant he underwent aged 28. When sank his par putt at the last, the roar from the galleries around the 18th green was almost as loud but no less emotional than the one that would greet Kaymer.
Of the chasing pack, only American Keegan Bradley made a concerted run but from too far back in the field to concern the German. Kaymer's successor as PGA champion in 2011, Bradley carded a three-under 67 for his closing round to get him to one over par, good enough to seal a tie for fourth place with Australia's Jason Day (68), Henrik Stenson of Sweden (73) and fellow Americans Dustin Johnson (73) and Brooks Koepka (71).
Defending champion Rose closed with a two-over 72 to take a share of 12th place on three-over-par while reigning Open champion Phil Mickelson, whose second place behind Rose at Merion in 2013 was his sixth runner-up finish at the US Open, will have to wait at least another year in his attempt to win a career grand slam of majors.
Mickelson had failed to improve on his opening level-par 70 and finished with a second consecutive 72 to bow out on seven over par.
Rory McIlroy's week ended in frustration after a closing three-over-par 73 left him at six over par and in a tie for 23rd place.
That was his best finish in this tournament since winning it in majestic fashion at Congressional in 2011 and the Irish world number six compared Kaymer's march to the 2014 title with his own showings, then and now.
“I'm wondering how he did it,” McIlroy said. “It's tough. I think I've made a total of nine birdies this week. It's just, I don't see any more out there. It's tough.
“Obviously, if you limit the mistakes, you might end up a couple under par for the week, because you're always going to make a few mistakes. But to do what he's (done) I think it's nearly more impressive than what I did at Congressional.”
McIlroy and fellow Irishman McDowell now head home for next week's Irish Open at Fota Island Resort in Cork, McDowell having finished tied for 28th, closing with a 75 for a seven-over finish.