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Kaymer protects lead amid tough conditions

AP, Kyodo

A tough Pinehurst No. 2 tried to make a game out of this U.S. Open. Martin Kaymer always had an answer.

Already with one bogey on his card, Kaymer’s tee shot on No. 4 was so deep into the trees that his golf ball settled in a sandy patch that had been washed out by rain, stacked up against 6 inches of pine straw. With nowhere to go and no relief available, he turned to USGA president Tom O’Toole and said, “If you have a way to play it, I’ll follow you.”

Kaymer navigated his way out of trouble just fine.

He escaped with a bogey by getting up-and-down from 165 yards. He followed with an eagle with a 7-iron from 202 yards out of more sand and weeds. And a birdie on the final hole gave him a 2-over 72 and a five-shot lead in a U.S. Open that finally lived up to its reputation Saturday.

“I kept it very well together,” said Kaymer, who was at 8-under 202.

Hideki Matsuyama stumbled early and never fully recovered, carding a 74 that left him tied for 23rd place at 4-over-par 214.

The 22-year-old Matsuyama, who captured his first PGA Tour title at the Memorial on June 1, started the day at even par but quickly dropped four shots with bogeys at Nos. 2 and 4, sandwiched between a double bogey at No. 3.

Matsuyama offset four additional bogeys with four birdies in alternating fashion to end the day 12 shots back of Kaymer.

“It was a shame that I fell apart so early in the round,” Matsuyama said. “But I was able to hang in there even when my shots, my approaches and my putting were all going poorly.”

“I want to make some adjustments and come back with a better score in the final round.”