PINEHURST, N.C. (AP) — Too bad the Fox Sports contract to televise the U.S. Open doesn't start until next year. Greg Norman would probably have a lot to say about the difficulty of playing with a big lead on the weekend at a major championship.
Norman, who will be the network's golf analyst, famously lost a six-shot lead in the final round of the 1996 Masters. Ten years earlier, he lost a four-shot lead in the PGA Championship at Inverness.
Martin Kaymer still has 36 holes to go at Pinehurst No. 2.
The 29-year-old German thus far has played like a "finely tuned engineer," a description Darren Clarke used for him when Kaymer won The Players Championship last month. Going into the third round Saturday, he has made 11 birdies and, more importantly, has not made a bogey in 29 holes.
That adds to a 10-under 130 — a 36-hole record at the U.S. Open. His six-shot lead over Brendon Todd tied the U.S. Open record for largest 36-hole leads with Tiger Woods (Pebble Beach in 2000) and Rory McIlroy (Congressional in 2011). Both went on to win in record fashion.
Does the strategy change? Does he start the third round as if he has no lead at all, or does he play conservatively to avoid big numbers?
McIlroy offered advice from his own experience.
He had a four-shot lead going into the final round of the 2011 Masters, played defensively and wound up with an 80. The collapse might have been even more memorable except that Boy Wonder turned out to be a quick study. Two months later, he had a six-shot lead going into the weekend at the U.S. Open, expanded that margin to eight shots on Saturday, and never let anyone get close the rest of the way.
"You need that mentality that you're not trying to protect," McIlroy said Friday night after a 68 put him nine shots behind. "You're not happy with six. You want to get to seven, you want to get to eight. And I learned that at the Masters, the previous major before Congressional. If you get too defensive, it's detrimental. So he has to just keep hitting to his spots, being aggressive.
"And if he does that shoots a couple of 70s over the weekend, I don't think anyone is going to catch him."
The 67 players who made the cut at Pinehurst would love to be in Kaymer's position. That's not to say Kaymer has smooth sailing ahead of him. From a public perception, all he can do from here is lose, and it's hard to block that out.