Kaymer starts early in bid to stretch Open lead
Martin Kaymer during the first round of the US Open in Pinehurst, North Carolina on June 12, 2014 - by David Cannon
Cool and damp conditions greeted the 2010 PGA Championship winner ahead of his start in the eighth group off the 10th tee alongside fellow major winners Jason Dufner and Keegan Bradley.
Kaymer, coming off a victory last month at the Players Championship, birdied three of the last five holes Thursday to shoot a five-under par 65, the lowest US Open round ever at Pinehurst, to grab the lead.
"I would have never expected myself to shoot such a low round in Pinehurst because of the conditions, but it's a good round of golf," Kaymer said.
"I'm not freaking out about it. It's the first round of a very important tournament. I put myself so far in a good position, but we have three rounds to go. There's so much golf to play."
Sharing second on 68 were Zimbabwe's Brendon de Jonge, Northern Ireland's Graeme McDowell, South Korean-born American Kevin Na and Fran Quinn, a 49-year-old US journeyman whose handful of wins over 26 years as a professional include the 1999 Thailand Open.
De Jonge and Quinn will tee off in the morning while Na and McDowell make afternoon starts.
Pinehurst's formidable turtle-backed greens and scrub brush and sand rough beyond the wide fairways were again set to provide a major challenge.
Ten players share sixth on 69, the last of only 15 to crack par in round one.
Among that group are Japan's Hideki Matsuyama, Swedish world number two Henrik Stenson and Americans Bradley, Jordan Spieth, Matt Kuchar, Brandt Snedeker and Dustin Johnson.
Reigning British Open champion Phil Mickelson, a six-time US Open runner-up seeking a victory to complete a career grand slam, was among 20 other players on level-par 70.
"I didn't give any away on the short ones but I didn't make any of those I needed to make from 15 to 20 feet to have a really good round," Mickelson said. "I've got to make some of those that make the difference around here."
Others still solidly in the hunt after opening on 70 include England's Paul Casey and Ian Poulter, Welshman Jamie Donaldson, France's Victor Dubuisson, South African Charl Schwartzel, South Korean Noh Seung-Yul and Australian Aaron Baddeley.
Northern Ireland's Rory McIlroy, coming of a breakup with tennis-star fiancee Caroline Wozniacki and a victory at Wentworth last month, opened on 71.
Defending champion Justin Rose of England was on 72 while world number one Adam Scott and fellow Aussie Jason Day each opened on 73.
Bubba Watson, who won his second Masters in three seasons in April, will struggle to make the cut after firing a 76 on Thursday.