As the day inched forward at this U.S. Open golf tournament Friday, the tension became unbearable. Drama dripped. Who would be best positioned to get second place?
First place? Are you kidding?
For the second straight day, a German robot named Martin Kaymer took the dreaded Pinehurst No. 2 and turned it into Joe's Pitch and Putt. After his opening-round 65, he guaranteed everybody he wouldn't do that again, not on this course and not in this company.
Friday, starting early and benefiting from greens again slowed by moisture from nearly an inch of rain overnight, Kaymer shot another five-under 65.
He wasn't just leading. He was lapping the field. He was A.J. Foyt with golf clubs.
Thanks to a huge Thursday night thunderstorm, the course was yielding several under-par rounds. That meant that, with some great shot-making and clutch putting, a cluster of players could still see Kaymer, but only with binoculars.
One of them, Brendon Todd, was four under par and six shots back. That meant Kaymer now shares the record for largest U.S. Open 36-hole lead with Rory McIlroy (Congressional, 2011) and Tiger Woods (Pebble Beach, 2000).
Two others were at three under and had a longshot chance at the title, as well as good chance for the runner-up money. They were Kevin Na and Brandt Snedeker.
But Friday was a one-story day, and Kaymer was that story. When they brought him into the media center after his round, it wasn't clear whether they were going to interview him or give him the trophy.
Poor Phil Mickelson, who has finished second six times, was a sentimental favorite of many to get that U.S. Open monkey off his back and was one of the early scramblers trying to stay in red numbers on the leaderboard.
Now, his best hope is for runner-up No. 7, and that's not likely, either, after he started fast and then mucked up his second nine for a 73 finish. He's 13 strokes behind Kaymer and seven out of second place. He is capable of huge charges, but, at 43, U.S. Open title chances keep slipping away.
For Mickelson, it is Peggy Lee singing: "Is that all there is? Is that all there is?"
Kaymer, 29, is ranked 28th in the world. He is from Mettmann, Germany, and has been a pro golfer since 2005.
He is certainly not without championship pedigree.
He won the 2010 PGA at Whistling Straits in Sheboygan, Wis., then deprived the U.S. of the Ryder Cup two years later with a Cup-clinching putt to beat Steve Stricker at Medinah in Chicago.
A few weeks ago, Kaymer also won what many pros consider the fifth major on tour, the $10-million Players Championship at Ponte Vedra Beach, Fla. His $1.8-million prize money there came after a little tougher fight than this U.S. Open has been so far. He beat Jim Furyk by one shot.
The first 36 holes of this 72-hole event turned out to be a contest between 155 mortals and Kaymer. His 36-hole total of 130 topped by one the best previous U.S. Open showing, that of McIlroy at Congressional. McIlroy won that one by eight shots.
In 113 previous years of this championship, only McIlroy and now Kaymer have been in double-digit, under-par numbers after 36 holes.
Only four other players in those 113 years have even reached sub-par double digits. That goes back to Gil Morgan in 1992, Woods in 2000, Furyk in '03 and Ricky Barnes in '09. Morgan and Barnes failed to win.