Sunday's final round of the U.S. Open golf tournament was a long afternoon march to the obvious.
Martin Kaymer of Germany won. Golf fans had probably figured that out by Friday. Rounds three and four Saturday and Sunday were merely exercises in postponed inevitability.
Kaymer shot 65-65-72-69 — 271. That was nine under par on a Pinehurst No. 2 course that yielded only two other below-par finishes, Rickie Fowler and Erik Compton's 72-hole totals of 279. Kaymer's 271 was the second-lowest winning U.S. Open score of all time, after Rory McIlroy's 270 at Congressional in 2011.
Kaymer won by eight. When he stood over a five-foot putt for par on the 18th green late Sunday afternoon, with packed bleachers surrounding him and enough TV cameras pointed his way to cover a small war, he needed to seven-putt to win.
Typical of Kaymer and his German efficiency, he just hit the first one in.
Then he dropped his putter, exhaled, leaned back and smiled. No Tiger fist-pump. No Phil 2 1/2-inch vertical leap. No Payne Stewart grabbing a face and leaving a lesson. Kaymer's celebration was as cool and efficient as his golf game.
Poor TV. It was telecasting a rout. It had Secretariat in the home stretch for five hours. It was saddled with trying, and failing, to put lipstick on a competitive pig. Kaymer had destroyed a field of golfers and a much-anticipated TV drama.
You could feel the ratings needle dropping like the thermometer mercury in January in Milwaukee. In the media center here, some U.S. writers drifted over to where the European and South American writers were ensconced in front of a TV set, watching the World Cup, and joined them.
It was that bad.
Lord knows TV tried. It had to. There were still lots of things to sell and TV needed to keep you on your couch to hear about it. You might now conjure up an image of Fox officials, who bought the U.S. Open rights for the next 12 years away from NBC, looking at each other and saying, "For this, we paid a billion dollars?"
The day started with broadcast promises that "lots of strange things can happen." It became the mantra until it was obvious that nothing strange was happening, nor would it happen.
Soon they just made it the Erik Compton show, and the wonderfully inspiring story of the 34-year-old qualifier, playing after two heart transplants, deserved the attention.
Compton, in only his second major, tried his best and even cut the lead to four shots for a few minutes.
"I knew we were playing for second," Compton said. "I had my opportunities to put a little heat on him and I got it to four under, but then I made bogey."
Compton, whose finish qualified him to play in next year's Masters, said his mother has always best summed up his situation.
"She says Erik is a golfer with two transplants," he said, "not a transplant recipient that plays golf."
From the beginning, this 114th U.S. Open was all about Kaymer, at 29 an amazing new star on the sports horizon. He won the PGA Championship in 2010 at Whistling Straits, where Dustin Johnson grounded his club in a sand trap he didn't think was a sand trap.
Kaymer was 25 then, and stunned at what had transpired along the shores of Lake Michigan.
"I didn't know what was happening," he recalled Sunday. "I was surprised . . . . I was surprised about a lot of things."
Soon, Kaymer was No. 1 in the world for a short stay, and, after a few swing adjustments, legitimately one of the best players in the world. It was his putt two years ago at Medinah near Chicago that kept the Ryder Cup in Europe.