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“Any putt uphill into the grain became difficult because of all the heal prints and the marks on the greens, because the greens were so soft from the rain,” Stricker said. “I wish he would have gotten it to the hole and had a better chance at it.

“But it was just a great round of golf,” he said. “He played great and it was fun to see.”


KAYMER’S EXPECTATIONS: Martin Kaymer of Germany reached No. 1 in the world in early 2011 and stayed there for eight weeks. He has won only one tournament since then, and he has yet to finish in the top 10 of a major since winning the PGA Championship in 2010 at Whistling Straits.

Kaymer resurfaced at Oak Hill with a pair of 68s, leaving only five shots out of the lead going into the weekend.

Getting to the top of the ranking came sooner than he expected, and Kaymer said he felt his game was still a work in progress.

“To be honest with you, when I became No. 1, it was a surprise,” he said. “I was not playing like the best player on the planet. I didn’t feel like the best player. And therefore, I needed to change a few things.”

He tried to retool his swing, and even as he plunged in the ranking, he wasn’t concerned. He just wanted to be a better player.

“If other people see you as being No. 1, but you don’t see yourself as No. 1, how can you play like No. 1?” he said. “That’s not possible. Therefore, I became a better player.”

Kaymer said the hardest part was the burden of expectations and the distractions _ he had more fans, and a lot more media attention.

That’s why he is impressed with how Rory McIlroy handled the fame.

Rory did brilliant,” he said. “He’s still very young, and he’s a good kid, and I don’t see any problem.”


LEFTY CAN’T GET IT RIGHT: Phil Mickelson stayed on the practice range until sunset Thursday working with coach Butch Harmon, trying to find the swing that brought him a British Open title only three weeks ago.

He hit his opening tee shot into deep rough on the left. His next tee shot went into a bunker right of the flag.

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