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TROON, Scotland – Watch out America: Fronting the European fightback at the British Open is a player who knows how to get the job done at a major championship.
Seeking the third leg of the career Grand Slam, former No. 1 Martin Kaymer broke up the U.S. hegemony atop the leaderboard at Royal Troon by shooting a bogey-free round of 5-under 66 on Thursday.
The German's lowest round at a British Open by two shots left him tied for second with Patrick Reed, three shots behind Phil Mickelson.
It also reminded the golfing world that he is no spent force.
It's been more than two years since Kaymer's eight-shot, wire-to-wire victory at the U.S. Open at Pinehurst. It was a clinic in front-running, a return to the level that helped him win the U.S. PGA Championship in 2010 and be the world's No. 1 player for six weeks in 2011.
He hasn't won since, though, and is back playing regularly on the European Tour after losing his membership on the U.S. PGA Tour due to not playing enough events.
Returning to Europe might just be the move to kick-start his career.
"In March, April, May, I thought I was playing really well, but I couldn't get good scores on the scorecard," Kaymer said. "Then when you get asked about it, you obviously can tell the truth but the reporter or whoever ... doesn't really believe it because he sees the scores and you just want to prove it to yourself that you actually do play better golf.
"And that turned around a little bit, pretty much since I came back to Europe."
Since May, Kaymer has had top-10 finishes at the Spanish Open, the Irish Open, and the BMW PGA Championship at Wentworth. He was fifth at the French Open and 13th at the Scottish Open.
His 66 at Troon was his lowest round of 2016, and he outplayed playing partner Dustin Johnson, the U.S. Open champion and the hottest golfer around.
Kaymer, typically, wasn't getting too excited.
"I played very calm. There's not much stress," he said.
"A chance of winning is very, very early. It's only a quarter of a long marathon. It's a very good start. But tomorrow we'll see how the weather will turn out and then play another good round. That's all you can do."
Assisted by caddie Craig Connelly, who grew up close to Troon, Kaymer opened with a run of five straight pars before making four birdies from Nos. 6-10. He also birdied No. 16 and managed to avoid dropping a shot on the tough, inward back nine.
"You know, the goal is always to just place yourself until Sunday," he said. "Place yourself somewhere that you have a chance, and that's the same goal this week."