Casey Martin rides back into U.S. Open spotlight | Golf
Casey Martin, 40, and his cart were back at The Olympic Club in San Francisco, the golfer riding between shots Monday during a practice round for the U.S. Open.
U.S. Open first round,
9 a.m., ESPN
SAN FRANCISCO — Casey Martin and his cart were back at The Olympic Club, the golfer riding between shots during a practice round Monday at the U.S. Open and walking painfully back to the cart with a limp that has become as much a signature for him as a fist pump is for Tiger Woods.
Martin could not have predicted 14 years ago when he left the U.S. Open here after his historic ride that he would still be competing against the best in the world. He gave up tournament golf six years ago and took over as coach of the Pac-12 Oregon Ducks.
For that matter, Martin could not have confidently predicted he would still have a right leg.
"I'm 40 now, and so this is at that point where I didn't know if I would ever really be able to keep my leg," said Martin, who suffers from a circulatory disorder that led him to sue the PGA Tour for a right to use a cart.
"So it's not great. When I wake up, I feel it. When I get out of the golf cart, I feel it. When I travel with the team and travel down here, I definitely feel it. That's always going to be the case. And so I'm not complaining. It's hanging in there. But I'm not going to be running a marathon, either."
Running a marathon seemed about as plausible as Martin playing another U.S. Open — at The Olympic Club, no less.
The only competition he has had over the past six years was an occasional game with Ducks players, or a charity event that often featured a scramble format on relatively short courses. But with Olympic hosting another U.S. Open, he figured it was worth a shot.
Sectional qualifying last week was two days after Oregon reached the NCAA semifinals at Riviera in Los Angeles. On little sleep, Martin was on his way to claiming one of two spots for the U.S. Open when he couldn't find his tee shot on the fifth hole of the second round in Creswell, Ore.
His caddie found the ball at the last minute — it was hidden by a clump of mud, and Martin believes a cart was parked over it at one point. Instead of going back to the tee and probably taking a double bogey, Martin knocked the ball short of the green and chipped in from 30 yards for a birdie.
With a 5-foot par putt on the last hole, he was on his way back to San Francisco, where the 112th U.S. Open starts Thursday
"That's kind of when I thought, OK, maybe something greater than just myself ... something's going on here," he recalled.
Despite the controversy surrounding him and his suit for the right to ride, Martin has favorable memories of Olympic in 1998. He tied for 23rd place.
• Andy Zhang, 14, of China is expected to be what tournament officials believe is the youngest player in U.S. Open history. Zhang was the second alternate, but Brandt Snedeker (rib injury) and Paul Casey (shoulder injury) withdrew Monday.
Tadd Fujikawa previously was the youngest in the modern era. He was 15 when he qualified for the 2006 U.S. Open.