SAN FRANCISCO – Casey Martin has never allowed himself to look too far into the future.
Even looking back, it is no less amazing to see him and his cart back at The Olympic Club, riding between shots during a practice round Monday at the U.S. Open, then walking painfully back to the cart with a limp that has become as much a signature for him as a fist pump for Tiger Woods.
Martin could not have predicted 14 years ago when he left the U.S. Open 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 golf coach for the Oregon Ducks.
He could not have predicted he would still even 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 rare circulatory disorder that led him to sue the PGA Tour for the 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 more plausible than Martin playing another U.S. Open – at Olympic Club, no less.
The only competition Martin has had over the past six years was an occasional game with his players, or a charity event that often featured a scramble format on short golf courses designed for amateurs. But with Olympic hosting another U.S. Open, he figured it was worth a shot.
His coaching schedule allowed Martin to go through local qualifying in Vancouver, Wash., and in his first serious competition since he became a golf coach, Martin made it through. The sectional qualifying last week was two days after Oregon reached the NCAA semifinals at Riviera. 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.
His caddie found it at the last minute — it was hidden by a clump of mud, and Martin thinks a cart was parked over the ball at one point — so instead of going back to the tee and probably taking double bogey, Martin hacked it short of the green and chipped in from 30 yards for birdie.
With a 5-foot par putt on the last hole, he was on his way back to Olympic.
In 1998, he opened with a 74, followed with a 71 to easily make the cut and wound up in a tie for 23rd.
Paul Casey has withdrawn from the U.S. Open, paving the way for a 14-year-old from China to be what officials believe to be the youngest player in championship history. Andy Zhang lost in a playoff at a sectional qualifier in Florida. He was the second alternate when the week began at Olympic Club. Brandt Snedeker also withdrew Monday. Casey pulled out because of a recurring shoulder injury. Zhang has been part of the IMG Leadbetter Academy in Florida. … There is a zero percent chance of rain and highs in the 70s in the forecast through Monday. Temperatures range from the low 70s to upper 50s. The outlook is one the USGA was hoping for after rains pounded Congressional last year.