SAN FRANCISCO — The putt on the last hole hurt, and so did Casey Martin’s leg. He limped off the final green uncertain of his chances of playing on the weekend, though that didn’t seem to matter to the crowd gathered on the hillside above.
They rose to applaud the effort, if not the score. Then they watched as Martin left his golf cart behind and bounded up the 40-some stairs to the clubhouse, forgetting for a moment the price his right leg might pay for it later.
He shot two respectable rounds on a brutally tough golf course, not bad for a guy who hadn’t competed seriously for six years.
He missed the cut by one shot after rounds of 74-75.
His play shouldn’t have been too surprising, because the talent has always been there. It’s the leg that’s always been the problem, though Martin wasn’t about to use it as an excuse.
“The biggest thing is actually just thinking like a great player,” he said. “That’s the challenge when you haven’t done it and you have some bad shots that creep in there.”
Martin is 40 now, and his day job is being the golf coach at Oregon, not chasing Tiger Woods in the majors.
That he was able to get through qualifying rounds and make the Open for the first time since it was held here 14 years ago was remarkable enough, even if he didn’t have a circulatory disorder that he thought by now might have taken his right leg.
He engaged the PGA Tour in a court battle that went all the way to the Supreme Court so he could ride in a cart and play professional golf. But his career on the big tour lasted only a year, and he became a golf coach after tiring of fighting to make cuts on the Nationwide Tour.
This might be his last hurrah, though Martin isn’t about to concede it.
But this time he made sure he heard the applause, made sure he would remember the support shouted out his way on every fairway and green.
“It’s flattering to be here to get attention like this and as a competitor I’m disappointed right now,” he said. “These are experiences that don’t come around very often, to get to play in a U.S. Open in these conditions. So it’s a special week.”
PLODDING AND PROUD: Co-leader Jim Furyk said he “plodded” his way around The Olympic Club on Friday. The result was 1-under-par 69 and a share of the lead with Tiger Woods and David Toms.
“The way the golf course is set up, that’s pretty much what you need to do,” Furyk said, of plodding. “It’s get the ball in the fairway or in a playable spot as best you can, get the ball on the green or in a playable spot as best you can and try to make par.
“So I’m just trying to plod, I think that’s a good word. You take what the course gives you and play the best you can from there.”
MBE FOR DONALD: Luke Donald has been recognized by Queen Elizabeth II for spending almost a year at the top of golf’s world ranking.
The Englishman, who has spent 48 weeks as No. 1 since May last year and is currently No. 1, was made a Member of the Order of the British Empire (MBE) in the Queen’s birthday honors list released today.
“I am truly honored to be awarded an MBE by Her Majesty, particularly in her Jubilee year,” Donald said after missing the cut at the U.S. Open following rounds of 79-72.
NOT BAD: Fourteen-year-old Andy Zhang, who is believed to be the youngest U.S. Open contestant, wrapped up the best golf week of his young life with a round of 77. He opened with 79.
Among the pros he beat were Miguel Angel Jimenez and Steve Marino.