Casey Martin missed the cut at the U.S. Open, but this time the game embraced him

June 16, 2012

SAN FRANCISCO — Professional golf has missed Casey Martin. Haven't you?

Both have done just fine without the other, but it was nice to see them together again at the 112th U.S. Open at the Olympic Club, where 14 years ago things were so messy that you felt bad for both.

Casey Martin is going home, back to his life as golf coach at the University of Oregon, back to his job of teaching and recruiting.

After two rounds of beautiful shots — and some loose ones, too — Martin's nine-over-par 149 ends his return to the national stage in the national Open. He missed the cut. Still, it was good to see him.

"A special week," he said.

There are more roars at the Masters, more history at the British Open and more fun at the PGA, but only the U.S. Open can serve up Beau Hossler, Andy Zhang and Casey Martin.

The presence of Martin at the 2012 Open might have been the most unlikely. At 40 and still suffering from Klippel-Trenaunay-Weber Syndrome — the painful circulatory disorder in his right leg — Martin says it was possible he might have already lost his leg to amputation by now. At some point, he still could.

Even with the aid of a golf cart, a round of golf can be a painful journey. Martin limps slowly from his cart to his ball and back again, never quite certain what the next step will bring.

Had he never won the right to use a cart, could he imagine walking 18 or 36 holes at hilly Olympic?

"That's always a question," Martin said. "Yeah, if you put a gun to my head, sure. But it wouldn't be a lot of fun."

In 1997, Martin sued the PGA Tour for the use of a cart. He was granted a temporary injunction to ride and the USGA also granted him use of a cart the following year at the '98 Open at Olympic Club. He finished T23, but the whole exercise seemed an unhappy one.

Martin just wanted to play.

But after earning a PGA Tour card in 2000 (by virtue of his 14th place finish on the former Nike Tour) Martin lost his card and never regained it. Asked when he played in his last tournament before this week, he guessed 2006.

When he arrived at the Olympic Club this time, everything was different. He rode in his golf cart as a player, not a lightning rod. He outplayed Luke Donald and Rory McIlroy.

Martin was fully embraced by a game that, for a time, didn't always embrace him back.

Editors' Note: An earlier version of this article misinterpreted a reporter's question and Casey Martin's answer. When Martin said ""Yeah, if you put a gun to my head, sure. But it wouldn't be a lot of fun," he was talking about the idea of walking Olympic for 18 or 36 holes, not his ability to finish the tournament had he made the cut.