Martin Struggles to Stay Competitive
Two approach shots from the same spot land in a greenside bunker. He rides on, then descends into the pit without hesitation.
The practice round now over, Martin's troubled right leg has held up again under the rolling terrain. It's his golf game that is struggling, six years after winning the right to ride a cart in PGA Tour events.
``I hope to somehow get over the hump and make some sense out of it,'' Martin said. ``The controversy's wound down. That's just because I haven't played particularly well these last three years.
``I'd love to start playing well again and cause a stir.''
Martin has been relegated to alternate status on the Nationwide Tour. He must wait for a qualifier to drop out or receive a sponsor's exemption.
He's earned just $15,858 in two PGA events this year and has yet to make a cut in three Nationwide Tour events. He finished 3-over-par Friday at the Pete Dye West Virginia Classic.
Martin's condition makes it virtually impossible to walk long distances. As luck would have it, the pain worsened around the time he won his federal lawsuit against the PGA Tour in 1998. The U.S. Supreme Court upheld the decision in 2001.
Riding in a cart has reduced the level of discomfort, but the physical pain is still there.
``My leg is an issue, but it's not why I haven't been playing well,'' Martin said.
He doesn't like to put much weight or pressure on his leg, and that's reflected in his swing. When he hits the ball correctly, there's discomfort. When he's sloppy, his leg feels fine. Subconsciously, over time, his swing has gone the latter route to avoid the pain.
``So that's my struggle,'' Martin said. ``Trying to retrain my body to accept a little bit of a different feel has been tough.''
Martin also has altered his tournament preparations because he can wear down during practice rounds. During one recent round, he hit fewer shots to save his strength.
``I think golf can certainly be physically taxing on a course like this in the heat, but more so it's the mental aspect,'' he said. ``You grind for five hours in competition, you're exhausted from that more.''
Martin had sought numerous medical remedies to relieve the pain, and had surgery in 2002 to improve the blood flow in his right leg. He doesn't foresee any more operations.
``I'm not proceduring anymore. I've done it a few times. It's been a very bad experience and I'm just not going to do it,'' he said. ``I'm just content to live my life, and if something were to happen for the better, great. But I'm not going to be out there searching for it.''
Martin earned his PGA Tour card in 1999 by finishing in the top 15 on the Nike Tour's money list.
His best finish in his only full season on the PGA Tour was a tie for 17th in the 2000 Tucson Open, and he missed the cut 15 times in 29 tournaments.
Two years ago, Martin was in good position to earn another tour card but had a meltdown on the final six holes at qualifying school.
Martin has kept his sense of humor, however, throwing one-liners at fellow competitors or anyone within earshot.
``He stays positive, and that's what's important,'' said former Nationwide player Kevin Kennedy, Martin's caddie at the West Virginia Classic. ``If he hits a bad shot, he kind of laughs about it and moves on. It's the attitude you need out here.''
But Martin, 32, can't survive on laughs alone. The college teammate of Tiger Woods and Notah Begah III at Stanford would like to make something happen in the next couple of years.
His deadline is in his heart, not on a calendar.
``I've just got to continue pursuing until the passion's gone or until something else better pops up. You never really know. There's no real rule book,'' he said. ``Fortunately, I can afford to still do this and I want to do it.
``I'm just not quite ready to throw in the towel. ... If I finally say this is too much, I'll walk away. I can do it. I'm not dependent on golf to make me happy.''
Copyright 2003 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.
Watch: Tiger's Saturday birdies at Honda
Tiger Woods looks in complete control of his iron play at PGA National.
Four back to start the day, Woods parred his first seven holes before pouring in his first Saturday birdie via this flagged iron from 139 at the par-4 eighth:
Woods hit three more quality approaches at 9, 10 and 11 but couldn't get a putt to drop.
The lid finally came off the hole at No. 12 when he holed a key 17-footer for par to keep his scorecard clean.
One hole later, Woods added a second circle to that card, converting this 14-footer for a birdie-3 that moved him back into red figures at 1 under par for the week.
Traj talk— Golf Channel (@GolfChannel) February 24, 2018
And now, the putter raise pic.twitter.com/gW5HDorWSr
O. Fisher, Pepperell share lead at Qatar Masters
DOHA, Qatar - Oliver Fisher birdied his last four holes in the Qatar Masters third round to share the lead at Doha Golf Club on Saturday.
The 29-year-old Englishman shot a 7-under 65 for an overall 16-under 200. Eddie Pepperell (66) picked up shots on the 16th and 18th to catch his compatriot and the pair enjoy a two-shot lead over American Sean Crocker (67) in third.
David Horsey (65) was the biggest mover of the day with the Englishman improving 31 places for a share of fourth place at 12 under with, among others, Frenchman Gregory Havret and Italian Andrea Pavan.
Fisher, winner of the 2011 Czech Open, made some stunning putts on his way in. After an eight-footer on the par-4 15th, he then drove the green on the short par-4 16th for an easy birdie, before making a 12-footer on the 17th and a 15-footer on the 18th.
Like Pepperell, Fisher also had just one bogey to show on his card, also on the 12th hole.
''I gave myself some chances coming in and thankfully I made them,'' said Fisher, who has dropped to 369th in the world rankings.
''You can quite easily make a few bogeys without doing that much wrong here, so it's important to be patient and keep giving yourself chances.''
Pepperell, ranked 154th in the world after a strong finish to his 2017 season, has been a picture of consistency in the tournament. He was once again rock-solid throughout the day, except one bad hole - the par-4 12th. His approach shot came up short and landed in the rocks, the third ricocheted back off the rocks, and he duffed his fourth shot to stay in the waste area.
But just when a double bogey or worse looked imminent, Pepperell holed his fifth shot for what was a remarkable bogey. And he celebrated that escape with a 40-feet birdie putt on the 13th.
''I maybe lost a little feeling through the turn, but I bounced back nicely and I didn't let it bother me,'' said the 27-year-old Pepperell, who hit his third shot to within four feet on the par-5 18th to join Fisher on top.
The long-hitting Crocker is playing on invites on the European Tour. He made a third eagle in three days - on the par-4 16th for the second successive round.
Tiger Tracker: Honda Classic
Tiger Woods is making his third start of the year at the Honda Classic. We're tracking him at PGA National in Palm Beach Gardens, Fla.
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Uihlein fires back at Jack in ongoing distance debate
PALM BEACH GARDENS, Fla. – Wally Uihlein challenged Jack Nicklaus’ assault this week on the golf ball.
Uihlein, an industry force as president and CEO of Titleist and FootJoy parent company Acushnet for almost 20 years, retired at year’s start but remains an adviser.
In an interview with ScoreGolf on Friday, Uihlein reacted to Nicklaus’ assertions that the ball is responsible for contributing to a lot of the troubles the game faces today, from slow play and sagging participation to the soaring cost to play.
Uihlein also took the USGA and The R&A to task.
The ball became a topic when Nicklaus met with reporters Tuesday at the Honda Classic and was asked about slow play. Nicklaus said the ball was “the biggest culprit” of that.
“It appears from the press conference that Mr. Nicklaus was blaming slow play on technology and the golf ball in particular,” Uihlein said. “I don’t think anyone in the world believes that the golf ball has contributed to the game’s pace of play issues.”
Nicklaus told reporters that USGA executive director Mike Davis pledged over dinner with him to address the distance the golf ball is flying and the problems Nicklaus believes the distance explosion is creating in the game.
“Mike Davis has not told us that he is close, and he has not asked us for help if and when he gets there,” Uihlein said.
ScoreGolf pointed out that the Vancouver Protocol of 2011 was created after a closed-door meeting among the USGA, The R&A and equipment manufacturers, with the intent to make any proposed changes to equipment rules or testing procedures more transparent and to allow participation in the process.
“There are no golf courses being closed due to the advent of evolving technology,” Uihlein said. “There is no talk from the PGA Tour and its players about technology making their commercial product less attractive. Quite the opposite, the PGA Tour revenues are at record levels. The PGA of America is not asking for a roll back of technology. The game’s everyday player is not advocating a roll back of technology.”
ScoreGolf said Uihlein questioned why the USGA and The R&A choose courses that “supposedly” can no longer challenge the game’s best players as preferred venues for the U.S. Open, The Open and other high-profile events.
“It seems to me at some point in time that the media should be asking about the conflict of interest between the ruling bodies while at the same time conducting major championships on venues that maybe both the athletes and the technology have outgrown,” he said. “Because it is the potential obsolescence of some of these championship venues which is really at the core of this discussion.”