Martin deserves respect for fighting spirit

By Jason SobelJune 16, 2012, 1:33 am

SAN FRANCISCO – Bring up Casey Martin’s name – just mention him in passing – and within seconds the conversation will devolve into a lively debate about … it.

The degenerative right leg. The Supreme Court decision. The cart. The perceived advantage.

It is a topic that exudes talk show gold, providing fodder for the masses even now, more than a decade after a resolution was reached.

That’s because it so forcefully defines party lines. There are those who believe that due to his disability – Martin suffers from Klippel-Trenaunay-Weber syndrome – he was rightly awarded the use of a golf cart in between shots. There are those who feel it was the wrong decision, allowing for an unfair benefit in a sport where endurance is part of the game.

Video: Martin talks about Olympic now and then

Cart use still an issue 11 years later

For one day – heck, even for just a few minutes – forget your feelings. Put aside any satisfaction you’ve received in watching Martin ply his craft thanks to the Supreme Court ruling. Or suspend your outrage over him being treated differently than his fellow competitors.

Instead, think only about this: A man who was supposed to have had his leg amputated by now nearly made the U.S. Open cut this week.

Watching Martin play golf is an exercise in empathy. He perpetually maneuvers like someone who was just kicked in the shin, his limp so pronounced that it would look exaggerated if we didn’t know any better.

Simply walking from his cart to the tee box requires effort of fairly grandiose proportions, his machinations echoing that of a man twice his age.

When he stands over his ball, though, Martin more often than not tags it – to the tune of a 297-yard-per-drive clip this week at The Olympic Club.

And when he’s finished watching the ball sail through the sky and find land, he hobbles back to the cart. Martin drives slowly, straight down the fairway, a sheepish and almost embarrassed expression across his face.

He never wanted this. It was necessary for him to compete.

When asked after his second-round 5-over 75 whether he could walk a round or two on this course if he absolutely had to, Martin responded, “That's always a question. Yeah, if you put a gun to my head, sure. But it wouldn't be a lot of fun.”

Don’t mistake the facetiousness for authenticity.

There isn’t much fun for Martin when he’s on four wheels and his playing partners are hoofing it down the fairway. For a guy who shies away from the spotlight, he was thrust into it years ago and remains there now, whispers and stares and points in his direction every time he goes cruising past the gallery ropes.

On Friday, for every few spectators who yelled, “Go Casey!” in his direction, one would mirthfully ask, “Can I have a ride?”

Dealing with distractions is part of the gig for players who compete in major championships, but Martin endures more than his fair share because of this unique situation. Not that he expects otherwise, of course – and not that all distractions are negative ones.

Playing alongside Dennis Miller and Cameron Wilson, the group easily surpassed the number of observers following any other trio of sectional qualifiers. It was all for a good reason.

“The crowds were great to me and I really appreciate that,” Martin said. “It was really touching of them.”

For most of the opening 36 holes, he put on a pretty good show for them, too. Following an opening-round 74, the University of Oregon head golf coach was well inside the cut line as he made the turn.

Bogeys on four of his final eight holes, though – including on his final hole of the day – left Martin one stroke outside the number to return for 36 more holes this weekend.

Even so, it was a performance that should be applauded. Watching him compete can stir varying degrees of inspiration and motivation, but it’s impossible to witness Martin and not own appreciation for the journey.

You may now resume regularly scheduled beliefs on the long-debated Casey Martin issue. Agree with it or disagree with it, we’ve all got to acknowledge the man’s fortitude.

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Watch: McIlroy gives Fleetwood a birthday cake

By Golf Channel DigitalJanuary 19, 2018, 2:58 pm

Tommy Fleetwood turned 27 on Friday. He celebrated with some good golf – a 4-under 68 in Abu Dhabi, leaving him only two shots back in his title defense – and a birthday cake, courtesy of Rory Mcllroy.

While giving a post-round interview, Fleetwood was surprised to see McIlroy approaching with a cake in hand.

“I actually baked this before we teed off,” McIlroy joked.

Fleetwood blew out the three candles – “three wishes!” – and offered McIlroy a slice.  

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DJ shoots 64 to surge up leaderboard in Abu Dhabi

By Ryan LavnerJanuary 19, 2018, 1:48 pm

Dustin Johnson stood out among a star-studded three-ball that combined to shoot 18 under par with just one bogey Friday at the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship.

Shaking off a sloppy first round at Abu Dhabi Golf Club, Johnson matched the low round of the day with a 64 that put him within four shots of Thomas Pieters’ lead.

“I did everything really well,” Johnson said. “It was a pretty easy 64.”

Johnson made four bogeys during an even-par 72 on Thursday and needed a solid round Friday to make the cut. Before long, he was closer to the lead than the cut line, making birdie on three of the last four holes and setting the pace in a group that also included good rounds from Rory McIlroy (66) and Tommy Fleetwood (68).

“Everyone was hitting good shots,” McIlroy said. “That’s all we were seeing, and it’s nice when you play in a group like that. You feed off one another.” 

Full-field scores from the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship

Coming off a blowout victory at Kapalua, Johnson is searching for his first regular European Tour title. He tied for second at this event a year ago.

Johnson’s second-round 64 equaled the low round of the day (Jorge Campillo and Branden Grace). 

“It was just really solid all day long,” Johnson said. “Hit a lot of great shots, had a lot of looks at birdies, which is what I need to do over the next two days if I want to have a chance to win on Sunday.” 

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Closing eagle moves Rory within 3 in Abu Dhabi

By Ryan LavnerJanuary 19, 2018, 12:57 pm

What rust? Rory McIlroy appears to be in midseason form.

Playing competitively for the first time since Oct. 8, McIlroy completed 36 holes without a bogey Friday, closing with an eagle to shoot 6-under 66 to sit just three shots back at the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship.

“I’m right in the mix after two days and I’m really happy in that position,” he told reporters afterward.

McIlroy took a 3 ½-month break to heal his body, clear his mind and work on his game after his first winless year since 2008, his first full season as a pro.

He's back on track at a familiar playground, Abu Dhabi Golf Club, where he’s racked up eight top-11s (including six top-3s) in his past nine starts there.

Full-field scores from the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship

McIlroy opened with a 69 Thursday, then gave himself even more chances on Day 2, cruising along at 4 under for the day when he reached the par-5 closing hole. After launching a 249-yard long iron to 25 feet, he poured in the eagle putt to pull within three shots of Thomas Pieters (65). 

Despite the layoff, McIlroy edged world No. 1 Dustin Johnson, coming off a blowout victory at Kapalua, by a shot over the first two rounds. 

“DJ is definitely the No. 1 player in the world right now, and one of, if not the best, driver of the golf ball," McIlroy said. "To be up there with him over these first two days, it proves to me that I’m doing the right things and gives me a lot of confidence going forward.”

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Duke to fill in for injured Pavin at CareerBuilder

By Ryan LavnerJanuary 19, 2018, 12:25 pm

Ken Duke will fill in for Corey Pavin for the next two rounds of the CareerBuilder Challenge – with nothing at stake but his amateur partner’s position on the leaderboard.

Pavin was 4 over par when he withdrew after 17 holes Thursday because of a neck injury. Tournament officials contacted Duke, the first alternate, and asked if he would take Pavin’s spot and partner with Luis Lopez for the next two rounds, even though he would not receive any official money.

Duke accepted and explained his decision on Twitter:

Playing on past champion’s status, the 48-year-old Duke has made only four starts this season, with a best finish of a tie for 61st at the RSM Classic.

Pavin received a sponsor exemption into the event, his first PGA Tour start since the 2015 Colonial.