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Caseys At the Bat

If you're a professional athlete, you don't spend eight hours a day staring at three manufactured walls called a cubicle. Your office is the playing field. Yet like any and everyone, an athlete's work place can provide sanctuary or purgatory.
The latter has been the case thus far in 2000 for Casey Martin. His leg condition is deteriorating. His right to ride in a golf cart is currently in the hands of the Supreme Court. And he's struggling to maintain his PGA Tour playing privilege.
'It's been a real frustrating year,' said Martin, currently 178th on the money list. 'But all it takes is one good week to turn things around.'
This could be Casey's week.
Martin fired an 8-under-par 64 at Southern Hiland, one of three courses implored at the Invensys Classic at Las Vegas, to finish the first round within one stroke of the 18-hole lead.
Martin is in a three-way tie for second place with Olin Browne and Brad Faxon, one shot back of Bruce Lietzke.
Yes, Lietzke is back on the PGA Tour - for the 9th time this season. In fact, the 49-year-old has played in 15 less events than Martin this year, but still ranks one position higher on the money list.
Wednesday, Lietzke fired a nine birdie, no bogey round at the TPC at Summerlin. The soon-to-be Senior is seeking his 14th-career PGA Tour triumph, and first since this very event in 1994.
However, Lietzke doesn't have to worry about his playing status - he hasn't even made 20 starts in a season since 1989 - but Martin does. The former Stanford Cardinal has missed his last three cuts, and hasn't collected a top-10 all season.
Yet, just as Martin said, 'it takes just one good week to turn things around.' This would be the perfect week to do so. Over $4 million is on offer, with $765,000 going to the winner. Casey's only earned $124,000 this year.
The Invensys Classic, formerly the Las Vegas Invitational, is one of only two 90-hole events on the PGA Tour (Bob Hope Chrysler Classic). And you don't have to remind Martin of that.
'Certainly five days to think about being in contention is a bit tough,' Martin said. 'This event is huge because of the big purse, because you can make up a lot of ground in one week.'
A win this week won't only secure Martin's 2001 Tour card, but it will also place him near the top 40 on the money list with three full-field events remaining. The top 30 prior to the $5 million Tour Championship will earn a spot in the season-ending event.
One thing at a time, though.
There is a five-way tie for fifth place. Skip Kendall, John Cook, Bob May, Tom Byrum and Lee Janzen all shot 7-under-par 65s to finish the day within two strokes of the lead. May and Cook each played on the Desert Inn course, the third of the three courses in this year's rotation.
Two-time defending champion Jim Furyk is one of 22 players tied for 65th at 2-under-par. For the day, 116 of the 143 players in the field broke par.