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The Mighty Casey Returns

Its been nearly 16 months since Casey Martin teed up in a PGA Tour event. In between last years AT&T Pebble Beach National Pro-Am and this weeks Kemper Open, Martin has played poorly on lesser tours, all the while battling to save his withering right leg - and as his professional career.
The 29-year-old Martin has competed sparingly in 2002, missing four cuts in four starts on the Buy.Com Tour. This is his first event on the primary circuit, and just his third since losing his PGA Tour card in 2000.
Im very grateful to be here, said Martin, while prepping his game at the TPC at Avenel in Potomac, Md. This is the only sponsors exemption Ive been offered this year, and I dont know if Ill get another, so this is a very big week for me.
Martin would love nothing more than to make the cut this week ' it would be a positive step in reviving his career, as well as a sign of confirmation to tournament organizers who allowed him into the field.
But whether he carts around for two days or four, Martins well aware that he is fortunate to just be playing.
Frustrated by a continual professional decline, Martin agreed to try a new series of treatments on his debilitated leg in January. The aggressive approach was supposed to help combat the effects of his Klippel-Trenaunay-Webber Syndrome. Instead, he developed an infection that nearly killed him.
Martin said he had five surgeries, spent nearly month in the hospital and was bed-ridden for six weeks. And once he was able to move around, he had to spend his time rehabbing rather than practicing.
For the time being, hes back on a golf course. And hes enjoying the moment.
'Certainly because of how I've done and what I've been through this past winter...I've realized the chances of my leg getting better probably aren't going to happen. So, I'm going to play it while I can.'
Its never been easy for Martin. All hes ever wanted to do was play golf. Unfortunately, his birth defect has made it difficult ' though not impossible ' to pursue his dream.
Martin played on the collegiate level alongside Tiger Woods and Notah Begay at Stanford. He then floated around mini tours before finding his way to the Buy.Com Tour.
Five years ago, he successfully sued the PGA Tour for the right to use a cart during tour-sanctioned events. His court battles created national headlines. And one start into his Buy.Com career, he was a winner. Martin captured the season-opening Lakeland Classic in 1998, though he failed to capitalize on the victory. It wasnt until the following year that he finally earned his way onto the PGA Tour, finishing 1999 14th on the Buy.Com money list.
The year 2000 was a remarkable season, and one that Martin would soon love to duplicate ' kind of. It was the Oregonians first full go-around golfs biggest stage. He competed in 29 tournaments, making 14 cuts. He ended the year 179th in earnings.
Martin tried to continue his PGA Tour career via the Qualifying Tournament, but missed regaining his card by a single shot. He again played the developmental tour last year, only to make nine cuts in 24 starts.
Martin says this is a big week for him. In fact, this year is immense in determining his future. He turns 30 Sunday. And if he again fails to make it through Q-School, Martin may have choose another professional direction.
'I've thought about some other things, but I don't get very far,' Martin said in terms of his future. 'I've lived with the understanding that my golf game could end anytime soon. I'm just trying to play golf as long as I can.'
More on Casey and others in this week's Kemper Open field