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Cart pioneer Martin back at Olympic for U.S. Open

Fourteen years after becoming the first player to use a golf cart at a U.S. Open, Casey Martin is back at the same venue for the same tournament hoping he can make the cut.

The 40-year-old American, who has a rare circulatory disorder in his right leg, booked his place in this week's championship at Olympic Club via two stages of qualifying, and he could not be more delighted.

"It really was kind of a magical day for me to get here," Martin told reporters on Monday while preparing for Thursday's opening round. "I had a wonderful experience here in '98 and I thought it would be fun to try to maybe get back.

"It worked out in my schedule with recruiting and coaching that I could make it to the first stage (of U.S. Open qualifying) up in Washington," added Martin, who now works as the men's golf coach at University of Oregon.

"And then the second round was right in my backyard at Emerald Valley. So it all worked out that way quite nicely, and here I am."

Martin claimed one of two spots available for the year's second major in a sectional qualifier at Emerald Valley in Creswell, Oregon but knows he faces a tough task this week as he has not played professionally in six years.

"I would like to make the cut, I would like to get paid," he smiled. "Obviously there's a lot of money in this tournament and that would be fun. But with that aside, I'm just going to go out there and just compete.

"I don't get to compete much, so I've gone from basically nothing to the pinnacle of golf which is a lot to take in emotionally and mentally. I'm just going to take whatever I get and consider this a great experience."

VIVID MEMORIES

Martin, who won a lawsuit against the PGA Tour in 2001 for the right to use a golf cart during competition, still has vivid memories of the 1998 U.S. Open at Olympic where he impressively finished in a tied for 23rd.

"I remember playing a practice round with Tiger (Woods) and all the hoopla that goes along with that," said Martin, who got to know Woods well when they were fellow students at Stanford University.

"I remember vividly the first tee experience. I remember not sleeping the night before and having all the next day to kind of wait for it. I remember being very nervous.

"But I also remember just being on the golf course, having a lot of support and playing well. It was one of the better weeks of my professional career in '98 for sure when I was here."

Martin has another indelibly etched memory, but this one dates back to his university days when he won $190 from Woods in a bet over putting.

"We used to putt for a little bit of money up on the 10th green at Stanford, and it used to be me and Notah (Begay III) against Tiger and Conrad Ray, who is now the coach at Stanford," he recalled.

"One day we had a match and Notah and I ... got up a little bit and Tiger said, 'Hey, I'll come out and let me try to earn it back'. He might have been down 40 bucks or something.

"Well I putted very well. He kept trying to push the envelope and I kept winning. I think I won $190 which is a lot for a college kid."

Martin, who still has that check in a scrap book, plans to play a practice round with Woods at Olympic on Tuesday morning.

(Reporting by Mark Lamport-Stokes in San Francisco; Editing by Frank Pingue)

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