2002: Martin falters with poor final nine
La Quinta, Calif.
Casey Martin is a living, breathing metaphor for golf. His life reflects the turmoil, the struggle, the emotion, the disappointment, the joy that are undeniable elements of the game.
Experiencing all these highs and lows during an intense week of golf in the desert, Martin faltered with a 4-over-par 40 on his final nine holes and again failed to regain a place on the PGA Tour.
It was as difficult for his gallery as it was for Martin. Like few other golfers on the planet, Martin has a knack for totally immersing his fans in his fate. They live and die with their hero, and sadly they died several figurative deaths on the final nine at the PGA West Stadium Course.
Martin played the first 99 holes of the PGA Tour Qualifying Tournament in 9 under, then saw his game unravel on the pivotal back nine of the last day. Back-to-back double bogeys at 13 and 14 were the daggers in his heart.
“I need to find out what happens to my swing,” Martin said. “Maybe I get too quick. I don’t know. This is not the first time. I’ve had several bad last rounds.”
The Martin mantra always has been “I’ve got to get better,” and he repeated that sentiment over and over after his final-round 77 left him at 5 under and three shots shy of a Tour card. His first five Q-School rounds had been 71-72-71-69-67, creating even more of a mystery around the final 18.
Martin discounted the painful and debilitating condition that has turned his right leg into a virtual spindle. “I played my two best rounds when my leg hurt the most,” he revealed. “My leg was going downhill five or six years ago, but it’s definitely leveled off.”
If he had qualified, he would have once again played the PGA Tour with a personal motorized cart, as he did in 2000, his only year on Tour.
“Casey Martin is a great, great guy, and I feel bad for him,” said Vance Veazey, who played with Martin in the final round. “Out here, all kinds of crazy things happen. How do you explain them? You don’t.”
Veazey should know. On the 17th tee of the final round, he hit a cold shank with a 7-iron. His ball went so far right that it missed the water hazard altogether. From underneath a tree, he wedged over the water and onto the green. Then he sank a 30-foot putt for par.
A “hosel rock” is what Veazey called the shot. Regardless, he qualified for the Tour with an 11- under-par total.
Ted Purdy, although he played solid golf all week, made crucial mistakes down the stretch in both the fifth and sixth rounds. The result: He missed his card by one stroke. On the final hole of the fifth round, Purdy missed the fairway and then disregarded the advice of his caddie. Rather than play conservatively, he gambled on his second shot. He lost and made a double bogey, a score that would come back to haunt him the next day.
Still, Purdy was in solid position to make the Tour. In the last round, though, 9 under with four to play, he bogeyed 15 and 17. How does anybody explain this? According to that great philosopher, Vance Veazey, you don’t.
Bobby Gage came to the last hole needing a par to earn his Tour card. He missed the fairway by a foot, and it cost him dearly. His second shot was just short of the green, his pitch shot rolled 12 feet past the cup, and he missed the putt.
Two sons of major championship winners were able to tough it out and earn Tour cards. Andy Miller, son of Johnny, overcame consecutive double bogeys in the fourth round. In the final round, he hit his tee ball into the water at 17 and made another double. Still, he survived with a 9-under total. Dave Stockton Jr., who was even par after three rounds, charged back with 68-68-70 in the last three rounds to finish at 10 under.
And then there was the gregarious John Maginnes. With nine holes to play, Maginnes was in a make-or-break position. All he did was shoot a 4-under 32. Contrasted with Martin’s 40, it was an eight-shot difference over the crucial final nine.
Maginnes was lucky to be in the final stage of Q-School. He made it through the second stage only because another player took a 9 on the final hole.
In the world of golf according to Veazey, “a player must accept the good with the bad and go on playing.” That’s what Veazey did when he turned a shank into a par. That’s what Maginnes did when he turned a good break into a return trip to the PGA Tour.
“We’re all human,” Maginnes observed. “I was nervous, I was hitting the ball all over the place, I mean I couldn’t get it on the clubface. Then, all of a sudden, I started playing as good as I know how. It’s a strange, wonderful game.”
Concluded Martin, as his fans expressed their concern for his well-being: “I’m all right. Really. I’ll be back.”
Nobody doubted it.