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Martin: 'U.S. Open Here I Come'

Casey Martin overcame a balky cart and a double bogey on the 36th hole one he feared would be his last before qualifying for the U.S. Open in a two-hole playoff Monday.

Martin sank a 25-foot birdie putt in the rain to clinch the fifth and final qualifying spot at Clovernook Country Club. He had failed his three previous attempts to make the Open, which will be held at the Olympic Club in San Francisco starting June 18.

"I'm going to fly around the Open. I don't think I'll need a cart. I'll be so pumped," he said, moments after winning the five-player playoff.

Until his winding putt found the middle of the cup on the par-4, 420-yard second hole, Martin figured this would wind up as a day he'd long regret.

Martin, who won a court order to ride a cart because of a circulation problem with his right leg, took a while to adjust to a newfangled one-person cart brought in for the event. It had a different breaking system than a standard cart and quit on his second hole when he accidentally kicked the power switch.

He had to walk two holes before the cart was revived.

"I liked it. There are a few kinks that need to get worked out," he said of the cart, which he'll use at the Open.

His ever-present limp grew more pronounced during the last few holes of his afternoon round, when he was trying to hold his position among the leaders. He became angry with himself after his double bogey on the par-4, 469-yard final hole.

His tee shot went behind a tree, his approach came up short and he two-putted, falling to 2-under-par 138. He slammed the door of the restroom in the clubhouse and uttered a profanity when he emerged, then went to sit in his car and cool off.

"On the last hole, I just hit six bad shots, took a double and was crushed," he said.

As he sat in his car, the rest of the field came in. Four spots went to Sam Randolph, who shot 135, and Patrick Lee, Rocky Walcher and Jason Gore, who came in at 137.

Martin got a second chance as four others finished at 138 Eric Johnson, Chris Riley, Perry Moss and Ryan Howison.

Martin, Howison and Moss shot par on the first playoff hole to stay in contention. Martin then sank one of his most pressure-packed putts to win it in a steady rain.

"I'm just kind of stunned," said Martin, who showed little emotion when the putt fell. "I was so disappointed after I finished (the 36th hole) that I kind of wrote it off. I'm shocked that I'm here."

He thought that this qualifying attempt would end like the last three: falling in the final round. The dramatic finish Monday left him unsure how to react.

"Know what? I grew up hitting Whiffle ball shots around my yard thinking I was in the Open," he said. "I guess it's going to come true."

Although course officials had prepared for an influx of thousands of fans, a group of about 50 fans and reporters followed him around te course. There was one near-mishap when his green and gray cart hit a bump and nearly clipped a course official on one hole.

Nearing the end of his afternoon round, a news helicopter noisily circled for about two holes, drawing glares from golfers and fans. Martin waved at it, hoping it would go away.

"I was really disappointed that happened," he said. "It annoyed everyone on the golf course and did absolutely no good."

He's become accustomed to attention since he sued the PGA for the right to ride a cart. He knows that won't change at the Open, where he plans to keep a low profile.

"I'm going to be the center of attention and I wish it weren't so," he said.

He also will meet some of the golfers who objected to his court case over the cart. Martin said he won't avoid them in San Francisco.

"A few guys were awfully vocal, but I look forward to seeing them," he said. "I'll say hi and we'll agree to disagree."

©1998 The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed

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