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Casey Case: Tour Has Cartload of Trouble

January 30, 1998|THOMAS BONK

PEBBLE BEACH, Calif. — As Casey Martin's suit against the PGA Tour to allow him to use a golf cart moves closer to its trial date Monday, two members of the PGA Tour Policy Board think they already know what's going to happen.

"I think we're going to lose," Davis Love III said.

Mark O'Meara agreed, even if he isn't all that happy about it.

"Win, lose or draw--and I think we're going to lose the first round--if we lose and Casey rides a cart, it's going to set the game back."

Martin, 25, is the former Stanford All-American who has a circulatory ailment in which blood pools in his lower right leg, making his tibia brittle and causing extreme pain when he walks.

He sued the PGA Tour under the Americans With Disabilities Act (ADA) and was allowed to use carts in the first two Nike Tour events this year. Riding a cart, Martin won the first one but missed the cut at the second.

"Look at the publicity," O'Meara said. "He got more publicity for that win than somebody who's won 12 times on the regular tour."

Speaking of publicity, any way the PGA Tour looks at it, there is a potential public relations disaster.

If Martin wins, the tour risks being seen as unfriendly to the disabled, even more than it already is. If the tour wins, Martin has said he will try to walk on the Nike Tour . . . and what if he collapses on the course and breaks his leg, only to be rescued by a medical team in a cart?

This isn't exactly the kind of television coverage the PGA Tour relishes.

"It's a no-win situation," O'Meara said. "It's not the P.R. that we want. I don't want to keep a young player with a disability from playing his dream. What I am saying is that walking and physical fitness are part of the game."

O'Meara thought about a compromise conveyance, like some sort of scooter, but he doesn't think that's going to happen.

Meanwhile, the Martin cart-bandwagon picked up speed this week. He appeared in Washington with former U.S. Sen. Bob Dole and Sen. Tom Harkin, co-authors of the ADA. Dole said he didn't think the PGA stood for "Please Go Away."

And Nike signed Martin to a two-year deal to wear shoes, shirts and accessories beginning next month at a Nike event in Austin, Texas. Martin will appear in Nike's television ad campaign titled "I Can. . . ."


Jack Nicklaus has played in every U.S. Open since 1960, a string of 38 in a row, but unless he gets a special exemption from the U.S. Golf Assn., the streak stops here.

The USGA usually hands out its special exemptions in mid-January, but it didn't this year, which led to speculation that Nicklaus isn't going to be playing at the Olympic in June. That might not be true.

Craig Smith of the USGA said it might not decide until late May whether to offer Nicklaus, or anyone else, a special exemption.

Nicklaus is a four-time U.S. Open champion and has received special exemptions into the last five U.S. Opens. He was the only player to receive a special exemption in 1997.

"To me, all good things must come to an end," Nicklaus said. "If my time is done playing the U.S. Open, that's fine. You are not going to get any argument out of me whatsoever."

At stake is Nicklaus' streak of 144 major tournaments, beginning with the 1962 Masters. He said if he isn't invited to play in the U.S. Open, he'll skip the British Open at Royal Birkdale.

Nicklaus, 58, is philosophical about the future of his streak.

"Once that string is broken, that will be fine," he said.


Simply surviving the cut at tournaments doesn't impress Nicklaus very much.

"I don't get a big thrill out of waving to the gallery at noon on Sundays. . . . Six o'clock or seven o'clock is fine, but not noon."


He has had it up to his swoosh with being criticized for angrily swinging a club after a bad shot or muttering under his breath or showing frustration on the course, Tiger Woods said.

"I look at it this way. People write about the tour sometimes having a lot of deadheads out here, where guys don't show emotion, then they slam me or slam other guys that show frustration. But they write and say how exciting it is for us to show excitement.

"Well, if you are an emotional guy, I don't think you can only show positive emotions.

"I have snapped before. That's just me. I'm going to go ahead and keep doing the things I do to relieve my frustrations."


He was exaggerating, but Love wondered how his 1997 would have appeared if not for his win at the PGA.

"I was one week away from having a bad year," he said.

Actually, Love finished No. 3 on the money list with $1.63 million, won the PGA and the Buick Challenge, made 24 cuts in 25 events and had 13 top-10 finishes.

Now that he finally won his first major, Love said his approach to majors this year will be an even more aggressive one.

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