And it's not that he can play for someone who's in constant pain, whose right
leg is significantly smaller than the left because of a congenital circulatory
condition, who limps when he walks.
It's that Martin can flat-out play, period. During the first two rounds at the
U.S. Open, the 40-year-old shot 9-over par, which may not be enough for him to
make the cut at Olympic Club.
But it's a good score nonetheless, especially at such a tough tournament where
shooting over par doesn't put you out of contention. Martin's performance
looks especially good when you consider that plenty of tour veterans and the
top two players in the world -- Luke Donald and Rory McIlroy -- carded worse
Martin was actually well inside the cut before he bogeyed four of his final
There's a temptation to look at Martin, to remember his legal fight against
the PGA and his struggle to use a golf cart, and judge him on medical terms.
But there's far more to Martin and his talent than that.
Prior to this week, Martin had not played in a 'legitimate tournament,' as he
put it, since 2006. He gained entry for the U.S. Open by earning medalist
honors at a 36-hole qualifier at Emerald Valley Golf Club in Creswell, Oregon,
which came just days after his Ducks fell to Texas in the NCAA national
So he was a bit rusty and nervous when he showed up in San Francisco, and
still managed to put together two competitive rounds.
'It's wonderful competing,' Martin said. 'I haven't done it in so long it
really feels great to get out there and grind away.'
But merely playing wasn't quite enough for Martin, who said he 'wasn't really
happy' with how he played Friday. He said it was flattering to get the
attention he did, but was disappointed as a competitor.
'Just missed a lot of putts and hit a few loose shots when it was important,'
Martin's biggest obstacle this week wasn't his leg, or a disease, it was the
fact that he just jumped into the toughest tournament on the calendar without
any competitive rhythm.
'The biggest thing is actually just thinking like a great player,' Martin
said. 'That's the challenge when you haven't done it and you have some bad
shots that creep in there.'
Those bad shots put him right around the cut line, and well off the lead. But
at least when you judge Martin by his game and performances, you're judging
There's no doubt that Martin is courageous for playing through excruciating
pain that he can't control. But when you consider him like you would any other
golfer, his talent becomes very apparent.
It should have been apparent when he tied for 23rd at the 1998 U.S. Open, but
the societal tendency to view ability through the lens of physicality -- to
view Martin as disabled or unable -- ensured that it wouldn't be a simple
That kind of view leads to Martin fielding this actual question on Friday:
'With all the talent you have, do you ever think, 'What if I had two healthy
Well, after his performance this week, the question I wonder is, what if he
still had a tour card?