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Ducks' coach Martin qualifies for Open

CRESWELL — Casey Martin and his cart are headed back to The Olympic Club for the U.S. Open.

Martin, who successfully sued for the right to ride a cart because of a rare circulatory disorder in his right leg, earned a spot in the U.S. Open on Monday night when he holed a 5-foot par putt in darkness on the final hole at Emerald Valley Golf Club.

The 40-year-old Martin, now the golf coach at Oregon, turned with his hands on his hips and looked toward the darkening clouds after making the putt for a 36-hole score of 138. Had he missed, he would have been in a three-man playoff for two spots.

He had planned on going to North Carolina next week to watch recruits in a junior tournament.

"This is a little better," Martin told the Golf Channel.

Martin, a Stanford teammate of Tiger Woods, has Klippel-Trenaunay-Weber syndrome, a rare circulatory disorder that causes severe pain and makes it virtually impossible for him to walk 18 holes. He sued the PGA Tour and won the right to use a cart in 1998 at the U.S. Open at Olympic in 1998. He tied for 23rd.

Martin earned his way onto the PGA Tour in 1999 and eventually won his lawsuit to ride a cart. He failed to keep his PGA Tour card after one year, and eventually became the golf coach at Oregon. But with the U.S. Open returning to Olympic, and a qualifying site so close to home, he decided to give it a try. Martin had not played golf in nine days because of the NCAA Championships at Riviera, where the Ducks reached the semifinals on the weekend.

"I was just going to play golf," he said. "And if I got hot, great."

Martin opened with a 69 over the first round, and he started to think this was in the cards on the eighth hole. He couldn't find an errant tee shot, but just when he was about to go back to the tee to play his third shot, his caddie found the mud-covered ball in the rough. Martin wound up chipping in from 30 yards for birdie after what had looked like a sure double bogey.

He stumbled coming in with bogeys on the 16th and 17th, yet he insisted on finishing in the dark because he was exhausted from the NCAAs last week.

"I wanted to get it done because I need to sleep," he said. "I'm exhausted. I really just wanted to rest. I should not have putted, but I'm very glad I did."

It didn't take long for him to look toward next week at Olympic, a tough golf course built on tree-lined property that leads down to Lake Merced.

"I'll be nervous," he said. "It's really hard. I want to be excited, but I know when I get on the first tee, it's going to be difficult."

Elsewhere, U.S. Ryder Cup captain Davis Love III qualified for the third time in the last six years with a 2-under 139 at Scioto Country Club and Ohio State's Scarlet Course.

The 48-year-old Love has won 20 tourneys around the world, including the 1997 PGA Championship. He continues to play well, despite fighting off injuries, family obligations and an entire generation of younger players.

He was among 16 players to qualify from the biggest of the 11 sectional qualifying sites across the country.

The U.S. Open is June 14-17, and the 48-year-old Love will be making his 23rd appearance in his national open.

Others who qualified from Scioto and Scarlet included medalist Charlie Wi, Kevin Streelman, D.A. Points, Rod Pampling and Steve Marino, who only last week returned from a four-month break to recover from a bad shoulder.

Love still hasn't forgotten the details from a year ago, however, when he three-putted the last hole he played at Colonial that cost him an automatic spot in the Open at Congressional. He had to go through qualifying to get in the field.

"I seem to play well in the qualifying because I don't have a scoreboard to look at," he said. "You just play."

Love has been in captain mode off and on since being selected for the matches this fall. He has been assessing potential players for the American side and has played with several. One of them, former British Open champ Ben Curtis, was in his threesome on Monday, although Curtis faded on his second 18 and failed to make the Open field.

Perhaps the biggest cheer of the day came as darkness was falling at Scioto Country Club.

On the fourth playoff hole to decide the last qualifiers, 42-year-old Youngstown, Ohio, teaching pro Dennis Miller's 20-foot putt from the fringe stopped on the lip of the cup. After the gallery of a few hundred groaned and Miller slowly started to walk to his ball, it fell — touching off a huge celebration.

Now Miller, a third alternate whose name did not even appear on the tee sheet, will be playing in his first U.S. Open — and will likely have to get someone to fill in for him back at the course at Mill Creek Metroparks in Youngstown.

"I can't believe what just happened," Miller said. "That was pretty incredible."

Most of the rest of the field in the qualifier in suburban Columbus, Ohio, was filled with touring pros who had just competed in the nearby Memorial.

Among those who did not qualify were two of the contenders at Jack Nicklaus' tournament.

Rory Sabbatini had the lead with four holes left on Sunday but was overtaken when Tiger Woods birdied three holes, including the 16th on an improbable 50-foot chip-in from thick grass behind the green.

Spencer Levin led going into the final round at Muirfield Village and was still atop the leaderboard with nine holes left but fell apart on the back nine with three bogeys and a double-bogey in a 75.

Sabbatini shot a 70 in his first 18 at Scarlet, but sagged to a 76 in the afternoon to fall short. Levin, who could have earned an automatic berth in the Open had he finished in the top two instead of tying for fourth at the Memorial, followed a 72 at Scioto with a 74 at Scarlet.

Levin still has a chance to make the U.S. Open if he can crack the top 60 in the world after this week.