The Supreme Court is expected to hand down its decision on PGA Tour, Inc. v. Casey Martin any day now, so I want to update you on how Martin and his cart are ruining the game of golf.
I caddied for Martin two weeks ago at the Richmond Open on the Buy.com tour and found out the cart is a huge competitive advantage for him. For instance, when he's in the cart, the pain in his diseased right leg stops for minutes at a time. Of course, when he's standing, the pain comes back. And, of course, it's worse on uphill lies and sidehill lies, and when he gets down to read putts.
True, the cart is no help when he'd like to practice but can't, because standing too long makes his leg throb like a bass drum. Or when he'd like to work out. Or run. Or bike. The cart doesn't help him sleep, either, which he does in two-hour chunks some nights, mostly between swallows of Advil. He's up to eight or 12 tablets a day.
O.K., the cart doesn't help him when some ol' boy comes up to his table, slaps him on the leg and says, "Howzit goin'?" and Martin looks as if he might faint from the pain. And the cart doesn't stop all the camera crews and gawkers and busybodies from coming up to him during a round so they can chastise him or tell him he's their hero. In Richmond a kid with a prosthesis limped up to Martin to shake his hand. That might've been a little distracting, because Martin's doctors tell him that they'll probably be fitting him for one of those down the road.
And I noticed he doesn't embrace the cart for the cheating boondoggle that it is. "I hate the cart," Martin said. "I hate playing golf in it. I hate being the center of attention. People don't come to see me play golf. They come to see me limp."
He showed me his leg in his room one night. I asked to see it, actually. He stood up, took off his pants and then the two nylon restraining stockings on his right leg that are supposed to keep down the swelling. What was underneath looked like a baseball bat somebody had used to hit a thousand rocks.
"Watch the blood drain into it," he said. Over the next two minutes that bony stick of a leg started turning purple and globby and marbled right in front of my eyes, bloating to twice its diameter. Grotesque pools of blood gathered in his hip, knee, ankle. He let me run my hand gingerly along his shin, which felt like a long, fat sandwich bag filled with spaghetti and meatballs. It was fascinating, except I felt like throwing up.
And he plays golf with that leg—six days some weeks. But that's no reason to give him the cart, right? Hasn't Martin ruined the fundamental nature of golf? Every day now, don't we see disabled pros tearing up the tours? O.K., no other disabled person has even come close to being good enough, but you just know that hordes of cripples who can break 70 are coming soon, right?
In truth, Martin hasn't broken 70 much lately, either. He lost his card on the PGA Tour after last year, and he has made only four cuts in eight tries in his return to the bush leagues this year. The limp gets worse every month. Yet he's never withdrawn from a tournament.
Maybe he should've bowed out in Richmond. He was playing pretty well in the first round until he got to 17, where he suddenly started swinging like Richard Nixon and limping back to his cart like Chester. "Something tweaked in my leg," he whispered. Three-hundred-yard drives were now 200. He bogeyed that hole and the next, and wound up missing the cut by two shots.