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Archive for Wednesday, June 6, 2001

PGA Tour suffers lousy week

Casey Martin case not a ‘win-win’ situation as commissioner suggests

June 6, 2001

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Tiger Woods and Karrie Webb could not have asked for a better week. One inflicted even more psychological damage on his so-called peers with a seven-stroke victory, the other claimed the toughest championship in women's golf with equal ease.

If only golf's leading organizations could operate so smoothly.

Woods' biggest challenge at the Memorial was staying awake. His final act before winning the tournament for the third year in a row was to look over a scorecard that added up to 66, his 15th consecutive round in the 60s.

The PGA Tour had to look over a 23-page decision from the U.S. Supreme Court that not only ensured Casey Martin a cart for as long as he plays, but also shot down the tour's unyielding belief that walking is an integral part of the game.

What followed was enough spin to make a Pinnacle siphon back 40 feet on a brick-hard U.S. Open green. The way commissioner Tim Finchem interpreted the decision, Casey gets his cart and the tour gets to maintain walking as a rule of competition.

He went so far as to suggest it could be a "win-win."

Right.

And Ernie Els could have won the U.S. Open last year if he had just made a few putts.

The tour was never going to win this case, no matter the outcome. Once it allowed itself to get sued, it had little choice but to fight as long as it could. At stake was the right to set rules for its sport. The tour lost. The question was whether riding fundamentally alters the nature of competition. The tour lost that one, too.

"As we have demonstrated, however, the walking rule is at best peripheral," Justice John Stevens wrote in the 7-2 majority opinion.

The tour often boasts that it has the best players in the world, and that its depth and competition make it the toughest roster to join in sports. It should have realized, then, that a Casey Martin comes along once in a lifetime, if not longer.

The most amazing thing about Martin is not that he can play golf with a shriveled right leg, but that he could play at this level. Golf might get another Tiger Woods before it gets another Casey Martin. Which leads to one of the great ironies.

The tour said all along that the case was never about Casey Martin. In the end, Finchem believes the tour can maintain its walking rule because the Supreme Court opinion was only about Casey Martin.

One day after the Martin ruling came word that Greg Norman and Payne Stewart had been elected to the World Golf Hall of Fame.

Norman was overdue. Forget about the majors he lost and consider what he won more than 70 tournaments worldwide, two majors, five times the best scoring average on tour, three times the money leader, No. 1 in the world rankings longer than any other player.

One could argue that Stewart, who died in a plane crash four months after winning the 1999 U.S. Open, was an emotional pick. Larry Nelson was just as accomplished and has never come close to election. Nick Price is far more accomplished and got only 47.7 percent of the votes. Stewart received 67.5 percent.

The reason Stewart got in was because the tour decided this year to lower the vote requirement from 75 percent to 65 percent. A golf Hall of Fame has never been taken seriously, and watering down the criteria will only make it a farce.

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