As he gets ready for the U.S. Open at the Olympic Club in San Francisco this week, Casey Martin feels a lot like it's 1998 again.
That's the last time Martin played in the event, the last time it was held at this venue.
And like last time, he'll be the only one of the 156 players using a cart, needed because of a birth defect in his right leg that makes it hard to get around 18 holes. It's an exception to the rules he was granted under the Americans With Disabilities Act, but only after a legal battle with the PGA.
"I don't like to be the center of controversy, and it kind of followed me for a long time there," he said of his previous U.S. Open appearance and his subsequent time on the PGA Tour.
This year, there doesn't seem to be any controversy over the cart, but Martin said the pain in the leg, damaged by a congenital circulatory disorder known as Klippel-Trenaunay-Weber Syndrome, remains and he's used that to his advantage.
"It helps me sometimes to concentrate because I realize it's only one thing I can do and just try to block out my leg," he said in an interview with CNN Sports.
That Martin should be playing a second U.S. Open at all is quite unexpected.
Just finishing his sixth season as the head golf coach at the University of Oregon, he no longer plays competitively.
But as this year's Open was back at Olympic, he thought he'd take a chance and try to qualify. He made it despite practicing less than a 10-year-old on a putt-putt course.
"I hit about 20 minutes of golf balls that week leading up to it," he said of the qualifier last week at the Emerald Valley Golf Club in Creswell, Oregon. He shot back-to-back 69s on June 4 to earn his spot at Olympic.
"It's kind of a random occurrence for me to get in. But I'm grateful I went through the qualifier, grateful I got hot at the right time and I get an experience like this as reward," Martin said.
But the past week has been a grind, he told a news conference Monday.
"It has been overwhelming really. ... Last week it was a very challenging week for me.Â Just a lot of demands on my time; I'm just not built for this. It's like I coach and I don't have an agent, and I just kind of live my life.Â Then all of a sudden it was just kind of being bombarded.Â There was a lot of calls I couldn't respond to," Martin said.
Martin, who finished 23rd in the 1998 Open, said he hopes he can respond in a similar fashion when he tees off Thursday.
"I don't know what my goal should be, but I am going to give it great effort," he said. "I'm going to enjoy every bit of it."