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Martin meltdown costs him tour card
by Associated Press

LA QUINTA, Calif. (AP)? Casey Martin fell apart in the final round of the PGA Tour qualifying tournament Monday, costing himself a chance to play in the big leagues next year.

Martin, who has a circulatory disorder in his right leg that requires him to ride a cart, was in position to make it until running into trouble on the last six holes.

"This hurts, but it's not the end of the world," Martin said. "I don't know if my swing got quick or what, but I hit shots where you couldn't hit them."

Winner Jeff Brehaut held it together for a 1-over 73. He finished at 16-under 416 and won $50,000 in the six-round tournament, one of the most grueling in golf.

None of the top 24 players going into the final round broke 70.

The top 35 players and ties earned exempt status on the PGA Tour next year, a list that included 44-year-old tour veteran Ken Green and Andy Miller, the son of former U.S. Open and British Open champion Johnny Miller.

Martin started the final round in a tie for 21st and was in good position at 9-under par through 12 holes. That's when it quickly fell apart.

He hit into the water on the par-3 13th and made double bogey. On the next hole, he flew the green with a sand wedge and caught a fluffy lie at the base of the hill. His flop shot didn't make it up the slope and he wound up with another double bogey.

Martin closed with a 77 and finished at 427 in a tie for 57th, which at least assures him of full status on the Nationwide Tour next year.

Martin won the right to ride a cart when he successfully sued the PGA Tour in 1998, a decision that was upheld by the U.S. Supreme Court last year.

He earned his card three years ago through the Nike Tour, finishing in the top 15 on the money list. Martin's best finish in his only full season on the PGA Tour was a tie for 17th in the 2000 Tucson Open, and he missed the cut 15 times in 29 tournaments.

Getting his card through six rounds of Q-school is much more difficult, and Martin nearly pulled it off.

"I was playing well enough to get through, but today was ugly," he said.

Martin had some company.

Ted Purdy was at the cutoff - 8 under - when he hit his tee shot into the water on the island-green 17th hole on the Stadium Course at PGA West, leading to a bogey. Barry Cheesman started the final round in a tie for 11th but took a quadruple-bogey on the 13th hole and wound up with an 82.

Tom Scherrer needed a par on his final hole to secure his card. He drove into a bunker, and his approach went into the water. Scherrer flung the club at his bag in disgust, a common emotion at Q-school.

Miller had a few anxious moments, too.

He was at 11 under when his tee shot on the 17th - a hole named "Alcatraz" - caromed off the rocks surrounding the green and went into the pond for double bogey. Miller split the fairway with his next tee shot and got his par to earn his card with one stroke to spare.

"I'm sure I put a few years on your life," Miller said to his father, who works as a golf analyst for NBC Sports.

Brehaut finished one stroke ahead of James McLean (70), Chris Anderson (72) and Alex Cejka (72), although most of the drama in the final round centered around the bottom 35 to see who would earn the right to play on the PGA Tour.

Others to earn their cards were Dave Stockton Jr., son of the two-time PGA champion, who chipped in for birdie on the difficult 15th hole to give himself some breathing room.

The best round Monday belonged to Richard Johnson, whose 66 moved him up 37 places into a tie for 11th. The best finish belonged to Woody Austin, the 1995 rookie of the year on the PGA Tour who was in danger of going back to the developmental tour.

Austin was at 6 under until he rolled in birdie putts of about 15 feet on the final three holes to earn his card by one stroke.

"I was in a no-win situation," Austin said. "If I make three pars, I'm not going to hurt myself. If I make three bogeys, I'm not going to hurt myself. Getting the tour card was the goal, but the way I finished was very important."

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