SAN FRANCISCO -- Payne Stewart is still leading the 98th U.S. Open at the Olympic Club. That's big news to the former Open champion, his family, friends and anyone who likes the sight of a 41-year-old man in plaid plus-fours.
But the biggest news to emerge here yesterday is that Casey Martin is still in the Open.
Though his chance of winning seems slim -- at 5-over-par 145 he trails Stewart by eight shots -- Martin continued to make his own piece of history as the first player ever to use a golf cart in the Open. More than that, Martin has made a statement.
"I think in a way I've proved something to myself because I know I am not playing as well as I am capable of, and yet I made the cut at the U.S. Open," said Martin. "So that gives me confidence knowing that I am supposed to be here."
The 26-year-old Nike Tour player, who suffers from a degenerative circulatory condition in his right leg, shot 1-over par 71 despite bogeying the last two holes for the second day in a row. His performance here the past two days might help defuse the controversy that has followed him since he sued the PGA Tour last February for the right to use a cart in competition.
Asked what he hoped might come out of his performance at the Open, Martin said, "I'd love to be known more as a golfer than a person with a disability. But at the same time I know that I am probably not going to lose that label."
Stewart might also lose a label that has haunted him for much of his career. Should he continue to play as masterfully as he has the past two days, he might be able to show that his Open championship seven years ago was not a fluke.
Long considered a player of more style than substance, Stewart has won only once -- in 1995 at the Shell Houston Open -- since beating Scott Simpson by two shots in an 18-hole playoff at Hazeltine in 1991. It was the second major of his career, the first coming when Mike Reid collapsed down the stretch in the 1989 " PGA Championship.
"This kind of golf really motivates me," Stewart said after a 1-over-par 71. "It really makes me focus. I would say one of my biggest problems is I that I probably lose focus in some of our PGA Tour events that all kind of blend together. In the Open, my focus is pretty sharp."
At 3-under-par 137, Stewart leads two other veterans, Jeff Maggert and former PGA champion Bob Tway, by one shot. Another former Open champion, Lee Janzen, is two shots back at 1-under 139 and tied with 19-year-old amateur sensation Matt Kuchar and journeyman Lee Porter.
Porter climbed into contention with a 3-under-par 67 that included holing out from 112 yards for eagle-2 on the par-4 18th hole. Janzen fell out of a share of the lead with a double-bogey on the par-4 17th hole that marred an otherwise brilliant 4-under par 66.
"I was thinking about shooting a 62 and going for the record of lowest score in a major," said Janzen. "I guess you just don't get greedy in the U.S. Open. But making a double-bogey doesn't hurt my chances [of winning]."
Another journeyman, Mark Carnevale, is three shots behind at even-par 140 after a 3-over-par 73. Three players -- former PGA and British Open champion Nick Price, Brad Faxon and journeyman Joe Durant -- are four back.
It looked for awhile as if Stewart might distance himself from the field. Starting out with the lead at 4-under-par, Stewart birdied the first three holes. After making the turn at 6-under, Stewart made bogey on the par-4 14th hole, then bogeyed the last two holes.
His bogey on the par-4 18th hole typified the putting woes many have had here at Olympic. Putting for birdie from seven feet, Stewart's ball missed the cup by two inches. Despite the fact that Stewart just tapped at the ball, it didn't stop rolling until it was 20 feet away.
"When you see balls rolling up to the hole and then rollling back, that's bordering on ridiculous," said Stewart. "I don't know if the USGA would use the term 'illegal pin placement,' but I don't think I was the only player who complained to the walking marshall."
Asked if he would win a free game had he made the putt, Stewart said, "I was watching the Putt-Putt championships on television this morning and it resembled that hole."
Said John Daly, whose own birdie putt stopped inches short before rolling four feet back: "If you want to have a major championship, you can go to Disney World and play Putt-Putt."
USGA executive director David Fay said last night that the hole location on the 18th green used yesterday was expected to be the most difficult of the week.
"We felt that it would be acceptable, but it didn't turn out that way," Fay said. "We're not happy with what happened."
Stewart's bogey brought a number of players within 10 shots of the lead and back for the weekend, since the cut was made at 7-over 147. Among those who benefited from Stewart's bogey were four-time champion Jack Nicklaus, Jim Furyk and Kemper Open champion Stuart Appleby. Among those missing was 1982 champion Tom Watson, who missed by a shot at 148.
It also allowed others who might have been out of legitimate reach to think about making a charge over the weekend. Among those with major championships on their resume, former British Open champion Tom Lehman is six shots back after a 5-over 75. So is Scott Simpson, who won the Open here in 1987 and shot 1-over 71 yesterday.
"No doubt about it, people at 7-over still have a chance to win," said former Masters champion Tiger Woods, whose 2-over-par 72 left him nine shots back at 6-over 146. "If the guys 7-over can go out and shoot 2- or 3-under early, the other guys will be shooting at that all day."
Woods' 72 included four-putting No. 6 for the second day in a row, his fifth double-bogey in six U.S. Open rounds.
In a group that includes defending champion Ernie Els, Casey Martin is closer to the lead than Woods, but unlike his former Stanford teammate, is probably not thinking about winning the Open.
Getting a cart from the USGA was the first step. Qualifying for the tournament itself was an even larger one. Making the cut -- not to mention a rather significant statement-- was the biggest step of all.
"I do have a goal, but I am not there yet," he said. "My goal was not just to make the cut. I think I have played long enough professionally that should be my goal. I'm having a great time and learning a lot about my game, knowing what I have to do to be able to compete out here consistently."
Payne Stewart 66-71--137
...and the followers
Jeff Maggert 69-69--138 Bob
a-Matt Kuchar 70-69--139
Lee Porter 72-67--139
Mark Carnevale 67-73--140
Stewart Cink 73-68--141
Joe Durant 68-73--141
Brad Faxon 73-68--141
Nick Price 73-68--141
Chris DiMarco 71-71--142
Ed Romero 72-70--142
Olin Browne 73-70--143
David Duval 75-68--143
Tom Lehman 68-75--143
Frank Nobilo 76-67--143
Jesper Parnevik 69-74--143
Complete scores 9d
Pub Date: 6/20/98