At just about noon on Friday, you could feel the tension around the eighth green. Casey Martin was standing over a somewhat-lengthy putt for bogey, which normally wouldn't be all that significant. But at the time, he was 8-over, and most felt that was right on where the cut line would settle by the end of the day.
As he struck the putt, you could feel the crowd stacked high on the hill above the green trying to will the ball into the hole. Everyone understood what was at stake and there wasn't a soul not rooting for the putt to fall into the hole, allowing Martin to continue on into the weekend, so long as cut projection held up.
But it wasn't to be as the putt never really threatened the hole, causing everyone -- the crowd, assembled media members and photographers -- to let out a collective, audible sigh. Martin's U.S. Open journey was, for all intents and purposes, over, ending what had been a fun ride to be a part of.
The crowd roared as his bogey putt dropped and Martin was given one final send-off before walking up the stairs to sign his scorecard. Two long and painful days had come to a close, and the ending was anything but storybook. In an ideal world, that par putt would've dropped, allow Martin to play the weekend and spend two more days out at The Olympic Club in front of a crowd he had held in the palm of his hand.
People simply loved Martin. His story made him easy to root for and his genuine appreciation of the fans made him a crowd favorite. Despite two rounds over par, he was one of the stories of the tournament.
And true to form, he didn't sulk or hide out while waiting to see where the cut line would end up after his round. He finished up with the media, did a television interview, then continued to soak in the scene.
A little over an hour after he made bogey on No. 18 -- his final hole of the day -- Martin was standing near the tent on the first hole, laughing and joking. He was waiting for the same people everyone else was, waiting to greet Tiger Woods, Phil Mickelson and Bubba Watson. Typically stoic Tiger Woods paused a moment before stepping onto the tee box, spotting Martin and walking over to shake hands and exchange pleasantries.
Just like the thousands gathered around the first hole at that moment, Martin was a fan. He was there to root on his friend and former teammate, Tiger Woods. And it was impossible to tell he'd just missed a heartbreaking putt that would've kept him in the tournament an hour earlier.
Martin's U.S. Open may be over, but over the course of 36 holes and a few practice rounds, he picked up a cheering section that grew exponentially each day. And what a ride it was.
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