SAN FRANCISCO - It seems so obvious now.
How could anyone have opposed allowing Casey Martin to use a cart? Why was he forced to sue the PGA Tour in order to pursue his dream of playing professional golf? Has anyone ever paid to watch Tiger Woods walk?
It wasn't so obvious a decade ago.
Jack Nicklaus: "Someone else will use this, I promise you."
Roger Maltbie: "The biggest fear is that this will throw the sporting world into some kind of chaos."
A Chicago Tribune editorial: "Wouldn't a golfer with a back condition deserve similar treatment? Or one recovering from a serious illness? Does a sprained ankle warrant for a cart?"
The sticklers were so worried about an imaginary slippery slope, they forgot about the slippery slope that could lead to a wrong step and the amputation of Martin's right leg.
Martin has a rare circulatory disorder called Klippel-Trenaunay-Weber syndrome that makes it painful for him to walk.
"When I wake up, I feel it," he said. "When I get out of the golf cart, I feel it. I'm not complaining. But I'm not going to be running a marathon either."
No, he'll be doing something even more special - teeing it up in the U.S. Open.
"I've gone from basically nothing to the pinnacle of golf," he said.
Making this story more remarkable is that it's taking place at the Olympic Club. Again.
In 1997, Martin sued the PGA Tour, which contended that walking is a fundamental part of the game. Martin landed an injunction and was allowed to ride during the appeals process.
Martin played in the '98 Open at Olympic. Despite being a guy who said he "doesn't like to be the center of controversy," he handled the pressure well enough to tie for 23rd. But then his career stalled, and Woods' former college teammate began looking for work.
He returned to his hometown of Eugene, Ore., and became Oregon's golf coach.
"When someone comes out of Stanford and is a bright kid, you think in terms of other sorts of careers," said his father, King. "To see the passion he has, I realize it really is the right thing. It's less about some high-paid job and more about impacting peoples' lives."
And providing inspiration.
Martin earned his spot by shooting 69-69 at sectional qualifying in Creswell, Ore. During the second round, he thought he had to re-tee after losing his drive on a short par-4. It turned out the ball was under the cart of a tournament official, and Martin made a 30-yard chip-in for birdie.
"A magical day," said Martin, a believer in both fate and his Christian faith.
Martin half-jokingly said his goal is "not to shoot a million" on a U.S. Open track with tiny, slick, elevated greens, sidehill lies and a 670-yard hole. He hasn't even competed since a Nationwide Tour event in 2006.
"For the greatest players, it's a challenge, let alone for a disabled 40-year-old golf coach," he said. "But it's also a thrill."
A 2001 Supreme Court decision upheld his right to ride - Antonin Scalia and Clarence Thomas were the lone dissenters - and a remarkable thing has happened since:
The same people who saw his victory as a loss for golf have come around.
If not for his lime-green shirt and highlighter-yellow "O" that represents his school, Martin would have blended in Monday. There were dozens of carts on the course, transporting USGA officials, photographers and electronic media members such as NBC/Golf Channel analyst Frank Nobilo.
As for the fear that players with bum ankles and bad backs would request to ride? Hasn't happened.
ESPN analyst Paul Azinger said he was "mistaken" in his initial view, and walking advocate/two-time U.S. Open champ Curtis Strange said of Martin: "He has more courage than anybody in the field this week."
"I see a lot of reconciling taking place," King Martin said, "which is very satisfying to me as a father."