Casey Martin parked his cart and walked up the 18th green with a limp that has become a way of life. The applause that greeted him had as much to do with his scorecard as his courage.
In his debut today as the first PGA Tour member who can use a cart during play, Martin calmed his nerves by chipping in for eagle and wound up with a 4-under 68 at Indian Wells to trail David Toms by five shots at the Bob Hope Classic.
The majority of the gallery following Martin under a hot desert sun belonged to the media, curious to see how the 27-year-old Stanford graduate who sued the PGA Tour for a right to ride would perform.
"When there are a lot of cameras, you don't want to do anything stupid," he said.
Not to worry. Aside from missing a 14-inch putt for his only bogey of the first round, and not converting several other birdie chances, Martin didn't look like a player in his first tournament since earning his PGA card three months ago.
"I could have really gone low if I had made some putts," he said.
The lowest round on a windless day belonged to Toms, a two-time winner last year who opened with a 9-under 63 at Indian Wells, one of four courses used in the 90-hole tournament.
Former PGA champion Bob Tway was among those at 64. The group at 65 included Glen Day and Steve Pate, the runner-up last year and victim of the greatest closing round in PGA Tour history.
That belongs to David Duval, who returned to the PGA West course for the first time since his 59. Duval was nine strokes worse today.
"This course seemed like they added a few holes," he said.
Still, his 68 left him right in the thick of the tournament with four rounds to play. It also left him tied with Martin, who played his first round under a microscope.
The nerves showed on No. 11, his second hole, when Martin lipped out from 14 inches. Three holes later, he came up short on the 483-yard par-5 and chipped in for eagle from about 25 feet.
"That settled me down a little bit," he said.
Martin made another 25-foot birdie from just off the green at No. 17, and added birdies on Nos. 7 and 8 to get to 68.
Today wasn't the first time Martin used a cart against the best players in the world. He qualified for the 1998 U.S. Open and tied for 23rd, and also played two PGA Tour events later that year on sponsors' exemptions.
The difference now is that he belongs. Martin earned his card by finishing 14th on the Nike Tour money list, and likely will play at least 25 tournaments this year.