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Zhang, still preparing for the ninth grade, was born in China and has lived in Florida since 2008. He lost in a playoff at a sectional qualifier near Orlando, Fla., and was the second alternate when the week began at The Olympic Club.

Brandt Snedeker and Paul Casey withdrew with injuries late Monday evening, paving the way for Zhang to make history. The 6-foot, 174-pounder can hit the ball a ton but is still so young when it comes to his short game and mental makeup.

Zhang’s jitters got the best of him in front of the largest gallery he has ever seen _ let alone played against _ on the unleveled Lake Course. He dropped eight strokes on the first five holes, including a triple-bogey on No. 1.

“I was really nervous the first few holes,” Zhang said. “But then they started cheering for me and I know I can kind of handle it a little bit so it got better.”

Zhang proved to be a quick learner.

He played the last 13 holes 1 over, and a 12-foot birdie putt on the 18th kept him out of the 80s. While his start wasn’t what he envisioned, signing autographs and posing for pictures _ not to mention meeting Tiger Woods this week _ was a thrill.

“I kind of didn’t care that much about how many over I am,” Zhang said. “I’m trying to forget about that, because I never had that big a crowd following me ever. And I never played a course like this before. The greens are just unbelievable. Everything is, to me.”

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CASEY AND HIS CART: Casey Martin has played plenty with the pros since he last competed in a major championship.

Thursday was a little different.

Martin shot a 4-over 74 in the first round of the U.S. Open, riding into the clubhouse with the same score he posted in his last opening round at The Olympic Club. Back then, Martin, who has a painful circulatory disorder in his right leg, had just won a landmark Supreme Court ruling that allowed him to ride a cart at Olympic Club in 1998.

“In the sectional qualifying, I got a little nervous, but not like this,” Martin said. “I haven’t felt like this in a long, long time.”

Martin, Tiger Woods’ former Stanford teammate and now the golf coach at Oregon, was five over through the first six holes _ considered the toughest stretch on the course _ before a late charge. He delight the crowd with birdies on the seventh and the 17th, delighting the gallery and never facing the kind of controversy that followed in more than a decade ago, when he finished 23rd _ a stroke ahead of Woods.

“It’s great. I love to compete, I love the game.” Martin said. “I wouldn’t want to play this tournament every week. It’s such a stress. I don’t know how to explain that. I’m trying not to be overly dramatically that way other than that’s how I feel, it’s just really, really stressful, especially when I’m not used to playing in front of people and there’s people and then the fairways are really tight and the greens are so tough.

“It’s just everything combined, it’s overwhelming at times, but you just got to kind of take a deep breath.”

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