Compton continues to persevere in life, golf

By Doug FergusonAugust 28, 2013, 8:20 pm

NORTON, Mass. – More than any other PGA Tour player, Erik Compton can do without the additional stress.

But there he was again last Friday, two shots over the cut line with two holes to play at The Barclays, needing to make the cut to at least have an outside chance of moving on to the next tournament in the FedEx Cup playoffs. He already had played 31 holes that day because of a rain delays, and his tank was empty.

But his heart? No one questions that.

This is the scrappy Florida kid who took up golf after a heart transplant when he was 12. The same guy who suffered a heart attack in 2007 and, with his heart pumping at 15 percent capacity and his foot on the accelerator, drove himself to the hospital while calling everyone to tell them he loved them because he thought it was over. He had his second heart transplant six months later.

He went birdie-birdie at The Barclays to make the cut.

''Some guys focus like every hole is the last hole. And I need to play like that every week,'' Compton said. ''Your energy level plays a major factor in how you think. Sucking it up, basically that's what I've been doing my life - figuring out how to play golf when you're not at your best.''

Two days later, Compton was 3 under for the final round and projected to be inside the top 100 in the FedEx Cup to advance to the Deutsche Bank Championship. He made bogey. Then another one. And then he chipped into the water on the 16th and faced a 10-foot putt for bogey.

More stress he didn't need. More clutch golf he always seems to deliver. He made the bogey putt, made a birdie putt on the next hole from the same distance and then saved par on the final hole with a 5-foot putt that allowed him to head north to the TPC Boston this week.

''Everyone says I'm going to give them a heart attack,'' Compton said, smiling at his metaphor. ''But I've already had a couple of those.''

Compton is on his third heart and has an endless supply of perspective. After going through a second transplant, and showing off a scar that runs the length of his chest, he once said, ''I've been dead twice.''

The next day, the 33-year-old Compton was on ''CBS This Morning'' with Jeff Glor, talking about his amazing life and his work with Donate Life America and Genentech to raise awareness of organ donation and transplants.

''I guess my story's like a movie,'' Compton said. ''It's not a made-up story, but it's real. It just doesn't faze me anymore. We all have issues, right?''

''Yeah, but this is a pretty big one - with all due respect,'' Glor said as the audience laughed.

''Yeah, but I trade some of the bad issues and bad things that have happened,'' Compton replied. ''I have a lot of great things.''

He has a wife and a daughter. He has a job on the PGA Tour, right alongside Tiger Woods, Phil Mickelson and Rory McIlroy. And that might be the most amazing thing of all in his remarkable life. Through it all, Compton earned his way to the highest level of golf.

And this year, for the first time, he stayed there.

He first reached the big leagues in 2012 through the Nationwide Tour money list. He lost his card and went back to Q-school, surviving six rounds to get back to the PGA Tour. Going into the Deutsche Bank Championship, which starts Friday, his ranking is three spots behind Ernie Els, two spots ahead of Justin Leonard. He belongs.

Trouble is, that's not how Compton views his job.

The public tends to look at him as a sympathetic figure, a walking miracle with two heart transplants and a PGA Tour card.

Compton sees himself as a golfer who would be more inclined to celebrate a victory than merely keeping his card. It was like that at the Honda Classic this year when he tied for fourth for his first top-10 finish on the PGA Tour. Everyone wanted to pat him on the head. He was kicking himself in the rear for a bogey on the last hole.

''It seems like a bit of tug-of-war going on inside there,'' said Scott Piercy, who played with Compton last weekend. ''He knows he's living a dream. I think a little in his mind it's like, 'OK, I'm lucky to be here.' But I know a competitor lurks in there, too. Because at the end of the day, there's a lot of fight in that kid, for sure. He wants to win.''

Compton understands that. He says he'll be at home, sitting alone on the couch, and his wife will ask him what's going through his mind. His answer more times than not: How to get better. How to win.

''I want to be a top 50 player in the world,'' Compton said. ''I have to keep getting better. I'm bound to have a win and have a good season. It's not impossible. I have a good swing. The guys out here are really, really good. But I'm really good, too. I'm not just a dead guy walking.''

He does not take his position lightly. Compton has given countless hours to ''Donate Life America'' to get out the message that kids are waiting every day for an organ to survive. He already was planning to be in the Boston area this week to speak about it. And now he gets to play golf, and even greater platform.

It will take another big week for him to advance to the third playoff event in Chicago. But at least it's a chance.

''I want to see how far I can go,'' Compton said. ''I see a win in my future - next week, next year.''

And then he grinned.

''There's only 99 guys I have to beat, right?''

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Hadwin returns to site of last year's 59

By Will GrayJanuary 17, 2018, 11:04 pm

Adam Hadwin had a career season last year, one that included shooting a 59 and winning a PGA Tour event. But those two achievements didn't occur in the same week.

While Hadwin's breakthrough victory came at the Valspar Championship in March, it was at the CareerBuilder Challenge in January when he first made headlines with a third-round 59 at La Quinta Country Club. Hadwin took a lead into the final round as a result, but he ultimately couldn't keep pace with Hudson Swafford.

He went on to earn a spot at the Tour Championship, and Hadwin made his first career Presidents Cup appearance in October. Now the Canadian returns to Palm Springs, eager to improve on last year's result and hoping to earn a spot in the final group for a third straight year after a T-6 finish in 2016.

"A lot of good memories here in the desert," Hadwin told reporters. "I feel very comfortable here, very at home. Lots of Canadians, so it's always fun to play well in front of those crowds and hopefully looking forward to another good week."

Hadwin's 59 last year was somewhat overshadowed, both by the fact that he didn't win the event and that it came just one week after Justin Thomas shot a 59 en route to victory at the Sony Open. But he's still among an exclusive club of just eight players to have broken 60 in competition on Tour and he's eager to get another crack at La Quinta on Saturday.

"If I'm in the same position on 18, I'm gunning for 58 this year," Hadwin said, "not playing safe for 59."

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Rahm: If I thought like Phil, I could not hit a shot

By Will GrayJanuary 17, 2018, 10:39 pm

When it comes to Jon Rahm and Phil Mickelson, there are plenty of common bonds. Both starred at Arizona State, both are now repped by the same agency and Rahm's former college coach and agent, Tim Mickelson, now serves full-time as his brother's caddie.

Those commonalities mean the two men have played plenty of practice rounds together, but the roads quickly diverge when it comes to on-course behavior. Rahm is quick, fiery and decisive; Mickelson is one of the most analytical players on Tour. And as Rahm told reporters Wednesday at the CareerBuilder Challenge, those differences won't end anytime soon.

"I don't need much. 'OK, it's like 120 (yards), this shot, right," Rahm said. "And then you have Phil, it's like, 'Oh, this shot, the moisture, this going on, this is like one mile an hour wind sideways, it's going to affect it one yard. This green is soft, this trajectory. They're thinking, and I'm like, 'I'm lost.' I'm like, 'God if I do that thought process, I could not hit a golf shot.'"


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The tactics may be more simplified, but Rahm can't argue with the results. While Mickelson is in the midst of a winless drought that is approaching five years, Rahm won three times around the world last year and will defend a PGA Tour title for the first time next week at Torrey Pines.

Both men are in the field this week in Palm Springs, where Mickelson will make his 2018 debut with what Rahm fully expects to be another dose of high-level analytics for the five-time major winner with his brother on the bag.

"It's funny, he gets to the green and then it's the same thing. He's very detail-oriented," Rahm said of Mickelson. "I'm there listening and I'm like, 'Man, I hope we're never paired together for anything because I can't think like this. I would not be able to play golf like that. But for me to listen to all that is really fun."

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DJ changes tune on golf ball distance debate

By Will GrayJanuary 17, 2018, 9:16 pm

World No. 1 Dustin Johnson is already one of the longest hitters in golf, so he's not looking for any changes to be made to golf ball technology - despite comments from him that hinted at just such a notion two months ago.

Johnson is in the Middle East this week for the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship, and he told BBC Sport Wednesday that he wouldn't be in favor of making changes to the golf ball in order to remedy some of the eye-popping distances players are hitting the ball with ever-increasing frequency.

"It's not like we are dominating golf courses," Johnson said. "When was the last time you saw someone make the game too easy? I don't really understand what all the debate is about because it doesn't matter how far it goes; it is about getting it in the hole."

Johnson's rhetorical question might be answered simply by looking back at his performance at the Sentry Tournament of Champions earlier this month, an eight-shot romp that featured a tee shot on the 433-yard 12th hole that bounded down a slope to within inches of the hole.

Johnson appeared much more willing to consider a reduced-distance ball option at the Hero World Challenge in November, when he sat next to tournament host Tiger Woods and supported Woods' notion that the ball should be addressed.

"I don't mind seeing every other professional sport, they play with one ball. All the pros play with the same ball," Johnson said. "In baseball, the guys that are bigger and stronger, they can hit a baseball a lot further than the smaller guys. ... I think there should be some kind of an advantage for guys who work on hitting it far and getting that speed that's needed, so having a ball, like the same ball that everyone plays, there's going to be, you're going to have more of an advantage."

Speaking Wednesday in Abu Dhabi, Johnson stood by the notion that regardless of whether the rules change or stay the same, he plans to have a leg up on the competition.

"If the ball is limited then it is going to limit everyone," he said. "I'm still going to hit it that much further than I guess the average Tour player."

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LPGA lists April date for new LA event

By Golf Channel DigitalJanuary 17, 2018, 8:18 pm

The LPGA’s return to Los Angeles will come with the new Hugel-JTBC Open being played at Wilshire Country Club April 19-22, the tour announced Wednesday.

When the LPGA originally released its schedule, it listed the Los Angeles event with the site to be announced at a later date.

The Hugel-JTBC Open will feature a 144-player field and a $1.5 million purse. It expands the tour’s West Coast swing, which will now be made up of four events in California in March and April.

The LPGA last played in Los Angeles in 2005. Wilshire Country Club hosted The Office Depot in 2001, with Annika Sorenstam winning there.