Compton, Pfeifer inspire each other, impact many more

By Jason SobelJanuary 26, 2015, 1:48 pm

It was just after 10 a.m. on Saturday when the Army veteran amputee sidled up to the two-time heart transplant recipient. A chilly breeze floating through the air, the sun yet to fully warm up the Nicklaus Private Course at PGA West, this seemed as good a time as any for a moment of truth between the two.

“I appreciate what you’ve done,” the amputee said. “Hearing your story and stories like yours are inspiring for me. You’re an inspiration for me and an example for me to set my goals.”

“Thank you,” the transplant recipient replied, considering their separate journeys to this point. “I had time to heal. You didn’t.”

If the fourth green during a pro-am doesn’t sound like a fitting place for a meeting of this mutual inspiration society, then you don’t know Chad Pfeifer and Erik Compton.

The 35-year-old Compton underwent his first heart transplant when he was 12 years old; his second came 16 years later. Though his story has been widely told, it never fails to amaze. Compton was on his deathbed – twice. He’s not only lived, he’s thrived, working his way up through the developmental tours to become a top-level player. Last year he finished in a share of second place at the U.S. Open, the best result of his career.

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Pfeifer, 33, is seeking a similar endgame. On April 12, 2007, while serving in the Army during the Iraq War, a buried explosive was triggered beneath the ground’s surface. His left leg would soon be amputated. While in a Texas hospital, a friend suggested he take up golf as part of the recovery process. He’d never played before. That was seven years ago. He’s now a professional, with an eye toward someday becoming a PGA Tour regular.

And so when the amputee found himself standing beside the transplant recipient during a brief moment of downtime in the Humana Challenge’s third round, he felt the need to point out their connection.

“I don’t know if it took him by surprise a little bit or he wasn’t expecting it,” Pfeifer recalls. “But I could tell he was thankful that I would say something like that.”

They don’t keep records for things like this, but it’s difficult to believe there have ever been two more inspirational golfers in the same foursome.

When he’s not playing or practicing, Pfeifer’s work often includes encouraging fellow wounded veterans. His words, though, are as much an advertisement for golf as motivational monologue.

“Golf saved my life,” he says. “I was introduced to golf when I was going through therapy. There were a lot of days before I was introduced to golf that most of the guys go through – depression and darker days, when you’re not sure how life is going to be. Golf was the one thing at the time that just kept me looking forward to the next day and kept me positive. I could always look forward to my next time playing. In all honesty, golf itself was my biggest form of therapy.”

Compton similarly understands inspiring others through the game. Two days after that U.S. Open runner-up finish, he found himself at Hartford Hospital, speaking with patients awaiting transplants.

This wasn’t some photo op on the heels of his impressive week. It was just another in a long line of hospital visits that he’s been doing for years. When one woman bemoaned having a window in her room because it was a constant reminder of an outside world she couldn’t experience, the room fell silent. Only Compton knew the right words to say, pointing to that window as encouragement toward returning to full health.

If anyone knows about inspiration, it’s him – but standing on that fourth green, he was the one being inspired.

Just after Pfeifer lipped out for a natural eagle, settling for birdie to quickly move to 2 under for the day, Compton joked about whether he was a tournament competitor rather than just part of the pro-am portion.

“I [was] kind of speechless, because I see him with a huge adversity that he's gone through and it speaks volumes,” says Compton.

“I’ve never been in a group where you have two players who have been through so much,” adds John Rollins, who was Pfeifer’s partner this day. “Just enjoying the game and everything that they have.”

If any golfer ever gets too angry about a wayward tee shot or a missed putt, he can simply look at these respective stories to help alter that attitude.

“My big deal is trying to inspire wounded veterans and people with disabilities,” says Pfeifer, “but if I can impact PGA Tour players to have some perspective and have a little fun with it, that would be great. I would like for my story and Erik’s story to have an impact on these guys, as well.”

One day after they played together, the amputee watched the transplant recipient contend for his first career title. He came close, at one point holding sole possession of the lead, but eventually finishing in 10th place. What he lost in tangible results, though, he might have made up for in inspiration. Not that they keep records for things like this.

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Kelly, Sauers co-lead in Hawaii; Monty, Couples in mix

By Associated PressJanuary 19, 2018, 3:52 am

KAILUA-KONA, Hawaii - Fresh off a solid performance on Oahu, Jerry Kelly shot an 8-under 64 on the Big Island on Thursday to share the first-round lead at the Mitsubishi Electric Championship, the season opener on the PGA Tour Champions.

The 51-year-old Kelly, who tied for 14th at the PGA Tour's Sony Open last week in Honolulu, birdied five of his final seven holes to shoot 30 on the back nine at Hualalai. He won twice last season, his first on the over-50 tour.

Gene Sauers also shot 64, going bogey-free amid calm conditions. Thirty-two of the 44 players broke par in the limited-field event, which includes winners from last season, past champions of the event, major champions and Hall of Famers.

Rocco Mediate and Colin Montgomerie were one shot back, and Fred Couples, Kevin Sutherland and Kirk Triplett were another shot behind.

Bernhard Langer, defending the first of his seven 2017 titles, was in the middle of the pack after a 69.

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Rahm (62) fires career low round

By Will GrayJanuary 19, 2018, 12:03 am

The scores were predictably low during the opening round of the CareerBuilder Challenge, where the top-ranked player in the field currently sits atop the standings. Here's how things look after the first day in Palm Springs as Jon Rahm is out to an early advantage:

Leaderboard: Jon Rahm (-10), Austin Cook (-9), Andrew Landry (-9), Jason Kokrak (-9), Brandon Harkins (-8), Martin Piller (-8), Aaron Wise (-8), Beau Hossler (-8)

What it means: Rahm is coming off a runner-up finish two weeks ago at Kapalua, and he picked up right where he left off with a 10-under 62 at La Quinta Country Club. It marked his lowest career round on the PGA Tour, and it gave him a one-shot lead heading to the Nicklaus Tournament Course. Cook is the only player within two shots of Rahm who has won already on Tour.

Round of the day: Rahm got off to a fast start, playing his first seven holes in 6 under, and he made it around La Quinta without dropping a shot. The 62 bettered his previous career low on Tour by two shots and it included an eagle on the par-5 fifth hole to go along with eight birdies.

Best of the rest: Cook was a winner earlier this season at the RSM Classic, and he's now in the mix for trophy No. 2 following a 9-under 63 on the Nicklaus Tournament Course. Like Rahm, he opened with a seven-hole stretch at 6 under and turned in a scorecard without a bogey. He'll now head to the more difficult Stadium Course for his second round.

Biggest disappointment: Patrick Reed blitzed the three-course rotation in Palm Springs en route to his first career Tour title back in 2014, but he's unlikely to repeat that feat after opening with a 2-over 74 on the Nicklaus Tournament course. Reed made only one birdie against three bogeys and was one of only 32 players in the 156-man field who failed to break par in the opening round.

Main storyline heading into Friday: Rahm deserves the spotlight, as he entered the week as one of the event's headliners and did nothing to lose that billing in the opening round. But the pack of contenders is sure to keep pace, while players like Phil Mickelson (-2) will look to put up a low score in order to build some momentum heading into the weekend.

Shot of the day: Wesley Bryan's 7-under 65 on the Nicklaus Tournament course was helped in large part by an eagle on the par-4 10th, where he holed a 54-degree wedge from 112 yards away. Bryan went on to birdie the next hole amid a five-hole stretch of 5 under play.

Quote of the day: "Shot 10 under par. There's not much more I can ask for." - Rahm

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Recent winner Cook contending at CareerBuilder

By Will GrayJanuary 18, 2018, 11:45 pm

Patton Kizzire is currently the only two-time PGA Tour winner this season, but Austin Cook hopes to join him this week at the CareerBuilder Challenge.

Cook won for the first time in November at the RSM Classic, a victory that catapaulted him from the Tour graduate category into an entirely new echelon. Cook notched a pair of top-25 finishes over the last two weeks in Hawaii, and he's again in the mix after an opening 63 on the Nicklaus Tournament Course left him one shot behind Jon Rahm.

"Today was great," Cook told reporters. "The conditions were perfect, but I always loved desert golf and I was just hitting the ball well and seeing good lines on the greens and hitting good putts."

Cook got off to a fast start, playing his first seven holes in 6 under highlighted by an eagle on the par-5 fourth hole. He briefly entertained the notion of a sub-60 round after birdies on Nos. 10 and 11 before closing with six pars and a birdie.

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Cook was a relative unknown before his victory at Sea Island earlier this season, but now with the flexibility and confidence afforded by a win he hopes to build on his burgeoning momentum this week in California.

"That was a big, proud moment for myself, knowing that I can finish a tournament," Cook said. "I think it was one of those things that I've proven to myself that now I can do it, and it just meant the world to me."

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Photo: Fleetwood's phone cover is picture of Bjorn

By Jason CrookJanuary 18, 2018, 11:40 pm

There's phone covers and then there are Phone Covers.

Paul Casey has himself a Phone Cover, showing off the protective case that features a picture of his wife at last year's U.S. Open.

Now, it appears, Tommy Fleetwood has joined the movement.

Fleetwood, last year's season-long Race to Dubai winner, has a phone cover with a picture of Ryder Cup captain Thomas Bjorn on it. And not even a current Thomas Bjorn. This is a young Bjorn. A hair-having Bjorn.


A post shared by Alex Noren (@alexnoren1) on

The 26-year-old is a virtual lock for this year's European Ryder Cup team, but just in case, he's carrying around a phone with a picture of the team captain attached to the back of it.

It's a bold strategy, Cotton. Let's see if it pays off for him.