Compton adds another chapter to his comeback

By John FeinsteinJune 14, 2014, 5:02 pm

PINEHURST, N.C. – Erik Compton sat in the cool of his hotel room on Friday morning and watched Martin Kaymer make Pinehurst No. 2 look like a glorified pitch-and-putt course for the second straight day and had one thought: “If he’s going low like this, I need to get going and go low myself this afternoon.”

One would expect someone who believes he can win the U.S. Open to think that way. After all, those with experience in major championships know that 36 holes – no matter how impressive – does not make a major champion.

Compton, though, is hardly drowning in experience in majors.

This U.S. Open is the second one he has played. Four years ago he missed the cut at Pebble Beach. As he watched Kaymer’s bravura performance on Friday, Compton was a lot closer to the cut line after an opening-round 72 than he was to contending. After shooting a 2-under-par 68 in the midday heat that afternoon, he found himself tied for 14th place – a long way (10 shots) from Kaymer – but moving in the right direction.

On Saturday he will play the weekend at a major for the first time in his life.

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“It’s a step in the right direction,” Compton said late Friday after shooting a very solid 2-under-par 68. “But I’m certainly not satisfied with it. There’s more to be done.”

It’s fair to say that those five words have been Compton’s mantra for most of his life. Everyone in golf is familiar with his story. He has had two heart transplants, one at age 12, the second 16 years later after his first heart began to shut down while he was in his car at home in Miami. He drove to the hospital, convinced he was dying, and called his parents from the emergency room to say goodbye before he was taken into surgery.

Compton didn’t die that day, but he had to wait six months for a second heart transplant. Five months later, he played again on the PGA Tour, making the cut (T-60) at the Children’s Miracle Network Hospitals Classic. There was something exactly right about his return coming at a tournament with the word "miracle" in its name.

But there was still more to be done. Compton didn’t want to be the guy who survived two heart transplants and was still able to play pretty good golf when he got a sponsor’s exemption on Tour. He wanted to qualify to be a full-time player on the PGA Tour, and he wanted to win on the PGA Tour.

“I know my story is going to be something people are going to want me to talk about for the rest of my life, because it can give people going through what I’ve gone through hope,” Compton said. “I like doing that. I want to do that. But I also want people to look at me and say, ‘hey, he’s a really good player,’ too.”

In 2011, Compton won on the Tour and finished 13th on the money list to qualify for the big tour. He came up 12 spots short of keeping his card at the end of 2012 but survived the six-day grind of Q-School finals to get his card back. That may have been his most remarkable achievement, especially the closing 65, because stamina has been and always will be a concern for him.

In 2013, Compton finished T-4 at the Honda Classic and finished the season 117th on the FedEx Cup points list, meaning he was able to keep his card for this season. So far this year, at age 34, he has played his most consistent golf ever, going through a three-tournament stretch – Bay Hill, Houston and New Orleans – where he finished T-5, T-12, T-5. He’s already made $863,233 and arrived at the Open in 87th place on the FedEx Cup points list.

“I’ve learned how to pace myself better the longer I’ve been out here,” Compton said. “I know I have to save my energy for the golf tournaments. No long practice sessions – especially when it’s hot. I rarely go to the practice tee after I play like most guys do. I try to figure out exactly how much I need to see the course before a tournament. I don’t want to overdo anything.”

Compton often travels with his wife, Barbara, and their 5-year-old daughter, Petra. This week they stayed home, at least in part so he could completely focus on the task at hand.

He skipped Memphis a week ago and traveled to Pinehurst last weekend to get ready for the Open. He played a total of 27 holes over four days to get ready for his Thursday morning tee time. More and more players are practicing less prior to majors in order to be rested. The difference with Compton is he really doesn’t have a choice if he expects to get through four grinding days in the North Carolina heat.

On Friday, he arrived at the course worried as much about dealing with the heat as the golf course. “I had to remind myself to stay hydrated the entire day,” he said. “I didn’t want my energy level to fade on the back nine.”

He drank, by his unofficial count, 15 bottles of water during the five hours he was on the course and admitted afterward that he was glad the round was over. The key to the day was his putting on the front nine: he made critical up-and-downs at 5 and 6 and started to feel confident. “Actually if I had putted as well on the back nine as I did on the front it could have been 65 or 66 instead of 68,” he said. “But I’m not complaining.”

There are days when it is almost impossible for Compton to play. He deals with serious sinus headaches constantly and must take a raft of pills in the morning and even more at night. On Friday, after finishing, Compton didn’t head for the practice tee or even for a couch to put his feet up.

“I think I should probably go and get an I.V.,” he said. “More as a precaution. I feel OK, but I want to be sure I’m ready to go tomorrow.” He smiled. “Kaymer can't shoot another 65 tomorrow, right? I need to go be ready to go low – be the one to shoot 65.”

He was smiling as he spoke, but there wasn’t any doubt that he was completely serious. Making the cut was a nice step but that’s all it was. Earlier, someone had asked him how he was dealing with the combination of the heat and the pressure of a U.S. Open.

Compton shrugged. “Well,” he said. “I never quit.”

He knows there’s always more to be done.

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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.