Bunker Shots The Heart to Persevere

By Randall MellOctober 27, 2009, 9:33 pm

Blasting into the week ahead with Pascal, Galileo and Mozart.

With 20-year-old Rickie Fowler making a fast start on the PGA Tour, we set the week’s storylines with prodigies guiding us:

Compton and the heart to persevere

“It is incomprehensible that God should exist, and it is incomprehensible that he should not exist.” French mathematician, physicist and philosopher Blaise Pascal (1623-62).

Erik Compton is taking up the cause again.

His stubborn determination to persevere after two heart transplant surgeries resonates beyond golf.

In the world of medicine, especially the treatment of failing hearts, his story is a dose of hope doctors can point to for the therapeutic benefit of all their patients.

Who knows the recoveries Compton may assist with the newest run he has started at PGA Tour Q-School?

On Sunday morning, a day after he tore through the first-stage qualifier at PGA Golf Club in Port St. Lucie, Fla., Compton cuddled with his wife and baby daughter on the couch of their Miami Beach condo and counted his blessings.

“It’s like a rebirth of golf and life,” Compton said. “Something’s going on, and it’s not my doing. For some reason, God’s blessed me.”

It was two years ago that Compton nearly died of a heart attack, surviving only because he was at home in a hospital emergency room when the heart transplant he received as a 12-year-old began to fail. Almost 18 months ago, he had a second heart transplant. A year ago, he made it through the first stage of Q-School with his new heart before missing out at second stage by a single shot. Nine months ago, his wife, Barbara, gave birth to their first child, Petra. Today, they’re packing up their condo after closing on the purchase of their first home in nearby Coral Gables.

After blistering PGA Golf Club’s Wanamaker Course with rounds of 68, 67, 65 and 66 to win medalist honors by seven shots at Port St. Lucie, Compton takes terrific momentum to second stage.

Compton was among 154 players who advanced through seven first-stage qualifiers last week. Six more first-stage qualifiers are scheduled this week with Jamie Lovemark, fresh off his runner-up finish at the Frys.Com Open, scheduled to tee it up Tuesday at Pinewild Country Club in Pinehurst, N.C. Rickie Fowler was scheduled to tee it up at Lantana (Texas) Golf Club but his tie for second at the Frys.com Open earned him enough money in his first two PGA Tour starts as a pro to exempt him into Q-School’s second stage.

Compton is signed up to play second stage at Southern Hills Plantation Club in Brooksville, Fla., Nov. 18-21. He turns 30 a week before teeing it up. It’s going to be a special birthday because he feels as if he’s lived at least three lives already.

“I can’t believe how blessed I am, how things have worked out,” Compton said. “When I had the heart attack, it could have been on a plane. But here I am, two years later, shooting 22 under par and able to pursue something I’ve dreamed of doing my whole life.”

Compton’s torrid play last week was impressive considering it was his first tournament since he played the Memorial on a sponsor’s exemption more than four months ago. After returning home from that event, Compton was fishing with friends in the Everglades. While helping pull a boat back onto a trailer, the hand crank unhinged and broke Compton’s right hand. He didn’t touch a golf club for nine weeks. He was supposed to go 10 weeks in a cast, but he impatiently sawed the cast off a week early.

“My wrist looked so thin when I took the cast off,” Compton said. “I started playing tennis, and that helped a lot in building it back up.”

Compton said even the accident seemed inspired.

“It was a chance to be around Petra and help out Barbara,” Compton said. “That was a blessing.”

Compton’s blessings are shared like medicine. In his first emergence in golf, when he rose to become the No. 1 junior in the nation, Compton understood how fortunate he was, but he didn’t see the larger role his profile gave him as clearly as he does now. His mother, Eli, is the executive director of the Transplant Foundation at the University of Miami, an organization devoted to helping transplant patients and their families with financial and emotional support. Ten years after she slept on the floor at the foot of Erik's hospital bed following his first heart transplant, Eli helped open the Transplant House, rooms on the UM campus for families of patients undergoing transplants.

“Growing up, Erik didn't want to be the 'transplant kid,' ' Eli said. 'He understood, 'Yes, I'm a miracle,' but he wanted golf to be his great achievement. He wanted the transplant to be a footnote to that.'

Eli sees Erik taking up the greater cause in his golf now. He isn’t just a spokesman for the Transplant Foundation. He’s helped counsel other heart transplant recipients who want to know that a better life is possible, who want the hope Erik’s life offers.

“Waking up in intensive care this last [surgery], with all these tubes coming in and out of him, with all these monitors beeping, in that time when you're first trying to bring your mind and body back, it was very tough on him,' Eli said. 'At one point, he was bent over, really struggling to support himself, or move, and he says, 'I can't believe I've put myself through this again.' It was one of those moments when it's so bad, you don't think it's worth it, but it was a short moment. When your mind and body do come back, you realize how happy you are to be alive.'

Surviving moments like that makes Compton’s story special to every heart patient frightened about the future. It makes Compton feel a sense of purpose beyond shooting low scores.

Daly, Duval and Fowler gear up for Viking Classic

“I never ask a man what his business is, for it never interests me. What I ask him about are his thoughts and dreams.” American author H.P. Lovecraft (1890-1937), who recited poetry at 2 and wrote long poems at 5.

For an event that doesn’t feature a player among the top 30 in the Official World Golf Ranking, the Viking Classic at Annandale Golf Club in Madison, Miss., offers compelling possibilities for weekend drama.

John Daly, 43, coming back from a rib injury, is making his first start since the Wyndham Championship two months ago. David Duval, 37, arrives as a bubble boy, No. 125 on the money list. Rickie Fowler, 20, tees it up as a rising young pro full of possibility after losing in a playoff at the Frys.com Open last weekend and tying for seventh the week before at the Justin Timberlake Shriners Hospitals for Childrens Open in his first two PGA Tour starts as a pro.

Fowler’s earnings moved him inside what the top 150 money winners made last season, giving him special temporary Tour membership and exempting him to second stage of Q-School. If he stays within the top 150 of this year’s money list, he will be exempt to final stage. If he moves among the top 125 at season’s end, he will be exempt for next year.

The last time Duval and Daly were both inside the top 50 in the world rankings was July 14, 2002. Fowler was 13 years old. In his two PGA Tour starts as a pro, Fowler (No. 265) already ranks ahead of Daly (No. 439) and is gaining fast on Duval (No. 176).

Allenby vs. Kim: The rematch?

“Actions are right in proportion as they tend to promote happiness; wrong as they tend to produce the reverse of happiness. By happiness is intended pleasure and the absence of pain.” English philosopher/economist John Stuart Mill (1806-1873).

Three weeks after the controversial aftermath of their Presidents Cup match, Robert Allenby and Anthony Kim could meet again. They’re among 16 players competing at the Volvo World Match Play Championship at Finca Cortesin Golf Club in Casares, Spain.

Allenby created a storm when he said Kim beat him at Harding Park after spending nearly the entire night out and then coming home “sideways.” Kim denied he was out late and Allenby apologized.

Under a new format, the Volvo World Match Play field will be divided into four groups (Groups A through D). A round robin on Thursday and Friday will determine who advances from each group to the semifinals. Kim is in Group A with Paul Casey, Retief Goosen and Scott Strange. Allenby is in Group B with Sergio Garcia, Martin Kaymer and Oliver Wilson. If Allenby and Kim advance from their groups, they’ll meet in the semifinals on Saturday.

Group C is made up of Henrik Stenson, Rory McIlroy, Angel Cabrera and Simon Dyson. Group D is comprised of Lee Westwood, Camilo Villegas, Ross Fisher and Jeev Milkha Singh.

Long, lost LPGA storyline re-emerges

“Neither a lofty degree of intelligence nor imagination nor both together go to the making of genius. Love, love, love, that is the soul of genius.” Austrian Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart (1756-91).

Out of sight, out of mind, pretty much sums up the plight of the LPGA through most of October.

The tour resumes action after three weeks off with the Hana Bank-Kolon Championship beginning Friday in South Korea. Jiyai Shin’s the big story in her return home. After winning the Japan LPGA event last week, she takes momentum into her stretch-run bid to become the first player to win LPGA Rookie of the Year and Player of the Year awards in the same season since Nancy Lopez in 1978. She leads in points in both award categories. Lorena Ochoa, ranked No. 1 in the world, is in the field and bidding to extend her streak of Player of the Year awards to four consecutive. Just three events remain in the season after this week.

Hall of Fame to grow by four

“I've loved the stars too fondly to be fearful of the night.” Italy’s Galileo Galilei (1564-1642), the father of modern science.

The World Golf Hall of Fame’s membership grows to 130 Monday with the inductions of former U.S. President Dwight D. Eisenhower, Ireland’s Christy O’Connor, Spain’s Jose Maria Olazabal and American Lanny Wadkins at the World Golf Village in St. Augustine, Fla.

Arnold Palmer will present Eisenhower for his posthumous induction, Christy O’Connor Jr. will present his uncle and CBS announcer Jim Nantz will do the honors for Wadkins. Seve Ballesteros will appear via video to present Olazabal.

Champions Tour to crown season’s winner

“Art washes away from the soul the dust of everyday life.” Spanish painter and sculptor Pablo Picasso (1881-1973).

The Champions Tour season ends with the Charles Schwab Cup Championship Thursday through Sunday deciding the winner of the season-long points race at Sonoma (Calif.) Golf Club. A $1 million annuity goes to the winner of the Charles Schwab Cup. With double points up for grabs, four players have a chance to claim the big prize: Loren Roberts, Fred Funk, Bernhard Langer and Jay Haas. 

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Garcia 2 back in weather-delayed Singapore Open

By Associated PressJanuary 20, 2018, 3:06 pm

SINGAPORE - Danthai Boonma and Chapchai Nirat built a two-stroke lead over a chasing pack that includes Sergio Garcia and Ryo Ishikawa midway through the third round of the weather-interrupted Singapore Open on Saturday.

The Thai golfers were locked together at 9 under when play was suspended at the Sentosa Golf Club for the third day in a row because of lightning strikes in the area.

Masters champion Garcia and former teen prodigy Ishikawa were among seven players leading the chase at 7 under on a heavily congested leaderboard.

Garcia, one of 78 players who returned to the course just after dawn to complete their second rounds, was on the 10th hole of his third round when the warning siren was sounded to abruptly end play for the day.

''Let's see if we can finish the round, that will be nice,'' he said. ''But I think if I can play 4-under I should have a chance.''

The Spanish golfer credits the Singapore Open as having played a part in toughening him up for his first major championship title at Augusta National because of the stifling humidity of southeast Asia and the testing stop-start nature of the tournament.

Full-field scores from the Singapore Open

Although he finished tied for 11th in Singapore in 2017, Garcia won the Dubai Desert Classic the subsequent week and was in peak form when he won the Masters two months later. He is feeling confident of his chances of success this weekend.

''I felt like I hit the ball OK,'' Garcia said. ''My putting and all went great but my speed hasn't been great on this green so let's see if I can be a little more aggressive on the rounds this weekend.''

Ishikawa moved into a share of the lead at the halfway stage after firing a second round of 5-under 66 that featured eight birdies. He birdied the first two holes of his third round to grab the outright lead but slipped back with a double-bogey at the tricky third hole for the third day in a row. He dropped another shot at the par-5 sixth when he drove into a fairway bunker.

''It was a short night but I had a good sleep and just putted well,'' Ishikawa said. The ''greens are a little quicker than yesterday but I still figured (out) that speed.

Ishikawa was thrust into the spotlight more than a decade ago. In 2007, he became the youngest player to win on any of the major tours in the world. He was a 15-year-old amateur when he won the Munsingwear Open KSB Cup.

He turned pro at 16, first played in the Masters when he was 17 and the Presidents Cup when he was 18. He shot 58 in the final round to win The Crowns in Japan when he was 19.

Now 26, Ishikawa has struggled with injuries and form in recent years. He lost his PGA Tour card and hasn't played in any of the majors since 2015. He has won 15 times as a professional, but has never won outside his homeland of Japan.

Chapchai was able to sleep in and put his feet up on Saturday morning after he completed his second round on Friday.

He bogeyed the third but reeled off three birdies in his next four holes to reach 9-under with the back nine still to play.

Danthai was tied for 12th at the halfway stage but charged into a share of the lead with seven birdies in the first 15 holes of his penultimate round.

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McIlroy (65) one back in Abu Dhabi through 54

By Randall MellJanuary 20, 2018, 1:09 pm

Rory McIlroy moved into position to send a powerful message in his first start of the new year at the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship.

Closing out with back-to-back birdies Saturday, McIlroy posted a 7-under-par 65, leaving him poised to announce his return to golf in spectacular fashion after a winless year in 2017.

McIlroy heads into Sunday just a single shot behind the leaders, Thomas Pieters (67) and Ross Fisher (65), who are at 17-under overall at Abu Dhabi Golf Club.

Making his first start after taking three-and-a-half months off to regroup from an injury-riddled year, McIlroy is looking sharp in his bid to win for the first time in 16 months. He chipped in for birdie from 50 feet at the 17th on Saturday and two-putted from 60 feet for another birdie to finish his round.

Full-field scores from the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship

McIlroy took 50 holes before making a bogey in Abu Dhabi. He pushed his tee shot into a greenside bunker at the 15th, where he left a delicate play in the bunker, then barely blasted his third out before holing a 15-footer for bogey.

McIlroy notably opened the tournament playing alongside world No. 1 Dustin Johnson, who started the new year winning the PGA Tour’s Sentry Tournament of Champions in Hawaii in an eight-shot rout just two weeks ago. McIlroy was grouped in the first two rounds with Johnson and Tommy Fleetwood, the European Tour’s Player of the Year last season. McIlroy sits ahead of both of them going into the final round, with Johnson (68) tied for 12th, five shots back, and Fleetwood (67) tied for fourth, two shots back.

Those first two rounds left McIlroy feeling good about his off season work.

“That proves I’m back to full fitness and 100 percent health,” he said going into Saturday. “DJ is definitely the No. 1 player in the world right now and of, if not the best, drivers of the golf ball, and to be up there with him over the first two days proves to me I’m doing the right things and gives me confidence.”

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Monty grabs lead entering final round in season-opener

By Associated PressJanuary 20, 2018, 4:00 am

KAILUA-KONA, Hawaii – Colin Montgomerie shot a second straight 7-under 65 to take a two-shot lead into the final round of the Mitsubishi Electric Championship, the season opener on the PGA Tour Champions.

The 54-year-old Scot, a six-time winner on the over-50 tour, didn't miss a fairway on Friday and made five birdies on the back nine to reach 14 under at Hualalai.

Montgomerie has made 17 birdies through 36 holes and said he will have to continue cashing in on his opportunities.

''We know that I've got to score something similar to what I've done – 66, 67, something like that, at least,'' Montgomerie said. ''You know the competition out here is so strong that if you do play away from the pins, you'll get run over. It's tough, but hey, it's great.''

Full-field scores from the Mitsubishi Electric Championship

First-round co-leaders Gene Sauers and Jerry Kelly each shot 68 and were 12 under.

''I hit the ball really well. You know, all the putts that dropped yesterday didn't drop today,'' Kelly said. ''I was just short and burning edges. It was good putting again. They just didn't go in.''

David Toms was three shots back after a 66. Woody Austin, Mark Calcavecchia and Doug Garwood each shot 67 and were another shot behind.

Bernhard Langer, defending the first of his seven 2017 titles, was six shots back after a 67.

The limited-field tournament on Hawaii's Big Island includes last season's winners, past champions of the event, major champions and Hall of Famers.

''We've enjoyed ourselves thoroughly here,'' Montgomerie said. ''It's just a dramatic spot, isn't it? If you don't like this, well, I'm sorry, take a good look in the mirror, you know?''

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The missing link: Advice from successful tour pros

By Phil BlackmarJanuary 20, 2018, 1:24 am

Today’s topic is significant in that it underscores the direction golf is headed, a direction that has me a little concerned.

Now, more than ever, it has become the norm for PGA Tour players to put together a team to assist in all aspects of their career. These teams can typically include the player’s swing coach, mental coach, manager, workout specialist, dietician, physical therapist, short-game guru, doctor, accountant, nanny and wife. Though it often concerns me the player may be missing out when others are making decisions for them, that is not the topic.

I want to talk about what most players seem to be inexplicably leaving off their teams.

One of the things that separates great players from the rest of the pack – other than talent – is the great player’s ability to routinely stay comfortable and play with focus and clarity in all situations. Though innate to many, this skill is trainable and can be learned. Don’t get too excited, the details of such a plan are too long and more suited for a book than the short confines of this article.

So, if that aspect of the game is so important, where is the representative on the player’s team who has stood on the 18th tee with everything on the line? Where is the representative on the team who has experienced, over and over, what the player will be experiencing? In other words, where is the successful former tour player on the team?

You look to tennis and many players have such a person on their team. These teacher/mentors include the likes of Boris Becker, Ivan Lendl, Jimmy Connors and Brad Gilbert. Why is it not the norm in golf?

Sure, a few players have sought out the advice of Jack Nicklaus, but he’s not part of a team. The teaching ranks also include some former players like Butch Harmon and a few others. But how many teams include a player who has contended in a major, let alone won one or more?

I’m not here to argue the value and knowledge of all the other coaches who make up a player’s team. But how can the value of a successful tour professional be overlooked? If I’m going to ask someone what I should do in various situations on the course, I would prefer to include the experienced knowledge of players who have been there themselves.

This leads me to the second part of today’s message. Is there a need for the professional players to mix with professional teachers to deliver the best and most comprehensive teaching philosophy to average players? I feel there is.

Most lessons are concerned with changing the student’s swing. Often, this is done with little regard for how it feels to the student because the teacher believes the information is correct and more important than the “feels” of the student. “Stick with it until it’s comfortable” is often the message. This directive methodology was put on Twitter for public consumption a short time back:

On the other hand, the professional player is an expert at making a score and understands the intangible side of the game. The intangible side says: “Mechanics cannot stand alone in making a good player.” The intangible side understands “people feel things differently”; ask Jim Furyk to swing like Dustin Johnson, or vice versa. This means something that looks good to us may not feel right to someone else.

The intangible side lets us know that mechanics and feels must walk together in order for the player to succeed. From Ben Hogan’s book:

“What I have learned I have learned by laborious trial and error, watching a good player do something that looked right to me, stumbling across something that felt right to me, experimenting with that something to see if it helped or hindered, adopting it if it helped, refining it sometimes, discarding it if it didn’t help, sometimes discarding it later if it proved undependable in competition, experimenting continually with new ideas and old ideas and all manner of variations until I arrived at a set of fundamentals that appeared to me to be right because they accomplished a very definite purpose, a set of fundamentals which proved to me they were right because they stood up and produced under all kinds of pressure.”

Hogan beautifully described the learning process that could develop the swings of great players like DJ, Furyk, Lee Trevino, Jordan Spieth, Nicklaus, etc.

Bob Toski is still teaching. Steve Elkington is helping to bring us the insight of Jackie Burke. Hal Sutton has a beautiful teaching facility outside of Houston. And so on. Just like mechanics and feels, it’s not either-or – the best message comes from both teachers and players.

Lately, it seems the scale has swung more to one side; let us not forget the value of insights brought to us by the players who have best mastered the game.