Compton has guts, but don't overlook his skills

By Rex HoggardJune 16, 2014, 1:42 am

PINEHURST, N.C. – Don’t believe the clichés.

Erik Compton lost the 114th U.S. Open and he wasn’t happy about that. Working on his third heart and borrowed time, it’s easy to dismiss the here and now for the view from 30,000 feet, and the 34-year-old certainly has enough perspective to fill one of Pinehurst’s roomy fairway bunkers.

But to sugarcoat his major miss is a disservice to the player if not the patient.

“I finished second in a major championship and I feel like I played some of my best golf,” Compton said following his closing 72 at Pinehurst. “But there was still, I missed a lot of putts and if I had the putter rolling this week I could have been close to catching him.”

For a competitor like Compton, there is little consolation in runner-up finishes, which is better known in U.S. Open circles as the Phil Mickelson flight.

Compton is a fighter, a survivor and, above all, an intense competitor. You don’t endure two heart transplants and a doctor’s diagnosis following your second surgery that you would never play golf again without a fair amount of stubbornness.

“He’s been through a lot, but this is different. People say he’s been through a heart transplant twice and that this (the U.S. Open) isn’t going to be anything. That’s not true. He feels the way anybody would,” said Jim McLean, Compton’s swing coach since he was 12.

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There is plenty of perspective and it comes free of charge with all those bandages and baggage. You don’t make phone calls like the one Compton made back in the summer of ’08 without having a perfect Vardon grip on reality.

McLean remembers the day he was enjoying a San Diego Padres game in ’08 when his phone buzzed.

“I saw it was Erik and I answered it and he said, ‘The (second heart donor) died. They are flying the heart down and they are doing the transplant tonight,’ ” an emotional McLean said as he trailed Compton early in his final round on Sunday. “It was quite a call to get. He said, ‘I just wanted to say goodbye just in case.’ ”

It was the same moxie that had driven the 12-year-old Compton to the practice tee after he’d been given his first second chance at life in 1992. When Compton arrived at McLean’s golf school he was 240 pounds because of all the steroids he was taking and only able to execute half-shots with a compact swing.

He would go on to become the nation’s top-ranked junior and star on the University of Georgia’s golf team. The PGA Tour, however, remained elusive, with cameos in Canada, Europe and on the secondary Tour before his second heart hit its shelf life in 2007 and he suffered a near-fatal heart attack.

He waited on the donor list for months before a matching heart could be found and the second procedure was debilitating.

“He was dying. He was really bad,” McLean said. “You wouldn’t believe it. If you saw him after I saw him, about 10 days after the operation he said, ‘Come here, I want to show you.’ He took his shirt off and showed me. It was unreal.”

Doctors told Compton he’d never play golf again and he said all the right things. He and McLean even took a walk one day around the hospital to talk alternate career choices. Not surprisingly it was a short list – fishing.

But as massive scars turned from red to a deep purple Compton began tinkering with the same abbreviated swing he’d perfected all those years earlier, and in 2012 he earned his first trip to the Tour.

Last year he kept his card, advancing to the second FedEx Cup Playoff event and was honored with the PGA Tour’s Courage Award. But this week, this major was different.

After so much adversity, so many distractions and pedestrian play he advanced through sectional qualifying to earn a spot at Pinehurst, enduring a five-for-three playoff that stretched what is already a long day into a 38-hole marathon.

“Long days for me you can feel it in my chest,” Compton told your scribe in darkness at the qualifier. “You can see me all day like that (holding his shaking hand out).”

Because of his suppressed immune system he has struggled lately with allergies and weakness. At the Memorial Tournament he started losing his hearing in his left ear.

Pinehurst, where temperatures hovered near 90 degrees all week, would test his mind, body and swing.

“People don’t know the medicine he takes every day,” McLean said. “The heart rate goes up under pressure. He’s got a much bigger hill to climb than most people.”

But Compton endured. He always does, opening with rounds of 72-68-67 to begin the final round five strokes behind a German on a misson.

He didn’t have his best stuff on Sunday and hit the metaphorical wall on the closing nine with bogeys at Nos. 11, 12 and 15, but he scrambled at the last for a par to secure his runner-up showing, a spot in next year’s Masters and the undisputed title as the crowd’s rooting favorite.

“I’ve been on my back twice and I never thought I would ever leave the house,” Compton said. “Now, I just finished second at the U.S. Open, which I don’t think anybody would have ever thought I would do that, not even myself.”

On Saturday night Compton was asked what he would do if he won his national championship and he figured he would sail off and never play golf again. Luckily for his growing legion of fans there is still work to be done.

“We promised him with a new heart there would be new life,” said Compton’s mother, Eli. “We told him, ‘Once you get a new heart you’re going to be a champion.’ ”

Even without the big silver trophy perched next to him on Sunday it was clear he already is a champion.


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Perez skips Torrey, 'upset' with Ryder Cup standings

By Will GrayJanuary 24, 2018, 2:19 am

Pat Perez is unhappy about his standing on the U.S. Ryder Cup points list, and his situation won't improve this week.

Perez won the CIMB Classic during the fall portion of this season, and he followed that with a T-5 finish at the inaugural CJ Cup. But he didn't receive any Ryder Cup points for either result because of a rule enacted by the American task force prior to the 2014 Ryder Cup which only awards points during the calendar year of the biennial matches as well as select events like majors and WGCs during the prior year.

As a result, Perez is currently 17th in the American points race - behind players like Patrick Reed, Zach Johnson, Bill Haas and James Hahn, none of whom have won a tournament since the 2016 Ryder Cup - as he looks to make a U.S. squad for the first time at age 42.

"That kind of upset me a little bit, the fact that I'm (17) on the list, but I should probably be (No.) 3 or 4," Perez told Golf Digest. "So it kind of put a bitter taste in my mouth. The fact that you win on the PGA Tour and you beat some good players, yet you don't get any points because of what our committee has decided to do."

Perez won't be earning any points this week because he has opted to tee it up at the European Tour's Omega Dubai Desert Classic. The decision comes after Perez finished T-21 last week at the Singapore Open, and it means that the veteran is missing the Farmers Insurance Open in his former hometown of San Diego for the first time since 2001.

Perez went to high school a few minutes from Torrey Pines, and he defeated a field that included Tiger Woods to win the junior world title on the South Course in 1993. His father, Tony, has been a longtime starter on the tournament's opening hole, and Perez was a runner-up in 2014 and tied for fourth last year.

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Woods favored to miss Farmers Insurance Open cut

By Will GrayJanuary 24, 2018, 1:54 am

If the Las Vegas bookmakers are to be believed, folks in the San Diego area hoping to see Tiger Woods this week might want to head to Torrey Pines early.

Woods is making his first competitive start of the year this week at the Farmers Insurance Open, and it will be his first official start on the PGA Tour since last year's event. He missed nearly all of 2017 because of a back injury before returning with a T-9 finish last month at the Hero World Challenge.

But the South Course at Torrey Pines is a far different test than Albany, and the Westgate Las Vegas SuperBook lists Woods as a -180 favorite to miss the 36-hole cut. It means bettors must wager $180 to win $100, while his +150 odds to make the cut mean a bettor can win $150 with a $100 wager.

Woods is listed at 25/1 to win. He won the tournament for the seventh time in 2013, but in three appearances since he has missed the 36-hole cut, missed the 54-hole cut and withdrawn after 12 holes.

Here's a look at the various Woods-related prop bets available at the Westgate:

Will Woods make the 36-hole cut? Yes +150, No -180

Lowest single-round score (both courses par 72): Over/Under 70

Highest single-round score: Over/Under 74.5

Will Woods finish inside the top 10? Yes +350, No -450

Will Woods finish inside the top 20? Yes +170, No -200

Will Woods withdraw during the tournament? Yes +650, No -1000

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Monahan buoyed by Tour's sponsor agreements

By Rex HoggardJanuary 24, 2018, 12:27 am

SAN DIEGO – Farmers Insurance announced on Tuesday at Torrey Pines a seven-year extension of the company’s sponsorship of the Southern California PGA Tour event. This comes on the heels of Sony extending its sponsorship of the year’s first full-field event in Hawaii through 2022.

Although these might seem to be relatively predictable moves, considering the drastic makeover of the Tour schedule that will begin with the 2018-19 season, it is a telling sign of the confidence corporations have in professional golf.

“It’s a compliment to our players and the value that the sponsors are achieving,” Tour commissioner Jay Monahan said.

Monahan said that before 2014 there were no 10-year title sponsorship agreements in place. Now there are seven events sponsored for 10-years, and another five tournaments that have agreements in place of at least seven years.

“What it means is, it gives organizations like the Century Club [which hosts this week’s Farmers Insurance Open], when you have that level of stability on a long-term basis that allows you to invest in your product, to grow interest and to grow the impact of it,” Monahan said. “You experienced what this was like in 2010 or seen other tournaments that you don’t know what the future is.S o to go out and sell and inspire a community and you can’t state that we have a long-term agreement it’s more difficult.”

Events like this year’s Houston Open, Colonial in Fort Worth, Texas, and The National all currently don’t have title sponsors – although officials at Colonial are confident they can piece together a sponsorship package. But even that is encouraging to Monahan considering the uncertainty surrounding next season’s schedule, which will include the PGA Championship moving to May and The Players to March as well as a pre-Labor Day finish to the season.

“When you look back historically to any given year [the number of events needing sponsors] is lower than the typical average,” Monahan said. “As we start looking to a new schedule next year, you get excited about a great schedule with a great group of partners.”

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Day WDs from Farmers pro-am because of sore back

By Golf Channel DigitalJanuary 24, 2018, 12:07 am

SAN DIEGO – Jason Day has withdrawn from the Wednesday pro-am at the Farmers Insurance Open, citing a sore back.

Day, the 2015 champion, played a practice round with Tiger Woods and Bryson DeChambeau on Tuesday at Torrey Pines, and he is still expected to play in the tournament.

Day was replaced in the pro-am by Whee Kim. 

Making his first start since the Australian Open in November, Day is scheduled to tee off at 1:30 p.m. ET Thursday alongside Jon Rahm and Brandt Snedeker.