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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Cabreras win PNC Father/Son Challenge

By Associated PressDecember 17, 2017, 11:36 pm

ORLANDO, Fla. - Angel Cabrera and Angel Cabrera Jr. closed with a 12-under 60 for a three-shot victory in their debut at the PNC Father/Son Challenge.

The Cabreras opened with a 59 at The Ritz-Carlton Golf Club and were challenged briefly by the defending champions, David Duval and Nick Karavites, in the scramble format Sunday. The Argentines went out in 30, and they had a two-shot lead with Cabrera's son came within an inch of chipping in for eagle on the final hole.

They finished at 25-under 199 for a three-shot victory over Duval and Karavites, and Bernhard Langer and Jason Langer. The Langer team won in 2014.

Mark O'Meara and Shaun O'Meara tied for fourth at 21 under with Jerry Pate and Wesley Pate.

Cabrera wasn't even in the field until two-time U.S. Open champion Curtis Strange and his son, Tom Strange, had to withdraw.

Duval and his stepson went out in 28, but the Cabreras regained control by starting the back nine with back-to-back birdies, and then making birdies on the 13th, 14th and 16th. The final birdie allowed them to tie the tournament scoring record.

''This is certain my best week of the year,'' said Cabrera, the 2009 Masters champion and 2007 U.S. Open champion at Oakmont. ''To play alongside all the legends ... as well as playing alongside my son, has been the greatest week of the year.''

The popular event is for players who have won a major championship or The Players Championship. It is a scramble format both days.

In some cases, the major champions lean on the power of their sons for the distance. O'Meara said Saturday that his ''little man'' hit it 58 yards by him on the 18th. And on Sunday, Stewart Cink said son Reagan told him after outdriving him on the opening four holes, ''In this tournament I may be your son, but right now I'm your Daddy!''

Jack Nicklaus played with his grandson, G.T. They closed with a 64 and tied for 15th in the field of 20 teams.

Rose wins; Aphibarnrat earns Masters bid in Indonesia

By Will GrayDecember 17, 2017, 1:59 pm

Justin Rose continued his recent run of dominance in Indonesia, while Kiradech Aphibarnrat snagged a Masters invite with some 72nd-hole dramatics.

Rose cruised to an eight-shot victory at the Indonesian Masters, carding bookend rounds of 10-under 62 that featured a brief run at a 59 during the final round. The Englishman was the highest-ranked player in the field and he led wire-to-wire, with Thailand's Phachara Khongwatmai finishing second.

Rose closes out the year as perhaps the hottest player in the world, with top-10 finishes in each of his final 10 worldwide starts. That stretch includes three victories, as Rose also won the WGC-HSBC Champions and Turkish Airlines Open. He hasn't finished outside the top 10 in a tournament since missing the cut at the PGA Championship.

Meanwhile, it took until the final hole of the final tournament of 2017 for Aphibarnrat to secure a return to the Masters. The Thai entered the week ranked No. 56 in the world, with the top 50 in the year-end world rankings earning invites to Augusta National. Needing an eagle on the 72nd hole, Aphibarnrat got just that to snag solo fifth place.

It means that he is projected to end the year ranked No. 49, while Japan's Yusaku Miyazato - who started the week ranked No. 58 and finished alone in fourth - is projected to finish No. 50. Aphibarnrat finished T-15 in his Masters debut in 2016, while Miyazato will make his first appearance in the spring.

The results in Indonesia mean that American Peter Uihlein and South Africa's Dylan Frittelli are projected to barely miss the year-end, top-50 cutoff. Their options for Masters qualification will include winning a full-point PGA Tour event in early 2018 or cracking the top 50 by the final March 25 cutoff.

Cabreras take 1-shot lead in Father/Son

By Associated PressDecember 16, 2017, 11:23 pm

ORLANDO, Fla. - Two-time major champion Angel Cabrera and Angel Cabrera Jr. birdied their last three holes for a 13-under 59 to take a one-shot lead Saturday in the PNC Father-Son Challenge.

Cabrera, a Masters and U.S. Open champion, is making his debut in this popular 36-hole scramble. His son said he practiced hard for 10 days. What helped put him at ease was watching his father make so many putts.

''We combined very well,'' Cabrera said. ''When I hit a bad shot, he hit a good one. That's the key.''

They had a one-shot lead over Mark O'Meara and Shaun O'Meara, who are playing for the first time. That included a birdie on the last hole, which O'Meara attributed to the strength of his son.

''My little man hit it 58 yards by me on the 18th,'' said O'Meara, the Masters and British Open champion in 1998. ''It's a little easier coming in with a 6-iron.''

Defending champions David Duval and Nick Karavites rallied over the back nine at the Ritz-Carlton Golf Club for a 61. They are trying to become the first father-son team to repeat as winners since Bernhard and Stefan Langer in 2006. Larry Nelson won two years in a row in 2007 and 2008, but with different sons.

''I'd imagine we have to break 60 tomorrow to have a chance to win, but hey, stranger things have happened,'' Duval said. ''I've even done it myself.''

Duval shot 59 at the Bob Hope Classic to win in 1999 on his way to reaching No. 1 in the world that year.

Duval and his stepson were tied with Bernhard Langer and 17-year-old Jason Langer, who made two eagles on the last five holes. This Langer tandem won in 2014.

Jack Nicklaus, playing with grandson G.T., opened with a 68.

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Woods' 2018 schedule coming into focus ... or is it?

By Golf Channel DigitalDecember 16, 2017, 5:46 pm

Two weeks after his successful return to competition at the Hero World Challenge, Tiger Woods’ 2018 schedule may be coming into focus.

Golfweek reported on Saturday that Woods hopes to play the Genesis Open in February according to an unidentified source with “direct knowledge of the situation.”

Woods’ agent Mark Steinberg declined to confirm the 14-time major champion would play the event and told that Woods – who underwent fusion surgery to his lower back in April – is still formulating his ’18 schedule.

Woods’ foundation is the host organization for the Genesis Open and the event supports the Tiger Woods Learning Center in Anaheim, Calif.

The Genesis Open would be Woods’ first start on the PGA Tour since he missed the cut last January at the Farmers Insurance Open.