When fog marched across TPC Stonebrae for the second time on Sunday Erik Compton was on the par-5 ninth hole eyeing a birdie putt and an opportunity every professional dreams of – a chance to win a tournament on the back nine on Sunday.
Moments later officials blew the horn on Compton’s chances and the fourth round of the Nationwide Tour’s Fresh Express Classic, cancelling the closing 18 and reverting to the 54-hole scoreboard which was topped by Daniel Chopra.
Compton – who said he was two behind Chopra, who was struggling at Stonebrae’s eighth hole at the time – wasn’t disappointed he didn’t win the event, only that he didn’t have the chance to win.
“I was a little disappointed the tournament finished that way, that’s what we live for – the back nine to have a chance,” Compton said early Monday from Ft. Lauderdale (Fla.) airport where he was fresh off a “redeye” from California. “It’s like a teacher has this final exam, and says you can’t answer these really hard questions at the end.”
Nationwide Tour regulations do not allow a final round to be started that can’t be completed on a Sunday because of the logistics of moving from one tournament to the next. That the secondary circuit does not have another scheduled event until the last week of April was not a consideration.
Had half the field finished their final rounds before fog swamped the course on Sunday the event would have been pushed to Monday, but because they were about an hour away from that threshold Chopra was crowned the champion.
Even without the closing-nine “exam,” Compton was pleased with his play (T-4 after rounds of 76-71-64) as well as the start to his season. Although he ballooned to a closing 75 he finished tied for fourth at the season-opening Panama Championship and he Monday qualified for the Northern Trust Open and finished tied for 25th.
“Legitimately it’s taken me three years to be strong enough to be competitive for four days,” said the two-time heart transplant recipient. “I stopped working on my swing after (his second) transplant and started working on the mental side of the game. Now, I just try to hit the ball solid. At this level if I haven’t figured it out I never will.”