Compton, Pfeifer inspire each other, impact many more

By Jason SobelJanuary 26, 2015, 1:48 pm

It was just after 10 a.m. on Saturday when the Army veteran amputee sidled up to the two-time heart transplant recipient. A chilly breeze floating through the air, the sun yet to fully warm up the Nicklaus Private Course at PGA West, this seemed as good a time as any for a moment of truth between the two.

“I appreciate what you’ve done,” the amputee said. “Hearing your story and stories like yours are inspiring for me. You’re an inspiration for me and an example for me to set my goals.”

“Thank you,” the transplant recipient replied, considering their separate journeys to this point. “I had time to heal. You didn’t.”

If the fourth green during a pro-am doesn’t sound like a fitting place for a meeting of this mutual inspiration society, then you don’t know Chad Pfeifer and Erik Compton.

The 35-year-old Compton underwent his first heart transplant when he was 12 years old; his second came 16 years later. Though his story has been widely told, it never fails to amaze. Compton was on his deathbed – twice. He’s not only lived, he’s thrived, working his way up through the developmental tours to become a top-level player. Last year he finished in a share of second place at the U.S. Open, the best result of his career.

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Pfeifer, 33, is seeking a similar endgame. On April 12, 2007, while serving in the Army during the Iraq War, a buried explosive was triggered beneath the ground’s surface. His left leg would soon be amputated. While in a Texas hospital, a friend suggested he take up golf as part of the recovery process. He’d never played before. That was seven years ago. He’s now a professional, with an eye toward someday becoming a PGA Tour regular.

And so when the amputee found himself standing beside the transplant recipient during a brief moment of downtime in the Humana Challenge’s third round, he felt the need to point out their connection.

“I don’t know if it took him by surprise a little bit or he wasn’t expecting it,” Pfeifer recalls. “But I could tell he was thankful that I would say something like that.”

They don’t keep records for things like this, but it’s difficult to believe there have ever been two more inspirational golfers in the same foursome.

When he’s not playing or practicing, Pfeifer’s work often includes encouraging fellow wounded veterans. His words, though, are as much an advertisement for golf as motivational monologue.

“Golf saved my life,” he says. “I was introduced to golf when I was going through therapy. There were a lot of days before I was introduced to golf that most of the guys go through – depression and darker days, when you’re not sure how life is going to be. Golf was the one thing at the time that just kept me looking forward to the next day and kept me positive. I could always look forward to my next time playing. In all honesty, golf itself was my biggest form of therapy.”

Compton similarly understands inspiring others through the game. Two days after that U.S. Open runner-up finish, he found himself at Hartford Hospital, speaking with patients awaiting transplants.

This wasn’t some photo op on the heels of his impressive week. It was just another in a long line of hospital visits that he’s been doing for years. When one woman bemoaned having a window in her room because it was a constant reminder of an outside world she couldn’t experience, the room fell silent. Only Compton knew the right words to say, pointing to that window as encouragement toward returning to full health.

If anyone knows about inspiration, it’s him – but standing on that fourth green, he was the one being inspired.

Just after Pfeifer lipped out for a natural eagle, settling for birdie to quickly move to 2 under for the day, Compton joked about whether he was a tournament competitor rather than just part of the pro-am portion.

“I [was] kind of speechless, because I see him with a huge adversity that he's gone through and it speaks volumes,” says Compton.

“I’ve never been in a group where you have two players who have been through so much,” adds John Rollins, who was Pfeifer’s partner this day. “Just enjoying the game and everything that they have.”

If any golfer ever gets too angry about a wayward tee shot or a missed putt, he can simply look at these respective stories to help alter that attitude.

“My big deal is trying to inspire wounded veterans and people with disabilities,” says Pfeifer, “but if I can impact PGA Tour players to have some perspective and have a little fun with it, that would be great. I would like for my story and Erik’s story to have an impact on these guys, as well.”

One day after they played together, the amputee watched the transplant recipient contend for his first career title. He came close, at one point holding sole possession of the lead, but eventually finishing in 10th place. What he lost in tangible results, though, he might have made up for in inspiration. Not that they keep records for things like this.

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M. Jutanugarn eyeing first win with L.A. Open lead

By Associated PressApril 21, 2018, 1:50 am

LOS ANGELES - Moriya Jutanugarn took the lead into the weekend at the Hugel-JTBC L.A. Open in her latest bid to join younger sister Ariya as an LPGA winner.

Moriya Jutanugarn shot a bogey-free 5-under 66 on Friday at Wilshire Country Club to get to 8-under 134 in the LPGA Tour's first event in Los Angeles since 2005. The 23-year-old from Thailand started fast with birdies on the par-5 second, par-4 third and par-3 fourth and added two more on the par-4 11th and par-5 13th.

Ariya Jutanugarn has seven LPGA victories.

Marina Alex was second after a 68.

Full-field scores from the Hugel-JTBC Open

So Yeon Ryu was 6 under after a 69, and fellow South Korean players Inbee Park(71) and Eun-Hee Ji (69). Park was the first-round leader at 66. Lexi Thompsonwas 3 under after a 71.

Top-ranked Shanshan Feng followed her opening 74 with a 67 to get to 1 under.

Ariya Jutanugarn (71) was even par, and Michelle Wie (70) was 1 over. Brooke Henderson, the Canadian star who won last week in Hawaii, had a 79 to miss the cut.

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Garcia tosses driver, misses Valero cut

By Will GrayApril 21, 2018, 1:00 am

It wasn't quite to the level of his watery meltdown earlier this month at the Masters, but Sergio Garcia still got frustrated during the second round of the Valero Texas Open - and his driver paid the price.

Garcia had a hand in redesigning the AT&T Oaks Course along with Greg Norman several years ago, but this marked his first return to TPC San Antonio since 2010. After an opening-round 74, Garcia arrived to the tee of the short par-4 fifth hole and decided to get aggressive with driver in hand.

When his shot sailed well left, a heated Garcia chucked the club deep into the bushes that lined the tee box:

It took considerable effort for Garcia to find and retrieve the club amid the branches, and once he did things only got worse. He appeared to shank a chip once he got up to his ball, leading to a bogey on one of the easiest holes on a demanding track.

Garcia closed out his round with four straight pars, and at 2 over he eventually missed the cut by a shot. It marks the first time he has missed consecutive cuts on the PGA Tour since 2003, when he sat out the weekend at the AT&T Byron Nelson, Fort Worth Invitational and Memorial Tournament in successive weeks.

Garcia entered the week ranked No. 10 in the world, and he was the only top-20 player among the 156-man field. He missed the cut at the Masters in defense of his title after carding an octuple-bogey 13 on the 15th hole during the opening round.

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Johnson, Moore co-lead Valero Texas Open through 36

By Associated PressApril 21, 2018, 1:00 am

SAN ANTONIO - Zach Johnson was going nowhere in the Valero Texas Open when it all changed with one putt.

He made an 8-foot par putt on the 13th hole of the opening round to stay at 2 under. He followed with a big drive, a hybrid into 12 feet and an eagle. Johnson was on his way, and he kept right on going Friday to a 7-under 65 and a share of the 36-hole lead with Ryan Moore.

''You just never know. That's the beauty of this game,'' Johnson said. ''I felt like I was hitting some solid shots and wasn't getting rewarded, and you've just got to stay in it. You've got to persevere, grind it out, fight for pars. You just never know.''

Moore had three birdies over his last five holes for a 67 and joined Johnson at 9-under 135.

They had a one-shot lead over Grayson Murray (69) and Andrew Landry (67).

Ben Crane (66), Martin Laird (65) and David Hearn (68) were three shots behind. Billy Horschel and Keegan Bradley shot 71 and were four shots behind at 5-under 139.

Full-field scores from the Valero Texas Open

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Sergio Garcia, who consulted Greg Norman on the design of the AT&T Oaks Course at the TPC San Antonio, had a short stay in his first time at the Texas Open since 2010. Garcia shot an even-par 72, and at one point became so frustrated he threw his driver into the shrubs.

Garcia finished at 2-over 146 and missed the cut.

It was the first time since 2010 that Garcia missed the cut in successive starts. That was the PGA Championship and, 10 weeks later, the Castello Masters in Spain. This time, he missed the cut in the Masters and Texas Open three weeks apart.

Johnson, a two-time winner of the Texas Open, appeared to be headed to a short week until the key par save on the 13th hole, followed by his eagle, par and three straight birdies. He began the second round Friday with five birdies in a six-hole stretch on the back nine, a sixth birdie on the par-4 first hole, and then an eagle on the short par-4 fifth when he holed out from a greenside bunker.

The only sour taste to his second round was a three-putt bogey from about 30 feet on his final hole. Even so, the view was much better than it was Thursday afternoon.

Moore thought he had wasted a good birdie opportunity on the par-5 14th hole when he left his 50-foot eagle putt about 6 feet short. But he made that, and then holed a similar putt from 8 feet for birdie on the next hole and capped his good finish with a 15-foot putt on the 17th.

''That was a huge momentum putt there,'' Moore said of the 14th. ''It was a tough putt from down there with a lot of wind. That green is pretty exposed and ... yeah, really short and committed to that second putt really well and knocked it right in the middle.''

The birdies on the 14th and 15th were important to Moore because he missed a pair of 10-foot birdie tries to start the back nine.

''So it was nice to get those and get going in the right direction on the back,'' he said.

The cut was at 1-over 145, and because 80 players made the cut, there will be a 54-hole cut on Saturday.

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Daly-Allen team grabs Legends of Golf lead on Day 2

By Associated PressApril 20, 2018, 11:14 pm

RIDGEDALE, Mo. - John Daly and Michael Allen took the second-round lead Friday in the cool and breezy Bass Pro Shops Legends of Golf.

Daly and Allen shot an 8-under 46 on the Top of the Rock par-3 course with wind gusting to 15 mph and the temperature only in the high-50s at Big Cedar Lodge. They had three birdies on the front nine in alternate-shot play and added five more on the back in better-ball play to get to 13 under.

''Michael and I go back to the South African days in the late 80s and playing that tour,'' Daly said. ''We've been buddies since. He's just fun to play with. We feed off each other pretty good. And if he's not comfortable guinea-pigging on one hole, I'll go first.''

On Thursday, they opened with a 66 on the regulation Buffalo Ridge course. They will rotate to the 13-hole Mountain Top par-3 course on Saturday, and return to Top of the Rock for the final round Sunday.

''I went to high school in Jeff City, so it's cool to have the fans behind us,'' Daly said.

Allen won the PGA Tour Champions team event with David Frost in 2012 and Woody Austin in 2016.

''I'm just here to free up John,'' Allen said. ''It was fun. Luckily, I started making good putts today. We just want to keep the good times rolling.''

Full-field scores from the Bass Pro Shops Legends of Golf

Defending champions Vijay Singh and Carlos Franco were a stroke back along with Bernhard Langer-Tom Lehman and Paul Broadhurst-Kirk Triplett. Singh and Franco had a 7-under 32 in best-ball play at Mountain Top, and Lehman-Langer and Broadhurst-Tripplet each shot 6-under 48 at Top of the Rock.

''Part of the issue here is all the tees are elevated, so you're up high hitting to a green that's down below and the wind is blowing, and there is more time for that wind to affect it,'' Lehman said. ''If you guess wrong on the wind, you can hit a really good shot and kind of look stupid.''

Former UCLA teammates Scott McCarron and Brandt Jobe were two strokes back at 11 under with Steve Flesch and David Toms and the Spanish side of Jose Maria Olazabal and Miguel Angel Jimenez. McCarron-Jobe had a 47, and Jimenez-Olazabal a 48 at Top of the Rock, and Tom Flesch shot 34 at Mountain Top.

First-round leaders Jeff Maggert and Jesper Parnevik had a 52 at Top of the Rock to fall three shots back at 10 under. Madison, Wisconsin, friends Steve Stricker and Jerry Kelly also were 10 under after a 32 at Mountain Top. Jay Haas aced the 131-yard seventh hole at Mountain Top with a gap wedge. Haas and fellow 64-year-old Peter Jacobsen were 8 under after a 32.