Compton's story is heartwarming

By Jason SobelJune 15, 2014, 12:48 am

PINEHURST, N.C. – Erik Compton was nervous and frightened. He was 12 years old and lying in a hospital bed, the result of a faulty heart that had left him hooked up to scary-looking machines while surrounded by a swirling sea of doctors and nurses, each prepping him for transplant surgery.

His parents were nervous and frightened, too. They couldn’t show it, though, not in front of their son. Peter and Eli Compton needed to put up a brave front. They needed to encourage their youngest son. They needed to tell him that everything would be OK.

No, they needed to tell him that everything would be better than OK.

“We just said once you get a new heart, you’re going to be a champion,” his mother remembers. “You’re going to get the heart of a champion.”

Twenty-two years ago, Eli Compton (her first name is pronounced Ellie) wasn’t trying to foreshadow the 114th U.S. Open Championship. In fact, her son loved baseball more than golf back then. Following the surgery, he sat in a wheelchair, looked into a camera and offered the same proclamation that he’d first made four years earlier: “I’m going to be a Major League baseball player.”

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His career on the baseball diamond – not to mention the football field and basketball court, each the product of all that encouragement from his parents – stalled, but his pursuit of golf soared. He became a top-ranked junior player, competed for the University of Georgia and turned professional.

If that sounds like a Hollywood movie, what came next was the rare sequel that might have outshined the original.

In 2008, at age 28, Compton drove himself to the hospital, fearing the worst. Once again, the swirl of doctors and nurses hooked him up to machines. Once again, he was given a new heart.

It didn’t take long for him to return to professional golf - first on the developmental Nationwide Tour, then graduating to the PGA Tour. He’s yet to win on the world’s most elite circuit, but if this story needed a Hollywood ending, perhaps it’s coming this week.

Entering the final round at Pinehurst No. 2, Compton is tied for second place, just five strokes behind leader Martin Kaymer and with a major championship victory well within striking distance.

The symbolism of a man on his third heart contending at the year’s most grueling tournament hasn’t been lost on him.

“I’m just trying to execute and then move to the next shot,” he says. “I guess that’s kind of reflective of how I’ve always lived my life. If you have a bad situation or a bad day, you get up and try to do it again.”

Erik Compton the golfer is ranked 187th in the world. He’s played in 99 career PGA Tour events and has finished in the top 10 in exactly three of them – two this year. Prior to this week, he’d played in only one career major, missing the cut at the 2010 U.S. Open, but as he not-so-subtly points out, “You’ve got to give me a break - I just had a new heart.”

Erik Compton the two-time heart transplant recipient is probably ranked a lot higher, if you could measure the impact he’s had on children around the world who are undergoing similar surgery to what he endured. When he was 12, his mother remembers, there was nobody with that experience who could offer him their support.

The two are forever entwined, the transplant recipient and the golfer, not just because they are one and the same, but because one led to the other. He might not be here – on the leaderboard, contending for one of the game’s most prestigious titles – without the journey. It steeled him for the so-called pressures of playing a game. It hardened his resolve in a world where the failures always exceed the successes.

“If I go out and shoot 90, I don’t think anyone will be surprised,” he says. “But if I shoot 67 again, you may be surprised.”

Just as his parents once sat in that hospital room and whispered words of encouragement to him, just as he often offers similar words of encouragement to children awaiting transplants, he’s received support from some of golf’s most legendary sources.

Two weeks ago, Compton had lunch with Jack Nicklaus at Muirfield Village. He hadn’t yet qualified for the U.S. Open, but the four-time winner knew his game would suit this venue. “If you get there, you’re going to have a special week,” Nicklaus told him. And on Saturday morning, with Compton needing a strong round to move up the leaderboard, Chi Chi Rodriguez called him and said, “You’re going to shoot 64 today.”

He missed by three strokes, but the third-round 3-under 67 tied for the best score of the day and put him in contention for not just a U.S. Open title, but for sports story of the year. Or decade.

Compton is equal parts inspirational, motivational and heartwarming – everything needed for a good Hollywood script. Now he’ll try to write his perfect ending at a tournament that he knows is a perfect symbol of his perseverance.

“I think my attitude suits a U.S. Open-style course,” he explains. “Because I don’t ever give up.”

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Rose (64) peaking just ahead of the U.S. Open

By Nick MentaMay 25, 2018, 8:40 pm

A former U.S. Open champion appears to be finding his form just three weeks ahead of the year's second major.

Justin Rose ascended to the top of the leaderboard Friday at the Fort Worth Invitational, with rounds of 66-64 pushing him to 10 under par for the week.

Through 36 at Colonial, Rose has marked 12 birdies against just two bogeys.

"Yeah, I did a lot of good things today," Rose said. "I think, you know, the end of my round got a little scrappy, but until the last three holes it was pretty flawless. I think I hit every fairway pretty much and obviously every green to that point. ...

"Yeah, the way I played through, I guess through my first 15 holes today, was about as good as I've played in a long time."

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Rose won in back-to-back weeks last fall, stunning Dustin Johnson at the WGC-HSBC Championship and riding that victory right into another at the Turkish Airlines Open.

Now the 2013 U.S. Open winner at Merion feels himself once again rounding into form ahead of this year's Open at Shinnecock. A final-round 66 at The Players gave Rose something to focus on in his recent practice sessions with swing coach Sean Foley, as the two work to shore up the timing of Rose's transition into the downswing.

As for his decision to tee it up at Colonial for the first time since 2010, "It was more the run of form really," Rose explained. "I feel like if I didn't play here it was going to be a little spotty going into the U.S. Open. I felt like I wanted to play enough golf where I would have a good read on my game going into Shinnecock.

"So rather than the venue it was more the timing, but it's obviously it's just such a bonus to be on a great layout like this."

For whatever reason, Rose does tend to play his best golf at iconic venues, having won PGA Tour events at Muirfield Village, Aronimink, Cog Hill, Doral, Merion and Congressional.

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Koepka (63): Two wrist dislocations in two months

By Nick MentaMay 25, 2018, 8:19 pm

Brook Koepka's journey back from a wrist injury that kept him out four months hasn't been totally smooth sailing, even if his play has suggested otherwise.

Koepka on Friday fired a 7-under 63 to move up the leaderboard into a tie for third, three shots behind leader Justin Rose through the end of the morning wave at the Fort Worth Invitational.

After a slow start Thursday saw him play his first 13 holes 3 over, Koepka is 10 under with 11 birdies in his last 23 holes at Colonial.

"It doesn't matter to me. I could care less. I'm still going to try as hard as I can," Koepka said. "I don't care how many over or how many under I am. Still going to fight through it."

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Just like he's been fighting his wrist the last two months or so. Koepka reinjured his wrist the Wednesday of The Players when he was practicing on the range and had to halt mid-swing after a golf cart drove in front of him. He nonetheless managed to finish T-11.

And that's not the only issue he's had with that wrist during his return.

"We had a bone pop out of place. I didn't tell anybody, but, yeah, they popped it back in," Koepka admitted Friday. "Luckily enough we kind of popped it back into place right away so it wasn't stiff and I didn't have too, too many problems.

"Yeah. I mean, I've dislocated my wrist twice in the last two months. You know, different spots, but, I mean, it's fun. I'll be all right."

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Twitter spat turns into fundraising opportunity

By Rex HoggardMay 25, 2018, 6:30 pm

Country music star Jake Owen, along with Brandt Snedeker, has turned a spat on Twitter into a fundraising campaign that will support Snedeker’s foundation.

On Thursday, Owen was criticized during the opening round of the Tour’s Nashville Golf Open, which benefits the Snedeker Foundation, for his poor play after opening with an 86.

In response, Snedeker and country singer Chris Young pledged $5,000 for every birdie that Owen makes on Friday in a campaign called NGO Birdies for Kids

Although Owen, who is playing the event on a sponsor exemption, doesn’t tee off for Round 2 in Nashville until 2 p.m. (CT), the campaign has already generated interest, with NBC Sports/Golf Channel analyst Peter Jacobsen along with Tour player Zac Blair both pledging $100 for every birdie Owen makes.

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Noren so impressed by Rory: 'I'm about to quit golf'

By Golf Channel DigitalMay 25, 2018, 5:33 pm

Alex Noren won the BMW PGA Championship last year, one of his nine career European Tour victories.

He opened his title defense at Wentworth Club in 68-69 and is tied for fourth through two rounds. Unfortunately, he's five back of leader Rory McIlroy. And after playing the first two days alongside McIlroy, Noren, currently ranked 19th in the world, doesn't seem to like his chances of back-to-back wins.

McIlroy opened in 67 and then shot a bogey-free 65 in second round, which included pars on the pair of par-5 finishing holes. Noren walked away left in awe.

"That's the best round I've ever seen," Noren said. "I'm about to quit golf, I think."

Check out the full interview below: