Cruising Into the Final Stage

By Randall MellNovember 29, 2010, 11:48 pm
ORLANDO, Fla. – One moment, Erik Compton is up on a ladder at his suburban Miami home hanging Christmas tree lights, the next he’s on the fringe of a high-speed chase of a robbery suspect.

That wasn’t exactly the rest-and-relaxation plan Compton had in mind last weekend as he prepared himself for the final stage of PGA Tour Qualifying School.

“Just a typical day in Miami, no big deal,” Compton said Monday after playing nine holes at the Crooked Cat Course at Orange County National, home to Wednesday’s start of Q-School.

Erik Compton 1st round 2010 U.S. Open
Erik Compton qualified for this year's U.S. Open at Pebble Beach. (Getty Images)
Anyone who knows Compton’s story knows there aren’t any normal days in his life, not since he got his first heart transplant when he was 12, and certainly not since he rebounded from a heart attack that nearly killed him, leading to his second heart transplant two-and-a-half years ago.

So while other players might have been scrambling to get their games ready for Q-School last week, you shouldn’t be surprised to hear that Compton took another route. He put his clubs away. He didn’t touch them for nearly a week after advancing from second stage. He boarded a cruise ship and sailed the Caribbean with his family for four days. He worries more about stamina than his swing with six rounds and 108 holes awaiting him in the most grueling week of golf all year.

Back home on Saturday, Compton thought decorating his Coral Gables home for Christmas might be therapeutic. But it turned into something else.

With Compton hanging lights, a neighbor just a few houses down surprised intruders in a robbery attempt. The neighbor chased the getaway car past Compton’s home.

“The guy in the getaway car must have been going 60 mph down our street,” Compton said. “He was screeching his tires and skidding around the turn by our house. I thought he was going to crash into my yard.”

A few minutes later, police cars were swarming the neighborhood. Police told Compton another suspect on foot was loose in the neighborhood. They sent him indoors.

“I don’t think they caught the guy,” Compton said.

Compton is among 164 players vying to win the 25 or so PGA Tour cards that will be handed out at Q-School. There are some compelling stories at final stage. Brett Waldman, caddie for Camilo Villegas, is trying to win a card. So is Billy Hurley, a Naval Academy graduate who was serving a military stint defending the Persian Gulf just two years ago. And Ty Tryon, the former teen phenom attempting to get his card back nine years after he won PGA Tour membership as a 17-year-old.

Compton, though, could go down as the greatest Q-School story ever.

Nine years ago, under the rigors of final-stage pressure, Compton showed just how determined he can be.

In 2001, in the second round of the final stage of Q-School at Bear Lakes Country Club in West Palm Beach, Compton felt woozy and collapsed. He briefly passed out into the arms of his caddie, who gently set him down in the middle of the fairway. Compton waved off a PGA Tour official’s attempt to call paramedics. He waved the group behind him around while he got his wits back, and then he got back on his feet and finished off his round. He went on to finish all six rounds, earning Nationwide Tour conditional status.

Four holes after Compton passed out that day, I stood with him at the side of the 11th tee with play backed up. He told me he collapsed after feeling momentarily dizzy, but he was over it, and he wasn’t about to withdraw.

“I’m not quitting,” Compton said that day. “There’s no way I’m quitting.”

Nine years later, he’s still persevering in a bid to win a card.

Compton, 31, is preparing differently than most of the pros here this week. He won’t hit as many balls or play as many practice holes. In fact, after making it through Q-School’s second stage last weekend, he didn’t touch his clubs until the following weekend. He celebrated Thanksgiving on the inaugural family-and-friends cruise of Royal Caribbean’s Allure of the Seas, the world’s largest cruise ship. His father, Peter, is the cruise line’s vice president of entertainment. His brother, Christian, is a project manner who helped build the ship.

The Allure of the Seas is four football fields long, weighs 600 tons, is home to an open air “Central Park” and sleeps more than 5,000 passengers. It’s a modern marvel, kind of like Compton himself.

Compton did not swing a club for his four days aboard the ship.

“It’s good for me to get a few days off,” Compton said. “I always play better rested. For me, the big battle isn’t with the swing. It’s with fatigue.”

That’s why R&R with family was so important to Compton. He spent the cruise with his wife, Barbara, their 21-month-old daughter, Petra, and both of the couple’s parents.

Compton’s facing six long days of competition. Though he could have asked for a medical exception to play with a golf cart, he’s going to walk the 108 holes. The challenge, he knows, will come during the second half of the tournament.

“Usually, for a couple days after a tournament, I’m totally wiped out,” Compton said. “The fourth, fifth and sixth rounds, they’ll be hard for me.

“In the back of my mind, I thought about trying to get a cart, but I’m feeling good, and I’ve been doing so well. I want to make it like everyone else.”

Compton takes more than 20 pills a day as part of his heart medications. They have side effects, but he says he’s adjusting to them.

“Erik seems as relaxed and confident as he’s ever been,” says Compton’s mother, Eli.

Back in 2008, Compton missed getting through the second stage of Q-School by a single shot. This was just six months after undergoing his second heart transplant. He said back then that he plays with a more accelerated heart rate than most players.

“I’m riding a wave of playing well,” Compton said of his fall run. “I felt like going to Tour School this time, I was one of the guys who should make it through. In years past, I didn’t look at it like that. I’m up for this challenge.”
Getty Images

Four top finishers in Japan qualify for The Open

By Associated PressMay 27, 2018, 10:19 am

IBARAKI, Japan – Shota Akiyoshi of Japan shot a 2-under-par 70 on Sunday to win the Mizuno Open and qualify for The 147th Open.

Akiyoshi offset three bogeys with five birdies at the Royal Golf Club in Ibaraki, Japan, to finish 1 under overall and secure his first ever tournament win on the Japan Golf Tour.

Michael Hendry of New Zealand and Japanese golfers Masahiro Kawamura and Masanori Kobayashi were tied for second one stroke off the pace to also qualify for The Open at Carnoustie, Scotland, from July 19-22.

Hendry, who led the tournament coming into the final round, came close to forcing a playoff with Akiyoshi but dropped a shot with a bogey on the final hole when he needed a par to draw level.

Hendry will make his second appearance at The Open after qualifying at the Mizuno Open for the second year in a row.

Getty Images

Lewis hopes to win at Volvik with baby on the way

By Randall MellMay 27, 2018, 12:55 am

Stacy Lewis was listening to more than her caddie on her march up the leaderboard Saturday at the Volvik Championship.

Pregnant with her first child, she is listening to her body in a new way these days.

And she could hear a message coming through loud and clear toward the end of her round at Travis Point Country Club in Ann Arbor, Mich.

“The little one was telling me it’s dinnertime,” Lewis said.

Lewis birdied five of the last six holes to shoot 5-under-par 67 and move into position to make a Sunday run at winning her 13th LPGA title. She is two shots behind the leader, Minjee Lee, whose 68 moved her to 12 under overall.

Sunday has the makings of a free for all with 10 players within three shots of the lead.


Full-field scores from the LPGA Volvik Championship


Lewis, 33, is four months pregnant, with her due date Nov. 3. She’s expecting to play just a few more times before putting the clubs away to get ready for the birth. She said she’s likely to make the Marathon Classic in mid-July her last start of the season before returning next year.

Of course, Lewis would relish winning with child.

“I don’t care what limitations I have or what is going on with my body, I want to give myself a chance to win,” she told LPGA.com at the Kingsmill Championship last week.

Lewis claimed an emotional victory with her last title, taking the Cambia Portland Classic late last summer after announcing earlier in the week that she would donate her entire winnings to the Hurricane Harvey relief efforts in her Houston hometown.

A victory Sunday would also come with a lot of emotion.

It’s been an interesting year for Lewis.

There’s been the joy of learning she’s ready to begin the family she has been yearning for, and the struggle to play well after bouncing back from injury.

Lewis missed three cuts in a row before making it into the weekend at the Kingsmill Championship last week. That’s one more cut than she missed cumulatively in the previous six years. In six starts this year, Lewis hasn’t finished among the top 50 yet, but she hasn’t felt right, either.

The former world No. 1 didn’t make her second start of 2018 until April, at the year’s first major, the ANA Inspiration. She withdrew from the HSBC Women’s World Championship in late February with a strained right oblique muscle and didn’t play again for a month.

Still, Lewis is finding plenty to get excited about with the baby on the way.

“I kind of had my first Mother’s Day,” Lewis told LPGA.com last week. “It puts golf into perspective. It makes those bad days not seem so bad. It helps me sleep better at night. We are just really excited.”

Getty Images

Rose hasn't visited restroom at Colonial - here's why

By Nick MentaMay 27, 2018, 12:20 am

In case you're unaware, it's pretty hot in Texas.

Temperatures at Colonial Country Club have approached 100 degrees this week, leaving players to battle both the golf course and potential dehydration.

With the help of his caddie Mark Fulcher, Fort Worth Invitational leader Justin Rose has been plenty hot himself, staking himself to a four-shot lead.


Full-field scores from the Fort Worth Invitational

Fort Worth Invitational: Articles, photos and videos


"Yeah, Fulch has done a great job of just literally handing me water bottle after water bottle. It seems relentless, to be honest with you," Rose said Saturday.

So just how much are players sweating the heat at Colonial? Well, it doesn't sound like all that water is making it all the way through Rose.

"I haven't even seen the inside of a restroom yet, so you can't even drink quick enough out there," he shared.

Getty Images

Up four, Rose knows a lead can slip away

By Nick MentaMay 26, 2018, 11:21 pm

Up four shots heading into Sunday at the Fort Worth Invitational, Justin Rose has tied the largest 54-hole lead of his PGA Tour career.

On the previous two occasions he took a 54-hole Tour lead into the final round, he closed.

And yet, Rose knows just how quickly a lead can slip away. After all, it was Rose who erased a six-shot deficit earlier this season to overtake Dustin Johnson and win the WGC-HSBC Championship. 

"I think I was in the lead going into the final round in Turkey when I won, and I had a four-shot lead going into the final round in Indonesia in December and managed to put that one away," Rose said Saturday, thinking back to his two other victories late last year.

"I was five, six back maybe of DJ, so I've got experience the other way. ... So you can see how things can go both ways real quick. That's why there is no point in getting too far ahead of myself."


Full-field scores from the Fort Worth Invitational

Fort Worth Invitational: Articles, photos and videos


Up one to start the third round Saturday, Rose extended his lead to as much as five when he birdied four of his first six holes.

He leads the field in strokes gained: tee-to-green (+12.853) and strokes gained: approach-the-green (+7.931).

Rose has won five times worldwide, including at the 2016 Rio Olympics, since his last victory in the United States, at the 2015 Zurich Classic.

With a win Sunday, he'd tie Nick Faldo for the most PGA Tour wins by an Englishman post-World War II, with nine.

But he isn't celebrating just yet.

"It is a big lead, but it's not big enough to be counting the holes away. You've got to go out and play good, you've got to go out positive, you've got to continue to make birdies and keep going forward.

"So my mindset is to not really focus on the lead, it's to focus on my game tomorrow and my performance. You know, just keep executing the way I have been. That's going to be my challenge tomorrow. Going to look forward to that mindset."