Par 5: Five questions for this week in golf

By Randall MellJune 28, 2011, 4:31 pm

Setting the agenda for the week ahead with five questions for tournament golf at large . . .

Where does Erik Compton’s determination come from?

After his breakthrough Nationwide Tour victory in Mexico Sunday, Compton jumps back into the spotlight playing the AT&T National on a sponsor’s exemption this week.

If you know Compton, you know joy follows pain as a miraculous pattern in the family history.

So it was again this past weekend when Compton won.

The Comptons are a wonderfully close family. They’re also all wonderfully resilient. Erik’s two heart transplants are only part of the family’s story. Erik’s getting back up to fight isn’t just the story of his life.

Erik’s mother, Eli, was at her summer home on the west coast of Norway last week waiting for Erik’s father, Peter, to arrive when she was stricken with a “terrible intestinal infection.” She was hospitalized. With Erik making his run into contention, Eli, who was raised in Norway, also found herself in some psychological pain.

“The hospitals in Norway don’t have Golf Channel,” Eli said. “I wasn’t able to follow what was happening with Erik.”

Peter was in Sacramento, Calif., tending to Erik’s ill grandmother. Christian, Erik’s older and only brother, was in Miami, where the Comptons all live. Barbara, Erik’s wife, and Petra, Erik’s 2½-year-old daughter, were back in Miami, too.

“We were all over the globe, texting each other, calling, crying after he won, we were so happy,” Eli said. “It’s an amazing ride with this kid, but we were all in so many different time zones, we didn’t know if it was morning or night talking to each other.”

Eli was released from the hospital before the final round, but she had to follow the action on the internet. She was up at 3 a.m. waiting for the score on the final hole to come through the web site.

“When Erik won, Christian called me, but he was so emotional he couldn’t speak,” Eli said. “He had to hang up.”

Erik’s first call was to his wife.

“Oh my God, he was so happy,” Barbara said. “It was a dream come true, and now that it looks like Erik will be playing the PGA Tour next year, it’s another dream coming true.”

Erik isn’t the only Compton to have gone through hell and back to see this glorious victory

Eli is a cancer survivor. She was diagnosed with breast cancer eight years ago.

Christian broke his neck back when he was in college in a snowboarding accident. He was temporarily paralyzed, though he’s nearly completely recovered, some minor nerve damage the only remnant of the frightening fall.

“In my family, a broken neck’s not enough to complain about,” Christian once told me.

The Compton family story isn’t really about their fearless lives, but about how they’ve overcome so much fear.

“I’ll never forget how emotional Erik’s father was telling me how he had to say goodbye to Erik before the second heart transplant surgery because they wondered if they were going to see him again,” said Jim McLean, the swing coach. “This is a strong, supportive family.”

Peter is a vice president with Royal Caribbean who oversees entertainment for the cruise line. Eli is executive director of the Miami-based Transplant Foundation, a calling she pursued to help families after Erik’s first transplant. Christian was a project manager for Royal Caribbean’s construction of the Oasis of the Seas, the largest cruise ship on the planet.

“We know what it is to be afraid, to be crazy with fear sometimes, but we’ve learned that you can’t let it take over your life,” Eli said.

They’ve learned there can be so much joy after the pain.


Does anyone play with more joy than Yani Tseng?

Nobody smiles more when they play than Tseng.

There’s a joy in her game that was easy to see in her runaway rout at the Wegmans LPGA Championship.

Gary Gilchrist, Tseng’s coach, likes that about her game. He also likes that so much of her swing is an expression of who she is as a person.

“She plays golf like her personality,” Gilchrist said. “She’s very aggressive, and she goes at it hard.”

As aggressively as Tseng plays, there’s a rhythm to her powerful swing that is a key to making her one of the best drivers on tour.

“The speed, the flow of the swing, I love that,” Gilchrist said.

Tseng isn’t nearly as tall at Brittany Lincicome or Michelle Wie, doesn’t have the long swing arc those big hitters have, but she creates a lot of speed with the lag in her move. She ranks fifth on the LPGA tour in driving distance, averaging 270.5 yards per drive, just behind Wie (270.6) and Lincicome (271.5). Stephanie Kim is the longest hitter on tour so far this year, averaging 278.5 yards per drive.


How many records will Tseng smash before she’s finished?

Back before the final round of the Kraft Nabisco Championship, I wrote that somebody better step up and stop Tseng’s momentum because she looked like she was on her way to becoming better than Babe Zaharias, Mickey Wright and Kathy Whitworth. It looked like another big victory could give her the confidence and momentum needed to make the game’s greatest players her only real rivals.

Yes, it seemed over the top, especially after Stacy Lewis came from behind to beat Tseng in the final round, but with Tseng’s runaway at the Wegmans LPGA, she has now won four majors at 22, more than anyone that age except Young Tom Morris. The story seemed over the top because Tseng is so young to project that kind of success upon, but that was my point. At 22, she’s got more than potential. She’s got time to go with the proven record.

Despite Tseng’s youth, there are only three active players in the women’s game who have won more majors. That’s Juli Inkster (7), Karrie Webb (7) and Se Ri Pak (5).


Which amateur do you like best at the AT&T National this week?

There’s a terrific amateur subplot at Aronimink.

Patrick Cantlay isn’t the only amateur wunderkind playing the AT&T National on a sponsor’s exemption. Peter Uihlein’s also in the field.

While Cantlay impressed with his low amateur finish at the U.S. Open and his run into contention shooting a second-round 60 at the Travelers last week, Uihlein’s equally accomplished. Cantlay won the Jack Nicklaus Award as the nation’s top collegian as a freshman at UCLA this past season, but Uihlen, a senior to be at Oklahoma State, is the reigning U.S. Amateur champ and No. 1 amateur in the nation. Uihlein beat Cantlay in the U.S. Amateur semifinals at Chambers Bay last summer.

OK, it’s dreaming, but with the game feeling as young as it does, how big would the story be if a couple young amateurs contended at AT&T National?


Will Ryan Moore’s momentum carry into the AT&T National?

After a hot run at the Travelers ended with a disappointing missed 4-foot putt at the final hole and runner-up finish, Moore heads to Aronimink, where he should enjoy some favorable vibes. Moore finished second to Justin Rose at Aronimink a year ago. After a couple 64s and a closing 63 at the Travelers, Moore’s confidence should be high despite the disappointing ending. Moore has three finishes of fifth or better this year in bids to claim his second PGA Tour title.

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Hataoka leads Minjee Lee by one at LPGA Volvik

By Associated PressMay 26, 2018, 12:54 am

ANN ARBOR, Mich. - After losing in a playoff last weekend, Nasa Hataoka is making another bid for her first LPGA Tour victory.

Hataoka shot a 4-under 68 on Friday, and the Japanese teenager led by one stroke over Minjee Lee after the second round of the Volvik Championship. Hataoka, who is coming off the first two top-10 finishes of her LPGA career, made seven birdies at Travis Pointe Country Club. She began her round on No. 10, and her best stretch came toward the end, when she birdied Nos. 4, 5 and 6.

''I'm really comfortable playing the LPGA,'' the 19-year-old Hataoka said through a translator. ''I've really got confidence now.''

Hataoka made the cut nine times in 17 starts as a rookie in 2017, and she has made significant strides of late. She tied for seventh at last month's MEDIHEAL Championship and nearly won a week ago at the Kingsmill Championship in Virginia.

Hataoka finished the second round in Michigan at 9 under. Lee (69) was also solid Friday. Gaby Lopez (68), Jodi Ewart Shadoff (70) and Lindy Duncan (70) were a stroke behind Lee in a tie for third.

Hataoka did not make a single bogey in last week's three-round tournament, and she didn't have any in the first round in Michigan. She finally made a few Friday, but that didn't stop her from taking sole possession of the lead.

''I kind of feel like not really perfect, but I just kind of try to (be) aggressive,'' she said.

Full-field scores from the LPGA Volvik Championship

Lee, who lost by one stroke on this course last year, is in contention again.

''I guess the fairways are pretty generous and I think the greens are a little bit on the trickier side to read,'' Lee said. ''As long as your iron shots are pretty solid, I think you're going to be in good position around this golf course.''

Lee birdied the first two holes, and the only blemish on her scorecard Friday came on the par-5 14th. After missing the fairway to the right, she hit an aggressive shot out of the rough that went straight toward a water hazard well in front of the green. She settled for a bogey after taking a drop.

''I thought the ball was sitting OK in the rough, but it must have been a bit funny, or underneath it,'' she said. ''I made a mistake. I thought it was good enough to hit 3-wood there.''

Lee lost last year in Michigan to Shanshan Feng, but Feng will have some ground to make up in her attempt to repeat. She shot 69 on Friday but is still eight strokes behind the leader.

Ariya Jutanugarn was 6 under after a second consecutive 69.

Lopez made only six pars in the second round, tied for the fewest of the day, but her eight birdies and four bogeys put her near the top of the leaderboard.

''It was a little bit of an up and down,'' she said. ''There's so many opportunities out here to make birdie, that the most important thing to do is just to be patient, to be in the moment and not to get ahead of yourself. I think I came back from a couple mistakes that I did.''

In contrast to Lopez, Brittany Lincicome parred all 18 holes Friday and made the cut at 1 under. Paula Creamer (71) triple bogeyed the par-4 13th. She followed that with an eagle on the very next hole but missed the cut by a stroke.

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Childhood rivals share Sr. PGA lead

By Associated PressMay 26, 2018, 12:00 am

BENTON HARBOR, Mich. - Kevin Sutherland and Scott McCarron have been rivals since their junior golf days around Sacramento, California. The two old friends were back at it Friday at the top of the Senior PGA Championship leaderboard.

''It's honestly, nothing new for us,'' said Sutherland who played in the third-to-last group and birdied his last two holes for a 5-under 66 to match McCarron at 8 under.

McCarron had a 68 in the morning wave to emerge from a championship record group of six tied for the first-round lead.

Sutherland was last year's Charles Schwab Cup winner with his only senior win coming in the season-ending Charles Schwab Cup Championship, while McCarron has six PGA Tour Champions wins, including a major at the 2017 Senior Players Championship.

''We are both (Northern California) guys, played in high school, junior golf, on tour and it seems like a lot on the Champions Tour,'' Sutherland said. ''We were in the last group on Sundays a lot last year. Scott played so well and had an incredible year, and I had a great year, too.''

Sutherland's lone PGA Tour victory came at McCarron's expense in 2002 at La Costa in the Accenture Match Play Championship, when he beat McCarron 1 up in the 36-hole final. As youngsters they played on opposing high school teams located about an hour apart and met often in state tournaments as well as on the California junior circuit.

''It's been happening for 30 years, wait 35 years now, I guess,'' Sutherland said. ''Playing together on a Saturday is a little different. We're both still trying to get in position to win.''

Jerry Kelly shot a 65 to join Tim Petrovic (69), Chris Williams (68) and Joe Durant (67) at 7 under. Durant tied for second last week in the Regions Tradition, also a major championship.

Full-field scores from the KitchenAid Senior PGA Championship

McCarron feels like he is just starting to warm to the task this year. He had to replace his clubs, including a favored putter damaged beyond repair in air transit two months ago.

''I've been putting with a back-up putter I had, but it just didn't feel quite right,'' he said. ''I changed last Sunday at the Regions Tradition and started putting better on Sunday. So I'm using this one again this week and seem to be putting pretty good with it.''

McCarron said the Harbor Shores course played a little tougher in light winds in the second round. He made six birdies and three bogeys.

''I would just like to have a couple of those bogeys back,'' he said. ''But we're in a good position going into the weekend.''

McCarron came to the press center after his round and walked in on a press conference where course-designer Jack and Barbara Nicklaus were being honored by sponsoring KitchenAid with the establishment of a local college scholarship program in their name.

McCarron, who said he has idolized Nicklaus since his youth, played media and asked Nicklaus what he ate when he was near the lead going into the weekend of a major championship.

Nicklaus said if you play well one day, eat the same thing the next day.

''But no hamburgers, or you will play like hamburger,'' he said.

Stuart Smith, the Reno, Neveda, club pro who was tied for the lead after the first round, missed the 36-hole cut with a second-round 83.

''I'll take the 66, 83 and enjoy the 66 yesterday,'' he said. ''You put this one down to just plain old golf. It's a nasty game we play sometimes. Glad I have a day job.''

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Wise, Simpson both miss cut at Colonial

By Nick MentaMay 25, 2018, 11:34 pm

The two most recent winners on the PGA Tour, Aaron Wise and Webb Simpson, missed the cut at the Fort Worth Invitational on Friday.

Wise and Simpson both came up short of the 2-over total by a shot following rounds of 70-73.

Wise was safely inside the number before playing his last four holes in 4 over par with two bogeys and a closing double following a trip into the water at the par-4 ninth.

Full-field scores from the Fort Worth Invitational

Fort Worth Invitational: Articles, photos and videos

Simpson, making his first start following his Players triumph, similarly struggled coming home, bogeying three of his final six holes.

Other notables who won't be around for the weekend at Colonial include Xander Schauffele (+4), Jason Dufner (+5), Patrick Cantlay (+6), Smylie Kaufman (+13), and Sam Burns (+13).

This is Kaufman's 11th consecutive MC and his 15th in his last 16 starts.

Jason Seaman and Kristi Hubly Seaman

Sr. PGA caddie learns of nephew's heroism in school shooting

By Tim RosaforteMay 25, 2018, 10:33 pm

Tracy Hubly caddied for her husband, club pro Chris Starkjohann, on Friday at the KitchenAid Senior PGA and learned after their round that her nephew was credited with helping stop the school shooting at Noblesville West Middle School in Indiana.

Jason Seaman, a 29-year-old science instructor and seventh grade football coach at the school, took three bullets but survived as what his aunt called a hero.

“You hear the stories about these shootings and I think about Parkland and the officer that was trained but didn’t go into the school,” Hubly said. “It’s really shocking to think it comes close to your family, but it does."

It’s not unusual for Hubly to caddie for her husband, a teacher at Carlsbad Golf Center and coach of a PGA Junior League program in Southern California. Hubly, who works in the pro shop at Emerald Island Golf Course in Oceanside, Calif., was on the bag when he was low golf professional at the 2009 Senior PGA Championship held at Canterbury GC. 

Starkjohann, 61, missed the cut at Harbor Shores with rounds of 76-79—155 and was heading to the Colorado State Open.

 “I didn’t hear about it until after my round was done,” Starkjohann said. “Everything happened after I got in.”