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After personal struggles, Compton still standing

By Rex HoggardApril 18, 2018, 4:08 pm

The first line of Erik Compton’s PGA Tour biography provides all the context you need to understand the 38-year-old’s plight: “Because of viral cardiomyopathy, had first heart transplant on Feb. 26, 1992 and took up the game of golf as part of his rehabilitation.”

The second heart transplant came in 2008. Those brushes with mortality can produce some next-level introspection, but as Compton closed his eyes and contemplated his most recent situation, his mind drifted to places that most professional athletes spend a lifetime trying to avoid.

Following his opening round late last month at the Web.com Tour’s Savannah Golf Championship, Compton considered retirement. He openly unpacked the emotions of going through a divorce. He conceded that the trappings of life on the PGA Tour can be consuming and, at least for him, uncomfortable.

Throughout his eventful career Compton has donned many hats. He’s been a hero to many who see his perseverance through so many medical setbacks as an example of what can be accomplished when you stop listening to people who are quick to tell you something can’t be done.

He’s been a contender, finishing second at the 2014 U.S. Open and spending five full seasons competing against the game’s best at the highest level.

But on this spring day in Savannah, he embraces the role of sage.

“The competition,” Compton answers, when asked what he misses the most about the PGA Tour. “The lifestyle is grueling, but it was eating at me before. When I was married, there was a lot of pressure. It’s easy to get caught up and spend a lot of money. You live a different lifestyle when you have some success. I made a lot of money for a couple of years, and I didn’t really feel comfortable with it, to be honest. You know one day it’s not going to be here. Guys don’t understand how quickly it can be taken away.”

Compton understands, maybe better than anyone in the game.

He understands that one moment you’re standing on the 18th green at Pinehurst, being cheered by thousands of fans for what was by any measure a magical performance at the ’14 U.S. Open; and the next moment, you’re back in a hospital bed, attached to another IV contemplating an unknown future.

Compton lost his Tour card in 2016 and spent last season on the Web.com Tour trying to play his way back to the big leagues with even worse results.

His divorce, which was emotionally complicated by his daughter, Petra, made competing difficult.

“It’s a tough thing to go through, with kids there’s a lot emotions that go into that. It’s hard to play golf and make a living. You get off the golf course and you’re dealing with attorneys and trying to figure out how to do that while you’re playing golf. It’s not easy,” he said. “A lot of guys have had to go through that. It doesn’t matter how much money you have. It’s a tough thing to go through. We had some differences, and that’s what needed to happen.”



Beyond his divorce, there were more health issues. The two-time heart transplant recipient was sidelined last year by arthritis in his feet, the byproduct of gout. Unfortunately, it wasn’t that simple. It never is with Compton.

Compton’s foot issues were initially misdiagnosed, and he was advised to ice his right foot after every round, but that only crystalized the gout and forced him to undergo a procedure on his right toe to alleviate the pain.

His condition was further complicated when he contracted cellulitis, a bacterial infection of the skin that was caused by athlete’s foot. That led to two days in a South Florida hospital last month that forced him to miss the Mexico Open, which he won in 2011, helping him earn his Tour card.

Compton has spent more time in hospitals than some people spend commuting to work, which would prompt the inevitably question – why me?

“No,” he laughs. “I’m excited now. This is the best I’ve felt in a year and a half. I have a doctor who can look out for me when I have these issues. I thought with the arthritis I’d have to take a medical [exemption]. These are the things that go through my head at night.”

If Compton’s glass seems a bit half full considering his plight, both professionally and personally, he’s arrived at his optimistic crossroads honestly. Whereas most athletes depend on compartmentalization and a reluctance for linear thinking, Compton has chosen retrospection.

“We all have a tendency to live in our minds beyond where we are, and that’s Tour life,” he said. “You think you’re a better player than you might be. You think you have more money than you might have.”

But for Compton those memories that others work to bury deep have provided a focal point in his journey back to the Tour. Every day, for example, he revisits that final round at Pinehurst, when he proved to himself and the world that he had the game to compete in a major championship.

He remembers the thrill of competing at the highest level and how energizing golf can be when your mind and body cooperate.

“I’ve moved on, and I’m trying to get my life in order and simplify and rebuild the work that I put in for so many years. The players are so good, but I still think that if I can get off of the [Web.com Tour] and onto the PGA Tour, I still have the game to play,” he said. “You don’t realize how great you have it until it’s gone.”

There doesn’t seem to be much that Compton doesn’t perceive these days, and it appears that the last line of that biography hasn’t been written yet.

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Tour Championship: Tee times, TV schedule, stats

By Golf Channel DigitalSeptember 18, 2018, 7:26 pm

The top 30 players in the FedExCup standings are back at East Lake for the Tour Championship. Here's the key info for the 48th and final official event of the 2017-2018 PGA Tour season.

Golf course: East Lake Golf Club in Atlanta, Ga., was opened in 1908 and designed by Tom Bendelow. East Lake was redesigned by Donald Ross in 1913, George Cobb in 1959, and Rees Jones in 1995 and 2008. The course will play as a par 70 at 7,362 yards. East Lake first hosted the Tour Championship in 1998. This year marks the 15th consecutive year and 18th overall that it has played host to the season-ending event.

Purse: $8.75 million ($1.575 million to winner)

TV and live streaming schedule (All times Eastern): Thursday, 1-6 p.m. on Golf Channel (live stream); Friday, 1-6 p.m. on Golf Channel (live stream); Saturday, 12:30-2:30 p.m. on Golf Channel (live stream), 2:30-6 p.m. on NBC (live stream); Sunday, 2:30-6 p.m. on NBC (live stream)

Notable tee times (pairings adjusted after each round): Rickie Fowler and Jon Rahm, 12:10 p.m.; Tommy Fleetwood and Tiger Woods, 12:30 p.m.; Rory McIlroy and Xander Schauffele, 12:40 p.m.; Francesco Molinari and Phil Mickelson, 1 p.m.; Justin Thomas and Keegan Bradley, 1:40 p.m.; Tony Finau and Dustin Johnson, 1:50 p.m.; Bryson DeChambeau and Justin Rose, 2 p.m. Click here for full tee times.

Defending champion: Xander Schauffele defeated Justin Thomas by one stroke to earn his second career PGA Tour win and the second win of his rookie season. Schauffele became the first rookie to ever win the Tour Championship and he finished third in the season-long race for the FedExCup while runner-up Thomas joined Vijay Singh in 2008 and Tiger Woods in 2009 as players to win the FedExCup without winning the Tour Championship.

Notables in the field: The field has been cut to the top 30 in FedExCup points. The field includes 23 of the top 30 in the Official World Golf Ranking, four FedExCup champions (Woods, Horschel, McIlroy, Thomas), five previous winners of this event (Woods, Mickelson, Horschel, McIlroy, Schauffele) and 13 major champions. Click here for FedExCup title scenarios for all 30 players.

Key stats:

• All 30 players in field have mathematical possibility of winning $10 million bonus

• Only two players have won the Tour Championship more than once: Woods (1999, 2007) and Mickelson (2000, 2009)

• In the last 11 years, eight players have won both the Tour Championship and FedExCup in the same year: Woods (2007), Jim Furyk (2010), Bill Haas (2011), Brandt Snedeker (2012), Henrik Stenson (2013), Billy Horschel (2014), Jordan Spieth (2015), and Rory McIlroy (2016)

• The defending champion is Schauffele, who played his way into the top 30 in the BMW Championship for a second consecutive year. No player has ever successfully defended his Tour Championship title

• Players in the field this week will earn a minimum of $395,000 combined ($144,000 for 30th place at East Lake and $175,000 for 30th place in the FedExCup) with the potential for a $11,620,000 payday for winning both the Tour Championship and the FedExCup.

• For the 10th consecutive season, points are reset going into the Tour Championship. That guarantees that if a player in the top five (DeChambeau, Rose, Finau, Johnson, Thomas) wins at East Lake, he will also win the FedExCup

• Seven of the last eight winners of the FedExCup have also won the Tour Championship. Five of the last six FedExCup winners have been a top-five seed coming into the week – the only one not was Rory McIlroy at number six in 2016.

• The FedExCup points leader going into the Tour Championship has gone on to win the FedExCup just three times – all in the competition’s first three seasons: Woods in 2007, Vijay Singh in 2008 and Woods in 2009.

(Stats and information provided by the Golf Channel editorial research unit)

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Punch Shot: Hits and misses from FedExCup changes

By Golf Channel DigitalSeptember 18, 2018, 6:42 pm

GolfChannel.com senior writer Randall Mell and staff writer Will Gray examine the recently announced changes to the FedExCup and Tour Championship, and weigh in on the pros and cons.

GRAY: We've got some more changes for 2019 to digest, both with the FedExCup and how the Tour Championship will be determined. No more points reset, no more scenarios ... but, instead, a staggered start at East Lake with the top seed beginning the tournament at 10 under. What's your biggest takeaway from all of these changes?

MELL: Love it and hate it. I love that there's definitive clarity to the FedExCup finish, that the winner doesn't need a slide rule or calculator to know he's over a putt to win. I love going to a traditional leaderboard to determine who wins the Cup. I hate that the Tour Championship was sacrificed at the altar of the FedExCup. It's no longer a tournament in the traditional sense.

GRAY: Fair points on both sides. This is certainly going to take some getting used to, and it goes against a lot of the underlying principles of individual and team sports. No other league determines its overall champion by offering a head start. But I do think that once play begins, it'll be a lot easier to keep track of everything – especially for the casual fan.

MELL: Yes, that's the great upside. Fans didn't really tune in to the Tour Championship to see who would win the FedExCup. Not really. They tuned in to see the best players in the world playing to win the tournament. Now, it's all about the FedExCup. The Tour fixed that. Still, there's a big problem. The Tour hasn't solved its "playoffs" problem. These still aren't playoffs. Choosing to sell the FedExCup as "The Playoffs" continues to complicate golf's postseason. It's why people who don't like today's news hate hearing a guy is going to start the Tour Championship with a 10-shot lead on some of the field. If fans can get their heads around the fact that the Tour Championship isn't really a tournament anymore, that it's the FedEx Cup "finale," they could embrace it. But they think of it as the Super Bowl finish to the PGA Tour playoffs. It ain't that.



GRAY: It's certainly contrived, but I have no problem with getting a little creative to cap a champion in a way that ensures some drama. My biggest issue in all of this might just be counting this as an official victory. How can a player add this to his resume, and potentially use it as a tally down the road in a Hall of Fame discussion, if his raw 72-hole score isn't the lowest even among the smallest field of the year?

MELL: I agree. I don't see it as a tournament anymore, but a "finale," a finish to the FedExCup series. If they have to credit it as a victory, they ought to give credit for one-and-a-half wins, because it's harder to win the FedExCup than it is to win a PGA Tour tournament. And it isn't like the winner of the finale won't know what he's putting for in the end. There will be more pressure to close out than anything outside a major.

GRAY: And perhaps that's a scenario that the Tour had originally envisioned, especially now that it will all play out before football crowds the sports calendar. But given the significant changes afoot, do you see this as a net positive? It will certainly make for a more streamlined product on the final day of the season.

MELL: Yes, and I was half-kidding about one-and-a-half wins, because closing out is easier if you're spotted a lead, harder if you're trying to catch a guy who was spotted a lead. There will be fans who are offended by the lead players will be given at the Tour Championship, but I like the clarity. I like it better than the confusion we've endured at the end of every FedExCup finish. It's not perfect, for sure, but I think it's a lot better.

GRAY: Well let's look at the bottom of the barrel. If you're the No. 30 seed at East Lake, I think it's easier to pull off an epic comeback under the new rules. Currently Patton Kizzire would need to win AND have Bryson DeChambeau finish almost last, among other things. That's a big element out of his control. But with a staggered start, he could control it all himself with one amazing week at the right time. Plus, keep in mind that only a handful of players will start more than four shots ahead of Nos. 26-30. So I think it's doable and could create some fun storylines. Agree?

MELL: Yes, as controversy and second-guessing always do. The only way to make it fair from start to finish is to use cumulative scoring all the way through, from the first FedExCup "playoff" event through the Tour Championship, but it would make for some boring finishes with runaway victories. There has to be some reset to make the Tour Championship meaningful, if not totally fair.



GRAY: A promising idea, but good luck keeping track of all those moving parts during the third round of the BMW. To me, it still feels like the best way to settle things and still retain a "playoff" element would be a 32-man match-play bracket, or perhaps 36 holes of stroke play before trimming to eight (or 16) for match play. It's the game's ultimate drama! But, alas, I fear that ship has now sailed.

MELL: Match play? Now you're talking playoffs! True playoffs! But that ship's beyond the horizon. Ain't coming back. We know how exciting the start of match play is, but how ponderous a dull finals matchup can be.

GRAY: I suppose the ghosts of Andrew Magee and Kevin Sutherland still linger. But with the top 30 players from the season, would there really be that many possible duds for the final? Oh, well. Let's look at this new $10 million bonus for the top 10 players at the end of the regular season. Incentive for some guys to sprint to the finish line and maybe add the season-ending Wyndham Championship, or simply an example of the rich getting richer?

MELL: The Tour must be counting on that "integrity fee" from legalized gambling being a real gold rush ... I've lost track of what incentive means on Tour. They're playing a game with which I'm not familiar. The rich ain't getting poorer.

GRAY: With the bonus pool doubling to $70 million (including the Wyndham bonus), there will be multiple players banking in excess of $10 million in a single season when it's all said and done. Good luck explaining that to players 20 years ago, let alone 50. But I digress. Let's leave with this ... if you could tweak only one aspect of the new setup, what would it be?

MELL: It's your idea, but it's more than a tweak. It's finding that ship beyond the horizon and bringing it back to port. It's a match-play finish at the Tour Championship. With that, it truly becomes FedEx Cup Playoffs. It's a pipe dream, for the reasons I mentioned above, but it's a true and right and fair path to a playoff champion.

GRAY: Happy to bring you aboard Team Match Play, even though it seems less likely to come to pass. Maybe one year we can stage an alternate match-play event in Atlanta among 32 writers where we all play for $70 instead of $70 million. Until then, get ready to do some extra math next year at East Lake.

MELL: OK, I'll start saving up!

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Only one trophy being handed out at next year's Tour Champ.

By Rex HoggardSeptember 18, 2018, 6:14 pm

ATLANTA – Lost in Tuesday’s announcement that the PGA Tour will dramatically overhaul how the FedExCup champion will be crowned was exactly what this means for the Tour Championship.

The top 30 on the playoff points list will continue to advance to the finale at East Lake with the field handicapped based on their position on that list, with the points leader beginning the week at 10 under par, No. 2 on the list at 8 under, No. 3 at 7 under and so on.

This will essentially make the Tour Championship a FedExCup shootout, a notion commissioner Jay Monahan seemed to confirm when asked if officials still planned to award two trophies on Sunday, the FedExCup and the trophy for winning the Tour Championship.


Current FedExCup standings

Tour Championship: Articles, photos and videos


“There will be one trophy handed out on Sunday, and that will be the FedExCup trophy,” Monahan said. “But Calamity Jane [a replica of the putter used by Bobby Jones that is awarded the winner at East Lake] is a rich part of this club. We're going to find the right way to perpetuate the Calamity Jane.”

There will also not be a specific purse for the finale – although a player will be compensated for his finish in the FedExCup, with an increase of the total bonus pool to $60 million – and it’s unclear exactly what the role of Coca-Cola and Southern Company, the event’s longtime sponsors, will be starting next year.

“I don't want to put words in their mouth, but when we had the conversation, they immediately supported this idea and this concept, and in fact, are committed to us for a long time to come,” Monahan said.

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Golf Films' "Famous 5" details how five Europeans reinvigorated the Ryder Cup

By Golf Channel Public RelationsSeptember 18, 2018, 6:05 pm

Premiering Monday, Sept. 24 at 9 p.m. ET on Golf Channel, Film Details How Ballesteros, Faldo, Langer, Lyle & Woosnam Helped Establish Competitive Spirit Synonymous with Modern-Day Ryder Cup

“Seve came in [the team room] and said ‘We must celebrate, we must celebrate! This is a victory for us, we can do this!’” – Nick Faldo on the ‘83 loss (14½-13½) 

VIDEO: Famous 5 Trailer

In anticipation of the biennial Ryder Cup next week outside of Paris, Golf Channel will showcase its latest Golf Films project, Famous 5, outlining how five European golfers – born within 11 months of one another – collectively helped revitalize the international competition and redefine the professional golf landscape. The film will premiere on Monday, Sept. 24 at 9 p.m. ET to kick off NBC Sports Group’s Ryder Cup week programming.

The five(Seve Ballesteros, Nick Faldo, Bernhard Langer, Sandy Lyle, Ian Woosnam) each were adorned with their own unique personality and style of play, but together, in many ways were responsible for injecting much-needed relevance into the (at the time) overwhelmingly one-sided Ryder Cup. The film will examine how – after a 1977 rule began allowing players from throughout continental Europe – they would go on to collectively help erase a more than 50-year drought of losing to the United States.

Famous 5 provides a unique look at Ryder Cup history from a European perspective,” said Molly Solomon, Golf Channel executive producer. “The film highlights how these influential stars helped elevate the Ryder Cup to become one of sports’ preeminent spectacles.”

Famous 5 will detail how each found the game of golf, with footage of their childhood surroundings and insight from those whom experienced first-hand the beginning stages of what would amount to World Golf Hall of Fame careers, led by 16 major championships and a No. 1 ranking in the world (for all but Lyle). Included are a visit to Welwyn Garden City Golf Club in England where Faldo took up the game; a conversation with Ballesteros’ brother in Pedrena, Spain and with Langer’s brother in Anhauser, Germany; a trip to Lyle’s childhood bedroom in England overlooking the 18th green at Hawkstone Park golf course; and a journey to the cowshed in Wales where Woosnam honed his game.

Despite a common pride for their modest, yet unique origins in both life and golf, in many ways the fact that they weren’t all from the same place was overshadowed by their stature as the nucleus of a European professional golf insurgence indelibly bound together to reverse the Ryder Cup narrative. Ballesteros breaking through to win The Open in 1979 and the Masters in 1980 was a monumental step in the right direction. It also signaled to Faldo and Langer – both of whom were keeping pace with and at times beating Ballesteros on the European Tour – that they too could compete with the world’s best players.

In addition to the five, Tony Jacklin is remembered as another principal figure in both the film and in rectifying the European’s fate. After suffering yet another lopsided defeat in the 1981 Ryder Cup (despite Faldo, Langer and Lyle’s presence) when Jacklin and Ballesteros were unceremoniously left off the roster, former European Tour executive director Ken Schofield turned to Jacklin (just six months prior to the 1983 competition) to serve as captain. Jacklin only agreed after earning assurances from Schofield of first-class support, and in the process also convinced Ballesteros to re-join the team.

“Americans were flying on Concorde (airplane). We’re flying in the back of the bus on British Airways not knowing who is buying the drinks. We couldn’t take our caddies with us. We didn’t have a team room. We were wearing anything anybody would give us. There was no structure.” – Tony Jacklin on the European Ryder Cup experience prior to 1983

The result was a one-point loss to the United States – one that Ballesteros implored should be celebrated – and it offered the confidence that propelled Europe’s success in the coming years. When they won the 1985 Ryder Cup at The Belfry with (for the first time) each of the Famous 5 on the team, it was Europe’s first victory in the competition since 1957, the year that commenced the 11-month span in which all five were born. From 1977-2008 (with 1999 the lone exception), at least one member of the Famous 5 contributed to the European Ryder Cup team, either as a player, captain, or vice captain. Their influence led to the Europeans capturing three straight Ryder Cups in the 1980s, and inspired the subsequent European teams to win eight of the next 13 meetings to-date.

Famous 5 is being produced by Golf Films, led by 13-time Emmy Award-winning coordinating producer Israel DeHerrera, who has served as the lead producer for several award-winning projects, including the three-part Arnie (2014) and Jack (2017) films on Arnold Palmer and Jack Nicklaus. Other critically acclaimed Golf Films productions include Driven: Oklahoma State Cowboys (2018), executive produced by Rickie Fowler; the Emmy-nominated Payne (2014), on the late Payne Stewart; Go Down Swinging (2018), reliving the unforgettable conclusion to the 1999 Open; Summer of ’76 (2017), recounting the 1976 Open at Royal Birkdale; Arnie & Me (2015), a follow-up, fourth installment of Arnie; ’86 (2016), a chronicle of Nicklaus’ final major championship win at the 1986 Masters that aired to coincide with the 30th anniversary of his iconic win; and Ben Crenshaw: A Walk Through Augusta (2015), on the two-time Masters champion’s special relationship with the tournament.