Finally, Compton a Masters participant not a viewer

By Rex HoggardApril 6, 2015, 6:27 pm

AUGUSTA, Ga. – Chris Haack’s interest in the Masters goes well beyond that of a normal fan of azaleas, pimento cheese and Sunday roars.

Haack is the head golf coach at the University of Georgia and could field a team with the number of former Bulldogs in this week’s field.

“Six,” Haack laughed on Monday when asked about the number of former players with tee times at Augusta National. “I’ve got a reserve.”

But of all the former Georgia players – a list that includes defending champion Bubba Watson, Brian Harman, Russell Henley, Chris Kirk and Brendon Todd – Haack’s professional impartiality gives way to heartstrings when it comes to picking a favorite.

Erik Compton was on the 2000 and ’01 Georgia teams that won consecutive Southeastern Conference titles, and at 35 years old is among the 18 Masters rookies at this week’s tournament.

He’s also, after Tiger Woods and Rory McIlroy, the most compelling story.

Although his play this season, five missed cuts and just a single top-10 finish in 12 starts, leaves Compton well short of contender status, the fact that he even earned a ride down Magnolia Lane is a reason to appreciate his accomplishment.

Anyone who tuned in during last year’s U.S. Open can recite Compton’s tale – as a 12-year-old he suffered from viral cardiomyopathy and underwent heart transplant surgery; he had his second heart transplant in 2008.

That first procedure came four years after Compton watched the Masters for the first time. He’s never missed a telecast since, but that streak has been harder and harder to maintain in recent years.

After a lifetime spent trying to earn a start at the Masters, Compton began coming to grips with the reality that it may never happen following his second heart surgery.

“It’s kind of hard to believe that my first Masters is at 35 and everything that I've gone through; and there's times where I never thought I would ever play in the Masters,” he said. “There were times where it was tough to watch it on TV, as a player but not as a fan.”

His breakthrough came last June when he battled Martin Kaymer on Sunday at the U.S. Open to finish tied for second place and end his Masters wait.

It’s a measure of Augusta National’s relevance to Compton that he was the third group off on Monday morning. That’s after playing four out of the last five weeks on legs that don’t recover the way they once did.

Conserving energy, almost as much as converting 4- footers, is a part of every week’s game plan for Compton, particularly at a place that is as draining as it is mesmerizing. But Compton doesn’t figure that will be a problem by the time Thursday’s opening tee time rolls around.

“Sometimes in a regular Tour event, I've been known to lose focus and fall asleep,” conceded Compton, who made a scouting trip to Augusta National earlier this season. “Here, I think I'm happy with my form. I was a little concerned about the length of this golf course and how hard it is to walk, but when you have adrenaline and you have people rooting you on, it makes the week easy.”

Motivation, or maybe it’s energy, won’t be a problem, not here. Not at a place he’s been fixated on since he had his original heart. Not at a place he first experienced as a freshman when Haack and the team made the annual trip over from Athens, Ga., to play the iconic layout.

“I remember taking every one of those guys because when they are a freshman I want to see the reaction,” Haack said when asked about Compton’s first trip to Augusta National. “It’s the same with everyone, their jaws are dropping and they are just in such disbelief with everything. They are afraid to take a divot.”

More than most, Haack understands that Compton’s maiden trip to the Masters goes beyond the normal first-timer’s honeymoon.

Even as a freshman at Georgia it was a well-established reality that Compton’s career, which held tremendous potential following a stellar amateur career, would always be held hostage by his precarious medical history.

When he was forced back onto the heart donor list in 2008 many, including Compton, thought his career, as well as his window to play the Masters, had closed.

It’s what makes this first trip to the former fruit nursery so special.

“With Erik, because of his situation and what he has been through, he appreciates every opportunity he gets,” Haack said. “The U.S. Open was special but the Masters will probably be more special. No matter what happens I’m sure it will be a very a special week.”

It will certainly be a different week. After 26 years, Compton’s streak comes to an end. “It’s going to be weird not watching the Masters,” he smiled.

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Vegas helicopters in to Carnoustie, without clubs

By Golf Channel DigitalJuly 19, 2018, 9:33 am

Jhonattan Vegas did some range work, putted a little and strolled to the first tee for his 5:31 a.m. ET start in the 147th Open Championship.

Everything before that, however, was far from routine.

Vegas' visa to travel to Scotland expired and the process to renew it got delayed - and it looked like his overseas' flight might suffer the same fate. Vegas, upon getting his visa updated, traveled from Houston, Texas to Toronto, Canada to Glasgow, Scotland, and then took a helicopter to Carnoustie.

He arrived in time on Thursday morning, but his clubs did not. Mizuno put together some irons for him and TaylorMade got him his preferred metal woods. He hit the clubs for the first time on the range, less than 90 minutes before his start.

"I'm going to go out there and play with freedom," Vegas told Golf Channel's Todd Lewis.

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How to watch The Open on TV and online

By Golf Channel DigitalJuly 19, 2018, 5:40 am

You want to watch the 147th Open? Here’s how you can do it.

Golf Channel and NBC Sports will be televising 182 hours of overall programming from the men's third major of the year at Carnoustie

In addition to the traditional coverage, the two networks will showcase three live alternate feeds: marquee groups, featured holes (our new 3-hole channel) and spotlight action. You can also watch replays of full-day coverage, Thursday-Sunday, in the Golf Channel app, NBC Sports apps, and on  

Here’s the weekly TV schedule, with live stream links in parentheses. You can view all the action on the Golf Channel mobile, as well. Alternate coverage is noted in italics:

(All times Eastern; GC=Golf Channel; NBC=NBC Sports; or check the GLE app)

Monday, July 16

GC: 7-9AM: Morning Drive (

GC: 9-11AM: Live From The Open (

GC: 7-9PM: Live From The Open (

Tuesday, July 17

GC: 6AM-2PM: Live From The Open (

Wednesday, July 18

GC: 6AM-2PM: Live From The Open (

Thursday, July 19

GC: Midnight-1:30AM: Midnight Drive (

GC: Day 1: The Open, live coverage: 1:30AM-4PM ( Day 1: The Open, Spotlight: 1:30AM-4PM ( Day 1: The Open, Marquee Groups: 4AM-3PM ( Day 1: The Open, 3-Hole Channel: 4AM-3PM (

GC: Live From The Open: 4-5PM (

Friday, July 20

GC: Day 2: The Open, live coverage: 1:30AM-4PM ( Day 2: The Open, Spotlight: 1:30AM-4PM ( Day 2: The Open, Marquee Groups: 4AM-3PM ( Day 2: The Open, 3-Hole Channel: 4AM-3PM (

GC: Live From The Open: 4-5PM (

Saturday, July 21

GC: Day 3: The Open, live coverage: 4:30-7AM (

NBC: Rd. 3: The Open, live coverage: 7AM-3PM ( Day 3: The Open, Spotlight: 4:30AM-3PM ( Day 3: The Open, Marquee Groups: 5AM-3PM ( Day 3: The Open, 3-Hole Channel: 5AM-3PM (

GC: Live From The Open: 3-4PM (

Sunday, July 22

GC: Day 4: The Open, live coverage: 4:30-7AM (

NBC: Rd. 4: The Open, live coverage: 7AM-2:30PM ( Day 4: The Open, Spotlight: 4:30AM-2:30PM ( Day 4: The Open, Marquee Groups: 5AM-2PM ( Day 4: The Open, 3-Hole Channel: 5AM-2PM (

GC: Live From The Open: 2:30-4PM (

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The Open 101: A guide to the year's third major

By Golf Channel DigitalJuly 19, 2018, 5:30 am

Take a look at some answers to frequently asked questions about The Open:

What's all this "The Open" stuff? I thought it was the British Open.

What you call it has historically depended on where you were. If you were in the U.S., you called it the British Open, just as Europeans refer to the PGA Championship as the U.S. PGA. Outside the U.S. it generally has been referred to as The Open Championship. The preferred name of the organizers is The Open.

How old is it?

It's the oldest golf championship, dating back to 1860.

Where is it played?

There is a rotation – or "rota" – of courses used. Currently there are 10: Royal Birkdale, Royal St. George's, Royal Liverpool and Royal Lytham and St. Annes, all in England; Royal Portrush in Northern Ireland and St. Andrews, Carnoustie, Royal Troon, Turnberry and Muirfield, all in Scotland. Muirfield was removed from the rota in 2016 when members voted against allowing female members, but when the vote was reversed in 2017 it was allowed back in.

Where will it be played this year?

At Carnoustie, which is located on the south-eastern shore of Scotland.

Who has won The Open on that course?

Going back to the first time Carnoustie hosted, in 1931, winners there have been Tommy Armour, Henry Cotton (1937), Ben Hogan (1953), Gary Player (1968), Tom Watson (1975), Paul Lawrie (1999), Padraig Harrington (2007).

Wasn't that the year Hogan nearly won the Slam?

Yep. He had won the Masters and U.S. Open that season, then traveled to Carnoustie and won that as well. It was the only time he ever played The Open. He was unable to play the PGA Championship that season because the dates conflicted with those of The Open.

Jean Van de Velde's name should be on that list, right?

This is true. He had a three-shot lead on the final hole in 1999 and made triple bogey. He lost in a playoff to Lawrie, which also included Justin Leonard.

Who has won this event the most?

Harry Vardon, who was from the Channel Island of Jersey, won a record six times between 1896 and 1914. Australian Peter Thomson, American Watson, Scot James Braid and Englishman J.H. Taylor each won five times.

What about the Morrises?

Tom Sr. won four times between 1861 and 1867. His son, Tom Jr., also won four times, between 1868 and 1872.

Have players from any particular country dominated?

In the early days, Scots won the first 29 Opens – not a shocker since they were all played at one of three Scottish courses, Prestwick, St. Andrews and Musselburgh. In the current era, going back to 1999 (we'll explain why that year in a minute), the scoreboard is United States, nine wins; South Africa, three wins; Ireland, two wins; Northern Ireland, two wins; and Sweden, one win. The only Scot to win in that period was Lawrie, who took advantage of one of the biggest collapses in golf history.

Who is this year's defending champion?

That would be American Jordan Spieth, who survived an adventerous final round to defeat Matt Kuchar by three strokes and earn the third leg of the career Grand Slam.

What is the trophy called?

The claret jug. It's official name is the Golf Champion Trophy, but you rarely hear that used. The claret jug replaced the original Challenge Belt in 1872. The winner of the claret jug gets to keep it for a year, then must return it (each winner gets a replica to keep).

Which Opens have been the most memorable?

Well, there was Palmer in 1961and '62; Van de Velde's collapse in 1999; Hogan's win in 1953; Tiger Woods' eight-shot domination of the 2000 Open at St. Andrews; Watson almost winning at age 59 in 2009; Doug Sanders missing what would have been a winning 3-foot putt at St. Andrews in 1970; Tony Jacklin becoming the first Briton to win the championship in 18 years; and, of course, the Duel in the Sun at Turnberry in 1977, in which Watson and Jack Nicklaus dueled head-to-head over the final 36 holes, Watson winning by shooting 65-65 to Nicklaus' 65-66.

When I watch this tournament on TV, I hear lots of unfamiliar terms, like "gorse" and "whin" and "burn." What do these terms mean?

Gorse is a prickly shrub, which sometimes is referred to as whin. Heather is also a shrub. What the scots call a burn, would also be considered a creek or stream.