PACIFIC PALISADES, Calif. -- Erik Compton knew he had to do something soon. After all, he’d been home so long he was starting to get on his wife's nerves.
"(She said) why don't you go somewhere, you're annoying me," Compton said, chuckling at the memory. "The last couple years I've played overseas in Dubai, and I was just kind of sitting home eating popcorn watching everybody play well, so I figured I needed to get something going.
"It is a long shot. Monday qualifying is very, very difficult, especially on the West Coast, so I wasn't quite sure whether it was worth coming out. But in the end it worked out great, I'm here, and just try to take advantage of the good week."
Compton shot 66 in the Monday qualifying at the Eisenhower course at Industry Hills Golf Club to earn his spot. He'll be playing in the Northern Trust Open for the first time in his career, as a result.
"It was like a TOUR event," Compton said. "Obviously you had 71 players that have Nationwide or PGA TOUR status. But in the end it's always still a number. Whether you're playing against Tiger Woods or Phil Mickelson or whoever, it's always going to be 66, 65, 64, so it doesn't matter who.
"You've just got to shoot a number, so it doesn't really matter."
Many people know Compton's compelling story. He's already had two heart transplants –- the second after he nearly died and was calling his family to say his goodbyes before the procedure. He continues to pursue his dream of playing on the PGA TOUR, and it’s hardly a pipe dream, either.
Steve Stricker, who will defend his title at the Northern Trust Open this week, played a practice round with Compton on Monday and came away impressed.
“I find it amazing that he's able to even play the game from what he's gone through over the course of his life,” Stricker said. “He's got a great attitude, first of all. I think that's what makes him so special is that he's got a great attitude about it. You know, he doesn't know. He doesn't know what's going to happen. I said, how long can the heart that you have in, I mean, is there a prognosis for how long it's going to last, or do you get put on a list now for if something were to happen?
“He just takes it day by day he says and goes with it, and he feels great. … I think a great attitude helps with the whole thing.”
Compton contended through three rounds at The Greenbrier Classic last year, shooting a 63 in the first round but derailing his chances with a 77 in the final. He also reached the final stage of q-school last year and has status on the Nationwide Tour for 2011.
To prepare for the season, which begins next week in Panama, Compton has been working hard on weight-training with a trainer. He said he gained 10 pounds and about 10 mph on his clubhead speed, accelerating more like he did in his early 20s.
"I think last year was a really good year for me, even though on paper I didn't play well on the weekends," said Compton, who made the cut in five of his seven TOUR events. "... It was a little discouraging when I went to finals because I was hoping to get a TOUR card. The weather was obviously cold, and it was a long golf course and just didn't pan out for me. But you know, when you're at home and the first part of the season you see Hawaii and you see all the guys playing, you kind of get itching to go out and play. I'm either working on the boat or doing something other than golf.
"You've got to be patient. I know it's a long year, and I know there will be opportunities through Monday qualifying, and whether I get into a tournament and then also I have to focus on trying to see (What happens on) the Nationwide Tour. But you can't really plan too far ahead because you've got to take each tournament something great might happen this week or on a PGA (TOUR) event, and then maybe you have status out here." – Helen Ross
Eric Compton, who held a share of the overnight lead, continues to hang tough at The Greenbrier on Friday.
He started on the back this afternoon and birdied two of his first three holes before giving a shot back at the par-4 13th when he missed the green and later a 16-footer for par. Seven pars followed but Compton has just made a 5-footer for birdie that moved him to 9 under for the tournament and into a tie for third.
A two-time heart transplant recipient, Compton has attracted considerable media attention this week. He was featured on ESPN’s SportsCenter this morning and recently was a subject of an HBO “Real Sports” segment.
Compton, who is playing on a sponsor’s exemption, has no status on any tour right now. A win would give him a two-year exemption on the PGA TOUR – not to mention, a $1.09 million paycheck. -- Helen Ross
Scott Piercy now has some company at the top of the leaderboard on a sun-kissed day when players are once again going low.
Piercy hit his approach well right at the 11th hole and was unable to save par. So now he’s tied with Richard S. Johnson, Boo Weekley, Briny Baird and Eric Compton at 7 under.
Weekley, who just two-putted from 21 feet at the par-5 17th, and Baird both started on the back nine. Baird has played six holes and made birdie on four of them.
Johnson got to 7 under with a 10-footer at the ninth hole, his third birdie of the day. Compton, on the other hand, won’t tee off until 2:30 p.m. – Helen Ross
Erik Compton's round didn't exactly start auspiciously.
A bit of mud on the ball at the second hole produced a bogey and a three-putt from 43 feet at the next accounted for another. But Compton made nine birdies over his next 15 holes to seize a one-stroke clubhouse lead.
"It was a difficult start," acknowledged Compton, who persevered and fired a 63 that was his low round of the season.
The 30-year-old, who has had two heart transplants, knows a thing or two about perseverance, too.
Compton has found a comfort zone at The Greenbrier this week. He says the Old White sets up like a course back home in Florida even though you're in the West Virginia mountains among stately Norwegian Spruce trees.
"It's really pretty," Compton said. "You have to have drive it good. If you do, you can definitely take advantage. You know, I hit some really close shots, a couple good putts, and just
"I guess the round just kind of developed like that."
Compton, who is playing in The Greenbrier Classic on a sponsor's exemption, has a little extra motivation this week. A friend, Victor Bilskoog, is caddying for him and Compton is "trying to make as many birdies as I can for him so he can go to q-school."
Bilskoog's brother is a good friend of Compton's and caddied for him when he won in Morocco. Compton wanted to give Victor a behind-the-scenes glimpse of life on TOUR.
"He needs to get ready for q-school," Compton said. "He just turned pro, and every time we play he puts some pressure on me. I feel like if he's out here, he can see how the guys on the TOUR play.
"Hopefully he can follow in, you know, in somewhat of my footsteps. I know if I was as strong as him I would probably be a lot better. But it's good for him to see just the type of play, and especially even today, how the round developed.
"You don't need to do anything extra special. Just get it the green and keep plugging away and save the shots that you can." – Helen Ross
Looks like The Live Report jinxed Jeff Overton. As soon as we published the note about him taking the lead – with a bogey-free round, to boot – guess what happened.
Overton missed a 10-footer to save par at the 18th hole. So now he’s back in a logjam at the top of the leaderboard with Pat Perez, George McNeill and Erik Compton. Compton, though, could break the tie – he has two holes remaining. – Helen Ross
George McNeill has some company at the top of the leaderboard now. Pat Perez has just matched the Floridian’s 64 after making seven birdies and one bogey.
Looks like there will be some more candidates, too. Jeff Overton is 6 under through 16 holes while Erik Compton, a double heart-transplant recipient, is at the same number through 14.
Erik Compton’s story is well known by now. He’s survived two heart transplants and continues that battle still today. Right now, though, he’s taking pretty good advantage of the sponsor exemption he was given into this week’s field with seven birdies, including four in a row, over his last nine holes to get to 5 under and a share of the lead with six holes left in his round.
Compton, who has missed just two fairways and one green so far, has played in six PGA TOUR events this season, but he hasn’t finished than 30th (at Bay Hill), which also happens to be his best career finish on TOUR. -- Brian Wacker
Mark Calcavecchia and Erik Compton are currently sitting near the bottom of the leaderboard, each at 4 over for the tournament, with both players still on their front nines.
But just seeing them make the cut and reach the weekend at the Memorial is a nice accomplishment in itself.
Calcavecchia, who turns 50 next Saturday, is making his last PGA TOUR start before embarking on a full-time Champions Tour career. The Memorial is his 737th TOUR event.
Calcavecchia is looking forward to the Champions Tour. He'll make his first start at the Dick's Sporting Goods Open on June 25 in Endicott, N.Y.
"New courses, new towns, you know, new holes to screw up," Calcavecchia said earlier this week. "Tired of screwing up the same holes every year. ...
"The relaxed atmosphere of it, everybody tells me it's a lot of
fun. The golf is still super competitive, which, obviously I know,
and we all know the kind of scores they shoot out there and how
good everybody is. So I know the golf still you've got to play
great to win or even to contend, you still have to play great. So
that doesn't change."
As for Compton, his (literally) heartwarming story -- he's had two heart transplants, the second one in 2008 -- makes him a popular figure to follow.
He played a round with Jack Nicklaus and son Jackie Nicklaus on Sunday.
"Talked a little bit about golf and tennis and some of the stuff he's interested in doing now," Compton recalled a few days later. "You know, he just -- he's always shocked about how much I've been through, having two transplants. You know, we had a good match. I got to hit some of his iron shots and talked about putting and chipping and just a regular -- he's just a regular guy."
Although he's yet to contend this year, Compton has made the cut in each of his four starts, and tied for 30th at the Arnold Palmer Invitational presented by MasterCard. This is the second consecutive year he's made the cut at the Memorial.
Compton will go through sectional qualifying for the U.S. Open on Monday. It will be the first time he's played 36 holes since his last surgery.
"My medical accomplishments are much higher than my accomplishments in the game of golf," Compton said. "You know, I haven't had the accomplishments that a lot of the guys here have had on TOUR but yet I'm probably just as recognized as guys that have had won majors and things like that because of my accomplishments in the medical room."