Featured Golf News
Compton near the Lead in Memorial
The fact that Erik Compton is merely walking around and leading a normal life is remarkable. That the two-time heart transplant recipient is vying for the lead in the 2012 Memorial Tournament is absolutely stunning.
The 32-year-old came out of the gates firing at Muirfield Village Golf Club, carding seven birdies and two bogeys for a 5-under 67, one shot behind leader Scott Stallings. After 18 holes, Compton was tied for second with Spencer Levin.
After signing his scorecard Thursday evening, Compton met with reporters and discussed his life, the state of his golf game and what it was like playing so well in the opening round of the $6.2 million tournament hosted by the legendary Jack Nicklaus. Here's what the one-time Nationwide Tour winner had to say.
MODERATOR: Erik Compton, one shot off the lead following round 1 here at the Memorial Tournament presented by Nationwide Insurance. Good round coming in in the final group of the day. Talk about getting that first round out of the way after what you said was a disappointing tournament last week.
ERIK COMPTON: Yeah, I worked really, really hard last week on the driving range, which I'm usually pretty picky about how hard I practice, and last week was really hot, and I was out there pounding balls. You know, I was just frustrated with how the year has been going. I tried to get my swing a little flatter and a little shallower, and I think it definitely saw some results the way I was driving the ball, hitting a lot of greens, a lot of crisp iron shots. And around here, these greens are really, really lightning fast, so you kind of have to be on the defensive. It's hard to get the ball close, and when you do it seems like you have a downhill putt. I was just real happy to play well and get a good round under my belt, not only because it's a PGA event but just to have a great round is encouraging. And then get up early in the morning, hopefully my body feels good, and get back at it.
Q. Do you allow yourself to think far ahead and what this would mean to win Jack's tournament, or do you just keep blinders on at this point?
ERIK COMPTON: You know, there's so many great players that are here, and I'm a good player, not a great player. I had a great round, and obviously there's a lot of golf to play. Today we were on the clock for most of the round, so that was - it was pretty stressful out there trying to get through 10 and 11 and some of those tough holes without - I think actually the guy in our group got a bad time, so I didn't have much time really to think about what I was doing, I was just hitting shots. You know, it was just a good ball striking day, and you're going to have them eventually out here when you're playing golf as a professional. I think the things that I'm working on in my golf swing worked really, really quick, because I've been pretty long this year off the tee and very sporadic, and today I was long and straight, so that's a good combination.
Q. This round was by far your best at this particular course. Why do you think it came on a day when a lot of other guys were struggling out here and the course played pretty tough?
ERIK COMPTON: Well, I think being a rookie, it's really hard on the PGA Tour to - I'm playing a lot of new courses, and I kind of feel at home here because I've played here a bunch. Played pretty well at the Honda Classic on a course that I've seen before, so there is some local knowledge, I know where not to hit it. And I think that this course, if you're driving it in the fairway and you're hitting good iron shots, you can play well out here. You know, I had some really good looks. I think I missed a three-and-a-half footer on 1 and hit it great on 2 and great on 3 and then bogeyed 4. And I was like, I'm 1 over, and I really feel like I haven't - and then I just stayed patient and finished strong. On 16 I actually hit an iron shot so high that it plugged on the front edge of the green, which I thought was pretty much impossible. Everybody has been telling me how firm that green is. Because it was getting cool later in the evening maybe the greens were a little bit more receptive.
Q. When you got to the back nine, was there anything in your swing or putting or whatever that seemed to fall into place?
ERIK COMPTON: No, I think the front nine I actually hit it better than I did on the back nine, just didn't convert any putts. And I'm just - what I feel I'm doing in my swing, it feels different than I have been in the past. And I'm just kind of trusting it and swinging away. I haven't had such great results this year, so I'm just trusting whatever I'm doing right now and just firing at the pin.
Q. And then the change to a flatter swing, is that something new, or are you actually going back to something that you did before?
ERIK COMPTON: It's pretty - I think it's a lot different than what I've ever done. I've always been pretty high with the left arm, and I'm trying to get a little bit more shallow so that my missed shots are - I've had a tendency to even chunk 3 woods this year, so it's frustrating, you'll have 14 or 15 decent holes and then have a terrible shot. The last shot of the day even on 18, I was a little bit stuck underneath and still hit the fairway. That was really, really encouraging, and I think that was really the only shot that I felt like I hit bad today.
Q. I want to double check, we've been told that your current donor heart is from a guy who's here in this area; is that accurate?
ERIK COMPTON: Uh huh.
Q. Can you tell us the back story there?
ERIK COMPTON: Well, obviously this was the first tournament that I came back that I think I walked and spoke with Jack about that, and he was well aware that I got my heart from a guy who was here in Ohio. It's just a great story, obviously, and it's a great place - for me it's a special place. For me there's not a day that goes by that I don't think about my donor. To be able to play here, regardless of whether I play good or bad, it's just always a nice week. To be here, my wife is here, she flew in, so I haven't seen her - maybe she's good luck, she brought me some good luck. Obviously I know there's a lot of people that are in the town that may be familiar with the story, so that's obviously always cool to play in front of people that are rooting for you.
Q. What city was he from?
ERIK COMPTON: I'm not sure exactly the town now.
Q. Can you just talk a little bit about how the year has gone, the ebbs and flows of being out here all the time? Has it gone how you expected, harder or easier than you would have thought?
ERIK COMPTON: I mean, it's a good question. I don't really know. I just felt in the early part of the year that I wanted to get some really good rounds under my belt, and I didn't. I think we still have a lot of golf to play, so that's encouraging, and I feel like as a rookie playing out here, you've got to learn new golf courses. Last week was a perfect example; I had no idea where to hit the ball out there. And then playing here I know exactly where to place the ball because this is my fourth time here. I think that's a big part of it.
Q. You were saying that you flattened your swing out and you just trusted it, going to aim at the flags and hit it. But so many guys when they change their swing a little bit always say I'm not comfortable. How is it that you just go, Forget it, I'm hitting it right there and I'm going t trust it; how are you able to trust it and play so well?
ERIK COMPTON: Right. If you live my life, you've learned how to trust a lot of things. I trust it every time I wake up that my heart is going to beat a certain way. I have to put a lot of trust in a lot of people, so why not trust myself. I mean, everybody is familiar with my story. I think I have the talent, and just being able to put it together has always been difficult for me. And I think being out here on the PGA Tour, if you see a lot of the guys that are consistent playing have a very compact swing that seems to have misses that go straight. I mean, look at Zach Johnson or even Jason Dufner, even Matt Kuchar. These guys are all guys that I played college golf with, and they're kicking my butt out here, and I don't like that. So seeing how they're working on their game and how their misses - I think this is just a game of misses, and I've got to improve on my misses, and I did it today.
Q. Talk about the stretch at 14, 15 and 16, those three birdies, kind of key to the round, and go through those three holes if you could.
ERIK COMPTON: Well, in the past, 10, I usually hit 3 wood off that hole, and I hit a driver and drove it through the fairway. I had 215 to the front, 237 hole, I hit a nice hybrid on the green - excuse me, on 11. 10, I hit a driver and drove it through the fairway. I had a 9 iron into the green, made a nice putt from behind the green. I thought I missed it and made it. 14, I hit a hybrid off the tee, and that's a tricky hole. You've got to hold something with no spin, so I hit a pitching wedge from 115. And then 15, I just said, I'm hitting it long, just go ahead and drive it down there, and I hit a 4 iron in the middle of the green from 235. And then 16, I think I had 190 to the hole or something like that, and I hit a 6 iron as high as I could and plugged it on the front edge of the green, and then I made that putt.
Q. Are there still - you sort of made it sound like I don't know how tomorrow morning will go. Are there still physical challenges with this, or is it mostly golf challenges that you face now?
ERIK COMPTON: I think most of it's physical, at least for me. Hopefully I get home and get some good rest. Whether I shoot 10 under or 11 under or 12 under or 2 under, for me sleeping on a lead, that doesn't really bother me at all. I think just the normal tics that I have - my wife yells at me sometimes, she'll find me sleeping on the floor or on the side of the couch just to get comfortable to go to sleep. But that's been like that for years. Just trying to - obviously, I think what am I, 8:15 tomorrow, 8:20, so get some rest and start over again.
Q. A little off topic, but I wanted to ask you a question as a Nationwide Tour graduate. As we move closer to this Nationwide/Q school merger and the PAC is in touch with the policy board, do you feel like players like you as a Nationwide Tour grad or maybe a Q school guy is getting enough representation on the PAC?
ERIK COMPTON: You know, I mean, to be honest, I don't really think about that stuff. I mean, I know the guys who are the veterans on the Tour have asked me questions a few times about what I think, and I think the Nationwide going away from Q school and playing out there is a great idea because everybody tells me a dozen times, look at the young guys that have made it through Tour school and now they're stars out here. Well, if they're so great, they're going to whiz through the Nationwide and then they're going to come out here and be stars. A year under your belt out there, I mean, I had 10 years under my belt, and I think it really, really proves who the best players are. It takes a full year to find out who's playing the best instead of one good week. But I can definitely see the other side. So I think Paul Goydos had asked me what I thought. That's kind of my thinking.
MODERATOR: Erik, great round today. Good luck tomorrow.
The transcript for the above interview is courtesy of ASAP Sports.