HOYLAKE, England –– The British bookmakers have Erik Compton at 200-1 this week. But let’s face it, he’s made a career of beating the odds.
Compton, 34, is playing golf in the U.K. for the first time and is finding his early week at Royal Liverpool to be as quiet as it was in Pinehurst.
“I don’t think anybody knows who I am here,” he said. And that’s perfectly fine, because Compton wants his golf game to tell the story. The miracle man is here this week largely due to his fine play at the U.S. Open, where he finished joint runner-up with Rickie Fowler on No. 2 to magician Martin Kaymer, who made the demands of Donald Ross all but disappear.
The Open Championship is Compton’s second major start, and he’s as calm and level-headed as you’d expect from a man with a special heart. Compton, a survivor of two heart transplants, said life hasn’t changed much since his U.S. Open run. He’s been approached about doing a documentary, maybe even a movie, but said that’s all bells and whistles. He’s more concerned with taking his 5-year-old daughter Petra to school.
Compton followed the same recipe for Hoylake that he did at Pinehurst. His family stayed back in Miami so he could keep focused with swing coach Charles DeLucca by his side. He will have a few cousins from Norway on hand this week to watch him compete for the first time. Compton said he plans to fly back over to Europe sometime in the near future for a family vacation.
To get an idea of how near-death experiences can shape a man’s perspective, look no further than an exchange Compton had with his caddie, Victor Billskoog, on the 72nd hole at Pinehurst.
With Kaymer already a lock for the trophy, the race for second heated up as Compton faced a 6-foot par putt on the 18th Sunday that would keep him in a tie with Fowler. The usual routine for Compton on the green is to have his caddie read the opposite side. Instead, DeLucca said, Compton told Billskoog to skip the read and soak up the experience.
“We’re on the last hole on Sunday of the U.S. Open,” Compton told Billskoog. “I’m going to make the putt anyway. This is a once in a lifetime thing; you’ve really got to enjoy it.”
Compton, of course, made the putt. The ability to not only appreciate a moment of that magnitude but embrace it helps Compton thrive in big events. It’s just that he’s only had one crack at them up to this point.
“I think what happens is the element of the short game is a lot more important in majors,” said Compton, who likes a course where par is at a premium. The former Georgia standout is 14th on the tour in putting and quite skilled with a wedge in his hands.
Compton took off two weeks coming into the Open Championship and, with stormy Miami weather prohibiting practice, should be fresh.
The links rookie arrived on Sunday and played nine holes. On Monday, he played 18 with Sir Nick Faldo, who advised him to watch the tide for insight into the wind.
Compton, who was surprised by the quickness of the greens here, said mapping Hoylake is quite different to Pinehurst.
“I feel like I don’t need to have that much information in my book because you’re going to have to rely on the condition and the feel,” he said. “Where at Pinehurst, you had to hit it at certain sections of the green.”
It’s also worth noting that there’s more green here at Hoylake than there was at Pinehurst, which is odd. But the rough is certainly more penal.
Safe to say that if Compton works his way up one of those great yellow scoreboards, he’ll quickly become a favorite amongst British fans.
“It’ll be like the U.S. Open,” DeLucca said. “We’ll sneak in quiet and leave loud.”