Notes: Compton's attitude; Todd's tough day; more
PINEHURST, N.C. – It’s well documented that Erik Compton, he of the two heart transplants and bottomless fortitude, is a hero to many. Now we know that Jack Nicklaus is among the many admirers.
Oh, and Chi Chi Rodriguez, too.
“A lot of the legends of the game have taken an interest in my story,” Compton said. “There are different characters of the game that I feel like I’ve gained strength from and it’s nice to have the greats of the game take an interest in me.”
When he had lunch with Nicklaus during the Memorial Tournament two weeks ago, Compton was given a shot of confidence. “He kind of winked at me and said, ‘Your game will suit Pinehurst (No. 2),” Compton said.
Not that we didn’t already know that Nicklaus knows of what he speaks, but when Compton made the cut with rounds of 72-68 you had to tip your cap to the Golden Bear. Saturday morning, Rodriguez spoke with Compton on the phone and told the 34-year-old “I was going to go out and shoot 64,” he said.
OK, so Rodriguez was off … but only slightly, because Compton matched Rickie Fowler at 3-under 67 for the day’s only sub-par rounds. Stellar stuff for the both of them as they pushed to 3 under 207, five off of Martin Kaymer’s lead.
Whether he’s living up to Nicklaus’ prediction or trying to fulfill Rodriguez’ faith in him, Compton – a medical marvel and inspirational story – feels comfortable on the Pinehurst No. 2 stage, no matter how tough it is.
“I think that my attitude suits a U.S. Open-style course because I don’t ever give up. I’m extremely hard on myself, but I tend to forget the shots I hit bad and move to the next one.”
Since Fowler finished first, he’ll play in the final pairing alongside Kaymer. Compton will be in the penultimate group with Henrik Stenson (70), who is tied for fourth at 2 under with Dustin Johnson (70).
Johnson will be paired with Brandt Snedeker (72), who is alone in sixth, the last of six players who are in red figures through 54 holes.
PHOTOS: 2014 U.S. Open (Saturday)
Check out photos from Saturday's third round of the 2014 U.S. Open at Pinehurst No. 2 in North Carolina.
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BIG CRASH: Brendon Todd seemed dismayed at how late his tee time was for Round 3 (3:25) and how the greens appeared “chewed up” by only 65 players who teed off ahead of him.
Well, thanks to a rough third round, Todd has done something about that late tee time. He’ll go off much, much earlier, having tumbled from second to T-30 on the leaderboard. Hopping aboard the bogey train early and unable to disembark, Todd went out in 40, came home in 39, and went from 4 under to 5 over.
“The scores weren’t really happening for me today, so it was difficult,” Todd said. “The pins were very aggressively set, especially early on, in the back corners. I really never had the momentum with the irons or the putter today.”
Todd began the day just six behind his playing competitor, Martin Kaymer, but will start the fourth round 13 back. So with his hopes for victory dashed, the onetime University of Georgia standout and U.S. Open rookie focused on the positives.
“All in all, I’ll take a lot from it.”
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EYE ON THE PRIZE: Playing in his first U.S. Open, Shiv Kapur has nothing but praise for Pinehurst No. 2 and his favorable view has reflected in his scoring.
With rounds of 73-70-71, the 32-year-old from India has his sights set on a top-10 finish to earn a trip to next year’s championship at Chambers Bay in Washington Place, Wash.
“I think it's one of the greatest tournaments in the world (with) the adrenaline rush that you get playing out there,” Kapur said.
With Saturday’s third round the most difficult of the week, Kapur put a solid score on the board. But it was a rollercoaster affair with six bogeys and five birdies, including a birdie on the last.
“If you play well, you hit a lot of good shots and stay disciplined and try and stick to the middle of the greens, I think even par is quite doable around here,” Kapur said. “I drove the ball beautifully today, gave myself a lot of chances. I did make a couple of soft bogeys, but then I did make some really good birdies, as well.”
PHOTOS: 2014 U.S. Open Fashion, Saturday
Check out player's apparel from Saturday's third round of the 2014 U.S. Open at Pinehurst No. 2.
This week Kapur gained a little guidance and confidence working with Dr. Bob Rotella. Considering Kapur came into this week with three missed cuts and a T-60 at the Nordea Masters last week, the mental advice seemed to help.
“I just think you end up focusing a little bit harder,” Kapur said. “I feel like in the big events it brings out the best in me. Even the Open Championship last year (when Kapur shot 68 and was two off the lead), that gave me a lot of belief to say if you can do it, albeit for nine holes of the first round, you have the ability, and it's just a question of being more consistent.”
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KEEPING UP WITH THE KIDS: With his 54th birthday looming next month, Kenny Perry might be calling it quits in the U.S. Open. But he’s certainly showing the young kids a thing or two.
The reigning U.S. Senior Open champion wasn’t surprised he made the cut on the strength of 74-69. Rough usually causes havoc for Perry, who starts upright and then on the downswing it get shallow and catches a lot of grass. But Pinehurst No. 2 is devoid of rough and he’s enjoyed that very much.
It showed, too, when on the 14th hole Perry holed an improbable hybrid shot from a right fairway bunker. “It went in there like a putt,” he said.
Where Perry struggles to keep up with the younger competition is when it comes to putting spin on the ball to keep his shots on these turtleback greens. He just can’t do it like them.
“I’ve got to play more to the middle of the greens and play more short and let it kind of kick up in there, and that's kind of hard,” Perry said. “When you've thrown it at flagsticks your whole life and that's what you see in your head in your subconscious, sometimes you're fighting your own self out there.”
Perry believed when he came to Pinehurst that he could make the cut because the rough was gone. His swing, which starts upright and shallows out on the downswing, catches a lot of grass when in the rough.
“In thick grass I usually catch a lot of grass, and I struggle with heavy rough,” Perry said. “To me if I could figure out a way to get it in the middle of the green, I had a great chance. I knew par was going to be a good score this week.”
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EARLY PUNCH: Should anyone have considered the possibility of making a charge from the gates, the USGA setup folks had an emphatic response. Don’t even think about it.
The two hardest holes were Nos. 2 (4.6716) and 6 (3.4925), while Nos. 4 and 1 ranked fifth and sixth most difficult, respectively. It was surely a stretch of holes that made it nearly impossible to build any sort of momentum and the statistics proved that.
Boo Weekley made the only birdie at the par-4, 515-yard second, while Shiv Kapur made the lone birdie at the 224-yard sixth.
Only two birdies were made at the opening hole (Lucas Bjerregaard, Henrik Stenson) and the pair of birdies made at the eighth came from Erik Compton and Kevin Na.
All told, there were nearly three times as many bogeys, double bogeys and triple bogeys (193) as there were birdies and eagles (68) on the front nine. The lone soft spot came at the par-5 fifth, where eight players made eagle (Compton, Martin Kaymer, Victor Dubuisson, Bill Haas, Billy Horschel, Harris English and Clayton Rask).