PINEHURST, N.C. (AP) — Erik Compton was chatting at the podium when Rickie Fowler leaned in to take a selfie with his buddy in the background.
Shows just how far Compton has come in the past week.
Now, he's the one being treated like a star.
"I've never gotten this far along in my story," Compton said Sunday night, choking back tears not long after soaking up the last of the raucous cheers that followed him all the way around Pinehurst No. 2. "It's a career-opening thing for me. For me to put myself on the map and prove to the world that I'm not just the guy with two heart transplants."
Before he hit a shot in the U.S. Open, Compton already had traveled a remarkable journey. He underwent his first transplant at age 12. He had another when he was 28, after driving himself to the hospital while suffering a near-fatal heart attack.
Six years removed from that traumatic experience, Compton turned in the greatest performance of what had been a largely nondescript career. He tied with Fowler for the runner-up spot behind runaway winner Martin Kaymer.
"My mom summed it pretty well the other night," Compton recalled. "She said, 'Erik's a golfer with two transplants, not a transplant recipient who plays golf.'"
After getting through sectional qualifying just to make it to the Open — and a two-hole playoff, at that — Compton was one of only three players to finish under par at the Open. He closed with a 72 for a 1-under 279, leaving him eight shots behind Kaymer.
For Compton, the margin wasn't really important.
Sure, he wanted to give Kaymer more of a challenge. In fact, Compton did get as close as four strokes around the turn.
But back-to-back bogeys at the 11th and 12th holes effectively ended his chances of winning the tournament. No problem. Runner-up felt just as good to someone who's been through so much.
"I go from where I was a few years ago, and now I'm able to play in major championships," Compton said as the sun set on the sandhills of North Carolina. "I showed the world today that I'm capable of playing good golf under extreme pressure and heat.
"And," he added, "I think I showed myself."
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