Erik Compton has plenty of heart heading into Open

Published on NewsOK Modified: July 15, 2014 at 7:30 am •  Published: July 15, 2014
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HOYLAKE, England (AP) — Erik Compton was chatting outside the clubhouse at Royal Liverpool when Ernie Els strolled up with some disappointing news.

Turns out, the Big Easy won't be able to play a practice round with Compton on Tuesday.

Not to worry.

Els made other arrangements for the following day.

"I've got you the world No. 1," Els said, referring to Adam Scott and breaking into a sly grin. "That OK?"

The offer was fitting. Compton's stature is definitely on the rise since his inspiring performance last month at the U.S. Open, where the two-time heart transplant recipient tied for the runner-up spot behind runaway winner Martin Kaymer.

Arriving for his first British Open, Compton has the relaxed confidence of someone who truly belongs.

"I've played well this year," he said. "It wouldn't be a surprise to me if I played solid."

His amazing story — Compton underwent his first transplant at age 12, another 16 years later after driving himself to the hospital while having a near-fatal heart attack — is not as well known on this side of the Atlantic.

That's OK with Compton, who wants to be recognized more for the way he plays than what he's gone through away from the course.

Still, there will always be those who look at him as that guy on his third heart, and he's grown more and more comfortable with that role as well. Now that Compton has had significant success as a player, there will surely be more opportunities to spread his message of hope, to show the world that a life-threatening condition doesn't have to be a death sentence.

He got a sampling of that on Monday.

During a practice round with three-time British Open champion Nick Faldo and Matt Kuchar, Compton was hardly the center of attention. But on his way to the driving range, he was approached by a woman and her young son, who suffers from a heart condition.

"I picked him up and took a picture with him," the golfer said. "They were excited."

Compton is excited about the state of his game, as well he should be. Ranked 362nd in the world at the end of last year, he's climbed to 74th with by far the best season of his career. In addition to his performance at Pinehurst, he's got two other top-five finishes and nearly $1.7 million in earnings — more than all his other seasons put together.

At 34, he seems to be just hitting his stride.

He can't wait to tackle links golf, especially with temperatures this week expected to be in the 60s and 70s (high teens, low 20s C) — conditions that are much easier for a transplant recipient to endure than the brutal heat at Pinehurst.