The Open 2014: Bogeys blight Erik Compton but 'it's better than any day I've had in hospital'

'I'm just a regular guy who has been through some serious stuff with my heart transplants,' says the Norwegian-American
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The Independent Online

It was only a fleeting moment early in the morning but when Erik Compton birdied the 11th hole he was two under par and tied for the lead at The Open Championship. Could it really be happening again?

Last month at the US Open, Compton finished as the joint runner-up. With Martin Kaymer sucking the drama out of the final round with an eight-stroke victory, at least there was the romantic story of the 34-year-old from Florida to tell.

And what a story it is. Only now, here at Hoylake, can he say he has played in as many majors as he has had hearts. At the age of nine he was diagnosed with viral cardiomyopathy, where the heart muscle is inflamed and cannot pump as hard as it should.

Compton underwent a first heart transplant in 1992 and a second in 2008, six months after driving himself to hospital while suffering a heart attack. He is a remarkable man who thinks he is nothing special. "I'm just a regular guy that has been through some serious stuff," said the Norwegian-American.

He made it to the PGA Tour only two years ago and at Pinehurst was playing in only his second major. The start to his first appearance in The Open was less than encouraging as he bogeyed the first two holes, but five birdies in eight holes from the 4th was a reminder of his US Open form.

It did not last. In all there were six birdies but five bogeys for a 71 and he was frustrated at a finish that saw him bogey the 17th and only par the last.

"The most rubbish round ever," he said. "I played a lot of inadvisable shots, made the sort of decisions that drive a player insane. I mean, I was in the bunker off the first tee, what was I thinking?"

If you were hoping for some perspective from someone working on his third heart then you have to remember something else about Compton: "I'm just a golfer right now and I'm trying to play in a major championship."

It was the most glorious morning to be out on the links but a frustrating one for a player who realised that he would end the day well down the leaderboard. "I'm here to compete and I don't see anybody in the field that doesn't feel the same way. I didn't play today the way you're supposed to in a major championship."

Surprised as he was to be detained by the media after his round, Compton was also grateful for the opportunity to vent prior to meeting up with the Norwegian branch of his family who had made the trip to Liverpool.

And then he said: "Don't get me wrong, I enjoy the frustration. I know it sounds crazy. Think about it, I'm frustrated about the bogeys I had today but it's better than any day I've ever had in hospital."

Compton has dispensation to use a buggy in competition but never does. He takes medication every 12 hours and the only issue with flying to the UK was rescheduling his medicine with the time difference.

He was not sure how many spectators were aware of his back story or whether "the fans are a little bit more reserved over here". And he does not understand why people would watch him play anyway. "If I was a fan, I'd be out watching Tiger or Rickie [Fowler] or other players," he said.

As modest as he is, Compton does not shy away from telling his story. "It's like the US Open all over again," he said. "I have a story to tell but it's not like I'm trying to do two jobs. I'm trying to perform as a golfer, and then I have a story behind it. Hopefully, I can show people on this side of the world my story. Never give up."