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Erik Compton and golf's failure to follow a great script...alas

The problem with golf is that it seldom follows the script, even one telling a story with the potential to transcend the game and take it to the evening news.

It had an opportunity in the final round of the Humana Challenge on Sunday, but scotched what could have been the best story of the year in golf, a victory by Erik Compton.

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(Getty Images)

When does a man with his third different heart, twice a transplant recipient, compete at the highest level of a sport and prevail? It doesn’t happen. Ever. But it could have happened on Sunday.

Compton, 35 and coming up on seven years since his second transplant, was tied for the 54-hole lead. Golf Channel devoted much of its two-hour pregame show to Compton and his incredible biography.

Twitter, not ordinarily a conduit of golf cheerleading, was lighting up with Compton well-wishers:

“@ErikCompton3 play hard today and keep telling ur story bud. #DonateLife,” @KevinMorin1, a kidney-transplant recipient, wrote.

"Never rooted for anyone as hard in my life as I will be today for @ErikCompton3 #YouGotThis," @AustinSmith wrote.

“Dear God, please let Erik Compton win the @HumanaChallenge #WhatAStory,” @cheesemania77 wrote.

What a story, indeed, with or without his winning, and, alas, he did not win. Compton birdied the first hole on the Palmer Private Course at PGA West in La Quinta, Calif., to take sole possession of the lead, but that was good as it got.

Compton played admirably enough, shooting a two-under par 69, to finish tied for ninth. Admirable is great, just not good enough on the PGA Tour. He played alongside winner Bill Haas (with whom Compton was tied, along with Justin Thomas and Michael Putnam), who closed with a five-under par 67.

“I just get the sense from watching him that he’s trying to be too careful,” Roger Maltbie, following Compton’s group for Golf Channel, said once he had fallen from contention. “You can get to where you try so hard, try to be so exact that it really kind of hurts your performance. It seems like he’s trying to be too precise.”

Maybe he wanted it too much. The rest of us did, too. Still, his quest brought a great deal of attention to him and his cause, which he wears on his sleeve: “DONATE LIFE.”

But the story doesn’t end here. Compton, who tied for second in the U.S. Open last year, was 56th on the PGA Tour money list and is more than just a good story. He’s a good player.

“He picks the right courses, he could win out here,” Nick Faldo said on the telecast on Sunday. “Pick a flat golf course, ones that aren’t a real physical strain, I think it’s just a start. I’ll bet he can do this again another week.”

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News & Tours

Missing Links: A sleeker, healthier Jason Dufner and his bid to save his career

Stories of interest you might have missed…

Jason Dufner couldn’t help himself, as so many can’t. When he arrived in California for the Humana Challenge, he made the obligatory In-N-Out burger stop. It was an aberration. “This is a new Dufner -- 20 pounds lighter -- and so the side trip to a fast food restaurant was a form of cheating that was more reward than relapse,” ESPN’s Bob Harig writes in this story on Dufner’s new health initiative brought about by necessity. "If I didn't do it, I wasn't going to be able to play golf," Dufner said.

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Jason Dufner last summer; he's now 20 pounds lighter (Getty Images)

“[John Daly] is 48 now, says he's happy as a clam, especially ‘if I can hit my irons better.’ He stands and chats near the 18th green on a quiet Wednesday afternoon. He is as inconspicuous as anybody can be with snowball white hair, and red and white pants. The ever-present cigarette is lit…Fans draw to him as if he is magnetized,” Bill Dwyre of the Los Angeles Times writes in this column catching up with Daly.

***

It’s always fun to hear about Masters’ rookies planning their first excursions to Augusta National. So it is with British Amateur champion Bradley Neil, who is making a preliminary exploration of the course and is attempting to set up a date with countryman Justin Rose, Gordon Bannerman of the Daily Record writes. “[W]ith the tournament getting closer one of the things we want to get out of the way is the potential for being slightly overawed by the sheer scale of it,” his caddie Phil McKenna said.

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News & Tours

Mickelson vs. Mickelson: Competitive much?

Phil Mickelson recently shot 62 at the Bridges of Rancho Santa Fe near his home to break the course record of 63 held jointly by brother Tim Mickelson and Anthony Paolucci.

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Was Tim playing with Phil that day? “No, I wasn’t,” he said, “but if he had been I’d have gotten into his head and he wouldn’t have broken it.”

Phil also holds the course record at the Grand Golf Club in San Diego, a 64 that Tim threatened to break one day. Several years ago, I asked Tim about it.

“I was playing with Phil and a buddy of his, and I’d gotten it to nine under through 12,” Tim, the Arizona State golf coach, said. “And then he realized what was going on, and he got in my head on purpose, because he didn’t want me breaking his record. I ended up shooting 65.”

There was a time a few years ago when Tim held more course records in Southern California than Phil did, three to two. This latest puts Phil up now, four to two. Phil holds the course record at La Jolla Country Club (60) and the Plantation Golf Club in Indio (58).

Tim, whose handicap index is plus-3.1, still has course records at Del Mar Country Club (67) and the Farms (62), according to the Southern California Golf Association Directory.

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News & Tours

You must see the latest shot-of-the-year candidate from the European Tour

First, it was Andy Sullivan ushering in 2015 with an amazing recovery shot that set up the winning birdie in a playoff win over Charl Schwartzel at the South African Open. But less than two weeks later, Branden Grace may have already topped that effort.

Related: The best golf shots of 2014

In the third round of the Qatar Masters, Grace found himself surrounded by trees and in the sand on the fifth hole, yet somehow pulled off this incredible snap-hooked wedge shot:

"What a shot that is!" Check out this this incredible recovery shot from Branden Grace today at the #QatarMasters.

A video posted by European Tour (@europeantour) on

Of course, Sullivan probably deserves the edge for hitting his shot under more pressure, but in terms of degree of difficulty, we think Grace gets the nod. And if Grace goes onto win the tournament -- he has a share of the 54-hole lead -- his shot that turned his day around becomes even more significant.

"I thought I was just in the rough on the right but it must have had a big bounce to the right. Where it finished, I thought, this is going to take some magic," Grace said after his round. "I could only hit a big, snapping hook with a wedge and when I hit it, I couldn't see the ball. We heard the claps and the next thing I know I've managed to make a nice little five-footer for birdie. That definitely got it kick-started."

Not that we needed any reminder of this, but if the PGA Tour's motto is, "These guys are good," then the European Tour's easily could be, "These guys are good, too."

UPDATE: Grace shot a final-round 66 to beat Marc Warren by a shot. That gives the 26-year-old South African eight professional victories, including six European Tour titles. It also makes his remarkable recovery shot on Friday a lot more valuable.

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News & Tours

Robert Allenby isn't getting any help from Honolulu witnesses

Another day, another version of what happened to Robert Allenby last Friday night in Honolulu. On Wednesday, a third homeless person, Chris Khamis, came forward as a witness, telling his side of the story to the Honolulu Star Advertiser:

"There was no crime (when I was present). It was his stupidity," Khamis said in an interview. "(Allenby) passed out and hit his head. I was there. Nobody pushed him out of a car."

Khamis didn't actually see Allenby hurt himself because he had turned around, looking for someone on the street with a phone to call a taxi. At the time, Allenby was not injured.

"I had turned around for just a second," Khamis said. "Nobody was around us."

But when Khamis looked back at Allenby, the golfer was on the ground, bleeding.

"There he was, I was like, 'Oh, my God!'"

Khamis, 47, added, "He was very down, very, very down about losing." Allenby had missed the cut at the Sony Open that afternoon.

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If you recall, Allenby's original story was he was kidnapped after leaving a Waikiki wine bar, beaten, robbed, and then dumped from the trunk of a car about six miles away. Khamis' story doesn't jive with Allenby's account -- other than the missed cut, of course -- and neither have the other stories told by two other witnesses.

Charade Keane was the first person to dispute Allenby's story, saying she had encountered the PGA Tour pro arguing with two men just down the block from the wine bar. Charade intervened and helped Allenby into a taxi.

When Allenby heard Keane's statements to the media, he texted Golf World's Tim Rosaforte, saying, "I'm guessing she's getting paid." Allenby then met with Keane on Tuesday in front of cameras to thank her and give her a $1,000 reward.

On Wednesday, Toa Kaili told Australia's Channel 9 news he and a friend found Allenby passed out on a sidewalk for more than two hours. Kaili said that when the two men tried to help Allenby, he accused them of robbing him.

"I was like, 'Oh, no, brother, we are the ones who woke you up -- we are the ones just helping you,'" Kaili said in the interview. "He was saying, 'You don't know who I am.'"

There is surveillance footage of a man using Allenby's credit card, but according to a Hawaii News Now report, law enforcement officers are "skeptical" of Allenby's story and have not opened cases for kidnapping or assault. OK, that's all we know. . . for now.

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News & Tours

A college degree in golf from Royal Dornoch?

OK, so it's not a degree from Royal Dornoch per se, but close enough. There are, in fact, two college degrees in golf available in a joint venture of the University of Highlands and Islands and Royal Dornoch Golf Club in Scotland for aspiring golf professionals.

The campus is adjacent to Royal Dornoch, which features two courses, one of them, the Championship Course, ranked sixth in Golf Digest's ranking of the World's 100 Greatest Golf Courses.

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(Getty Images)

Here is how the university describes the Professional Golf program: "Based in Dornoch, close to the world-renowned Royal Dornoch Golf Club, the BA (Hons) Professional Golf is aimed at those aspiring to a career in the golf industry and offers the opportunity to work in various roles, with a particular focus on coaching and performance.

"This degree will incorporate themes relevant to the varied demands of the industry and, in particular, those met by professional coaches. These themes will develop from year one, through to the Honours year and encompass coaching, equipment technology, sports science and business."

And this: "You will study in a unique location - playing opportunities include Royal Dornoch Golf Club."

Key words: Playing opportunities, Royal Dornoch.

Jack Nicklaus, a college dropout, weighed in favorably on the program: "Royal Dornoch has such a rich history in the landscape of golf, but it also has a legacy in the development of the game, shaping both the next generation of golfers and the next generation of designers.

"I fully support the University of the Highlands and Islands, in association with Royal Dornoch, in their efforts to provide education within the golf industry and beyond. I hope you will agree it is in the best interest of the future of this great game."

A handicap of 4.4 or better is required for male students pursing the BA (Hons) Professional Golf, a 6.4 for female students.

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News & Tours

Iraq war veteran Chad Pfeifer looks forward to teeing it up at the Humana

LA QUINTA, Calif. -- Chad Pfeifer calmly rolled in one five-foot putt after another as he talked about the day he almost died.

Around him on the PGA West Palmer course's putting green, multiple-time tour winners such as Bill Haas and Ben Crane were hitting putts one day before the Humana Challenge kicks off.

By all appearances, Pfeifer fits right in. He practices his game six times a week at a club he used to teach at in Goodyear, Ariz. His swing, a quick, powerful move, is grooved while he hits range balls next to PGA Tour veterans. Crisp divots fly into the air as wedge shots launch at a perfect trajectory, leading veteran caddie Kip Henley to remark: "That looks like Lee Trevino. But better. I'm serious."

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What's amazing is Pfeifer just picked up golf seven years ago, at an Army therapy hospital in San Antonio, after he was flown home from Germany after the fateful date he rattles off -- April 12th, 2007 -- the day he lost his leg.

Until you hear more about Pfeifer's story, you consider how amazing the Iraqi war veteran and amputee's story is. He had his left leg below the knee amputated after an IED blew up his vehicle while serving the D Company of the 3rd Airborne Battalion in the 509th Infantry Regiment.

And now he's using golf, which he had never played once he returned from service, to raise awareness for wounded veterans. He's a three-time winner of George W. Bush's Warrior Open for wounded vets, and he'll be teeing it up this week in one of the amateur spots at the Humana Challenge, in a group with Baltimore Orioles pitcher Bud Norris and PGA Tour players Scott Langley and Brendon de Jonge, in the event's pro-am format. Pfeifer will also appear in a new season of the Golf Channel's Big Break show, Big Break The Palm Beaches, Fla. -- which will debut on Feb. 2.

"It's pretty sweet to think about," says Pfeifer, 33, and originally from Idaho. "For me thinking back, I'm in the Army just a few years ago, to think I'm there one day, and now I'm here and I'm using the many opportunities golf's provided me . . .

"I wouldn't change a thing."

Once Pfeifer started to see significant improvement in his game, shooting in the 60s, and having finished fifth at last year's American Century Championship in Lake Tahoe, playing on the PGA Tour became his goal. But for a totally unselfish reason: For the exposure and awareness making it onto the PGA Tour would do for wounded vets -- a cause he knows a lot about.

Related: Video: How amputee Chad Pfeifer has made golf his passion

Pfeifer, in his soft, understated voice, describes the moments he can remember from April 12th, 2007. The voices around him after his vehicle was blown up. The numb feeling in his legs immediately after the explosion. Grabbing for his right leg to unwedge it from the truck. And the cold feeling he felt in his left leg once he realized it had gone off.

He describes all this, as he continues hitting putts on the Palmer course practice green just like everybody.

"I can look back and say I should be dead right now," he says. "Life's good. Golf helps me keep it in perspective. If I miss a shot, I think to myself, 'I could be dead right now, just keep going.'

Alongside Pfeifer at the Humana Challenge will be fellow Big Breaker Kip Henley, who carries for Brian Gay and helped Gay to victory at PGA West in 2013.

The two are telling stories about their own Big Break experiences. The drama. The friendships and opportunities. The pressure. Unlike other golfers, both on the show and while practicing at PGA West, Pfeifer has experiences to build off of. This week in Palm Springs he'll add the experience of tour golf, which he hopes to get more familiar with over time.

"The mental aspect [of golf] is so different. The perfection side of me comes out, I try to hit everything pure and make everything But I remind myself: This is still just a game and I'm still having fun."



Iraqi war veteran and amputee Chad Pfeifer on the range, getting ready to tee it up in tomorrow's Humana Challenge.

A video posted by Steve Hennessey (@s_hennesseygd) on


Photo: Mark Ashman/Golf Channel

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News & Tours

Weird/awesome golf news of the week: Lee Westwood saved a man from drowning

Lee Westwood's performance under pressure at major championships has long been questioned. But boy, did he prove he can come up clutch off the golf course.

The Birminghammail.com reported that Lee Westwood saved British millionaire Colin Davies from drowning in Barbados on Friday. Here's how Davies said the story went down:

"I have Parkinson's disease so to enter the sea was foolhardy or stupid.

"As soon as I entered I realised I was in trouble. My legs wouldn't move, and my wife Linda was out of earshot.

"By the panic that affects a man when faced with the end of his days I found enough strength to try to reach the beach, I became frightened and called out for help.

Related: More weird golf news

"The family next to us on the beach heard my cry and within a second a muscular male grabbed me and, with tremendous but gentle care, got me back to my lounge bed.

"I was so shocked by the whole affair that I didn't convey my heartfelt thanks to the Samaritan who had rescued me.

"My wife returned to our part of the beach, packed up the stuff and headed for the room. A man some way from the incident asked me if I knew the man who had helped me? Still in a mild shock, I replied no.

"The beach Samaritan was Lee Westwood."

A "muscular male," eh? Those off-season sessions in the gym really must be paying off.

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Westwood hasn't said much about the incident, only mentioning it when someone on Twitter joked he might have a new career as a lifeguard:

Helping a stranger? Downplay it all you want, Lee, but that's pretty awesome. In fact, Davies hopes Westwood gets rewarded in a major way for his aquatic heroics.

The Grind: Tiger loses a tooth, Allenby gets kidnapped, and Natalie pitches sports bras

"If there is a power looking over us," Davies told the Birmingham Mail, "I hope he takes note and delivers three majors to this kind and gentle human being."

We agree, but we're pretty sure Westwood would settle for one.

(h/t thegolfnewsnet.com)

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News & Tours

Olympic Golf officials feeling better about preparations for 2016. (Well sort of.)

During an International Golf Foundation panel discussion at the PGA Merchandise Show,  officials updated attendees on the progress of golf's return to the Olympics in 2016. Mid-way through the Q&A session, a member of the crowd asked whether the much-publicized course being  built for the event had yet been given a name or adopted a logo.

"We're just happy to have a golf course right now," joked Gil Hanse (below right), who along with Amy Alcott designed the course and participated with Peter Dawson of the R&A, Ty Votaw of the PGA Tour and tour pros Graeme McDowell and Suzann Pettersen in the discussion.

loop-olympic-golf-hanse-560.jpgThe laughter that followed from the entire panel underscored the relief being felt that finally, albeit months later than expected, all 18 holes of the course had been grassed and legal challenges to its construction had ended.

As everybody is breathing easier, however, the IGF isn't in the clear just yet. The grown-in of the course remains an issue that will have to play itself out and could impact the competition come July 2016. A recent drought hit the area of Rio where the course has been built, despite it being the rainy season there, creating new worries.

How quickly the course can grow-in will determine when an International Olympic Committee-mandated test event can be played. According to Dawson, the goal is to hold an event there in November, which not only lets officials evaluate the course itself but will also identify any logistical issues that come with conducting an event at the facility.

"A great deal depends on how the grow-in goes," Dawson said regarding whether the test event can be pulled off as scheduled.

Dawson said the specifics of the test event -- whether it will be a pro or amateur tournament, for instance -- have yet to be identified. The IGF will work with the Brazilian Golf Federation to identify a tournament that could be used to conduct the test.

"We're optimistic about how things are coming together," Dawson says as the Rio Olympics slowly but steadily approaches.

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Fantasy Golf

Fantasy Fix: Phil Mickelson is back, but should you put him back in your lineup?

What was the best part of Jimmy Walker going all "Beast Mode" last week at the Sony Open? We had him in our lineup. Hopefully, you did too. Walker is taking the week off after shooting 44 under and collecting $1.7 million over the past two weeks in Hawaii. Now that's a dream getaway. With Walker out, who will we turn to this week? Here's a look at our weekly Yahoo! lineup:

The Grind: Tiger loses a tooth, Allenby gets kidnapped, and Natalie pitches sports bras

Starters -- (A-List): Bill Haas. After not playing in the Hawaii Swing, Haas hopes to hit the ground running in 2015 in the event where he's had the most consistent success. Haas won his first PGA Tour title here in 2010, lost in a playoff in 2011 and finished T-6 last year.

(B-List): Matt Kuchar. Coming off a T-3 in Hawaii, Kuchar returns to a tournament where he has a final-round scoring average of 65 over his past five attempts. Unfortunately, he's never been close enough to the leaders heading into Sunday to snag a victory, but there's a good chance that ends this week.

Related: 11 PGA Tour sleepers to watch in 2014-15

(B-List): Zach Johnson. ZJ has shot under par in every round he's played in this event. OK, so that's not that impressive, but he has averaged finishing 21 under since the tournament became a four-day (instead of five) event in 2012. The "B" player we're staying away from? Phil Mickelson. We know his off-season fitness regiment is befitting of an event that promotes good health and that he's won here twice, but there are simply too many question marks following a very disappointing 2014 campaign.

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(C-List): Patrick Reed. A year ago, Reed earned the nickname "Mr. 63" for becoming the first PGA Tour player to shoot three consecutive 63s. Incredibly, he needed to hold off a Sunday charge from Ryan Palmer to seal the win, but he did. Now he returns as a defending champ and looking to make it two wins in a row to start 2015.

Bench/Backups: Ryan Palmer, Charles Howell III, Patrick Rodgers, Justin Thomas.

Related: 15 signs you watch too much golf on TV

Knockout/One-and-done pick: Ryan Palmer. We're going with Palmer over Haas here since he's actually played a competitive round in the past two months. Palmer is coming off a T-17 at the Sony Open and he has finished in the top six in Palm Springs in three of the past four years, including a runner-up last year when he shot a final-round 63. Much more amazing is that he came that close to winning despite a Saturday 70, which is like shooting 77 at another event. A two-under-par round at the Humana? Ugh. Hopefully, he got that out of his system.

Previously used: Charles Howell III (Sony), Geoff Ogilvy (Hyundai).

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