March 4, 2009

Allenby Leads By One

With play finally completed Friday morning, Robert Allenby's four-under 66 made him the first-round leader. Eric Compton is one-under at T-12

Allenby had nine Top-10s in 2008, but his last win was the Marconi Classic in 2001.

Allenby had nine Top-10s in 2008, but his last win was the Marconi Classic in 2001.

PALM BEACH GARDENS, Fla. (AP) -- Erik Compton's first goal this week at the Honda Classic was playing well enough to be around on Sunday.

So far, so good.

Golf's comeback kid closed a comeback of a first round Friday morning at PGA National, finishing off a 1-under 69 and tied for 12th, three shots behind leader Robert Allenby.

No, it's not perfect position for Compton. But for a guy who doesn't mind pointing out that he's died twice, it's nothing to complain about.

"I've been fighting my game and fighting life for so long," Compton said. "It's time."

This is Compton's second PGA Tour event since undergoing heart-transplant surgery for the second time last year. Diagnosed with heart disease at 9 and needing his first transplant three years later, Compton never thought he'd be able to go to college. Nearly two decades later, Compton is married with a newborn daughter, and says it's time to get his golf career rolling.

Everyone in the Honda field will try to beat him. In some way, they're all probably rooting for Compton as well.

"You can only wish him well after what he's had to go through to get to where he is right now," Allenby said. "I mean, no one's fought for their life really on this tour as much as he has."

Compton was among nine players who couldn't complete the round Thursday night because of darkness. The pace of play was brutally slow, with some groups needing 3 hours to play nine holes.

He only needed 21 minutes to finish up Friday morning. He started the day with a 30-yard pitch that he left on the course the night before and rolled in a 10-footer for par, then finished with another par, two-putting from 12 feet.

"I did what I needed to do," Compton said. "Got up and down."

As the sun started to go down Thursday night, Allenby moved up to take the top spot on the leaderboard.

He endured a day when the wind blew flags straight and the only solace for players were receptive greens. He had a tap-in on the par-4 ninth -- his final hole -- to break away from what was an eight-way tie for the lead.

Allenby missed a 2½-footer on the previous hole, so he left nothing to chance on the last, hitting a 6-iron to 6 inches.

"I just sort of played within myself, took one or two clubs more when it was into the wind, tried not to force it and just tried to feel my way around the golf course," said Allenby, who lives nearby and has two top-five finishes at PGA National since the Honda moved there in 2007.

A group of six players -- Sergio Garcia, Stewart Cink, Charlie Wi, Jeff Overton, Angel Cabrera and Will Mackenzie -- entered the second round one shot behind Allenby's pace. Another four players, including Chris Riley, were another shot back.

Looming not far behind was Compton, the South Florida native who got into the Honda on a sponsor's exemption. The PGA Tour would let him use a cart if he needed it; the only Compton who got a ride in the first round was Petra, his daughter who was born about two weeks ago.

He made a triple-bogey on his second hole, which would have deflated some.

Compton, however, said it was the kickstart he needed.

"I said, 'I'm not going to fight it anymore. I'm going to let it go,'" Compton said. "It was good."

Real good, actually: Compton birdied three straight holes after making the turn, no small feat in conditions like the ones players faced Thursday.

"I played really well despite having a triple," Compton said.

Mathias Gronberg endured a horrendous back nine. Gronberg was 1 over through six holes, a fairly nondescript beginning. The last 12 holes, well, they were ones that he'll likely never forget.

Put it this way: He didn't even manage to play bogey golf.

Gronberg had three triple-bogeys in a four-hole span on the back side, became the first player to shoot 50 over nine holes since Phil Tataurangi at Greensboro nine years ago -- excluding Billy Casper, whose 106 in the first round at the 2005 Masters officially went into the books as a WD because he didn't turn in the card.

Gronberg saved par at the 18th to shoot a staggering 89, 19 over par.

"That's a record for me," Gronberg said.

Defending champion Ernie Els shot 73, as did Camilo Villegas, Davis Love III and Rocco Mediate, among others.

Notes:@ Compton said he had trouble sleeping Thursday night, but not because he was near the lead. "Ate too much," he said. ... 2000 Honda winner Dudley Hart withdrew during the first round with a back injury. ... Glen Day withdrew Friday morning because of a sore neck. He opened with a 78.