Open dreams still real for Compton

Erik's father, Peter, would later describe the sight of ER doctors pounding on his son's chest as a scene out of a movie. Doctors gave Erik a pacemaker and defibrillator, and told him the wait was on for another donor.

Only weeks after the second transplant, Eli said, her son was working his swing on the driving range with the surgical staples still lodged in his chest. Some doctors and coaches weren't sure if Compton could ever again play professionally; Erik wasn't sure himself.

But in the end, Erik's will was just as strong as Isaac's heart. He was back playing competitive golf in the fall of 2008, and the former two-time All-American at Georgia ultimately qualified for the 2010 U.S. Open at Pebble Beach (he missed the cut), and won the Web.com's Mexico Open the following year.

Compton made it back to the PGA Tour in 2012. His best finish on tour to date is a tie for fourth at the 2013 Honda Classic, and so far this season he has two top-five finishes at the Arnold Palmer Invitational and the Zurich Classic. He qualified for Pinehurst by surviving a five-man sectional playoff in Columbus, Ohio, Jack Nicklaus' hometown.

Nicklaus invited Compton to lunch last week at his club, Muirfield Village, and predicted Erik would enjoy a special week. "He winked at me and said, 'Your game will suit Pinehurst,'" Erik recalled.

Yes, it has suited Pinehurst over three rounds. His mother saw it coming all along.

"I have always thought he would win a major," Eli said. "Why shouldn't he?"

Why not? Well, Compton needs to take more pills than he can count. He needs his medication, Eli said, so his immune system doesn't go one-on-one with Isaac's heart.

Saturday, he was fighting a spell of vertigo and the residuals of a recent battle with his allergies. Something as simple as the common cold can compromise his ability to function a whole lot more than the next guy's.

But with Kaymer way out in front, Compton made eagle on the par-5 fifth and delivered four birdies in a five-hole stretch, punctuated by a monster putt on the par-4 11th to position himself the people's choice on an emotional day.

"I have nothing to lose," Compton said. "Nobody expects me to do anything ... And if I go out and shoot 90 [Sunday], I don't think anybody will be surprised."

He said if he wins the U.S. Open, "I might just sail off and never play golf again." Either way, he plans to continue giving speeches and visiting hospitals to speak to children waiting for transplants of their own.

Compton will inspire them just by showing up on the first tee box on Father's Day. His old man Peter will be there, as he was Saturday, and Erik left open the possibility that his wife Barbara and daughter Petra might make the trip from their Florida home.

One other family will have a very real place in Erik's heart, too. The Comptons met the Klostermans at Nicklaus' Memorial tournament in 2009.

"We keep in touch with them and I don't know if they will be watching," Erik said, "but they're a very great family and they're a tight group. They have a special place here with me and what more can I say? I feel blessed to be able to play here, and without them I wouldn't be here."

Here at the 2014 U.S. Open, where a man with so much heart has a chance to capture America's one more time.

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