June 15, 2014 at 10:37 pm

Two-time heart transplant recipient Erik Compton ties for second at U.S. Open

Erik Compton reacts to his birdie on the eighth hole. He shot 2 over in the final round to finish the tournament 1 under. (David Goldman / Associated Press)

Pinehurst, N.C. — Erik Compton chokes back tears when he thinks about what it means to tie for second at the U.S. Open.

No longer is he a two-time heart transplant recipient who plays golf.

Now, he’s the golfer who just happens to be on his third heart.

Compton, 34, turned in the best performance of his career at Pinehurst No. 2, tying with Rickie Fowler for the runner-up spot behind runaway winner Martin Kaymer.

“If I’m never able to play golf again, I feel like I’ve made my impact on the game,” he said.

Compton closed with a 2-over 72 for a 1-under 279 total, leaving him eight shots behind Kaymer but one of just three players to break par.

It felt like a win. Compton went through his second transplant six years ago after a near-fatal heart attack. He bounced back from that ordeal and proved he can compete with golf’s biggest stars.

“To play that way on such a big stage... That feels as good as a win,” he said.

Goodbye, NBC

With a handshake, held-back tears and a highlight montage of its history, NBC Sports ended its 20-year run of televising the U.S. Open.

NBC had televised the U.S. Open every year since 1995 at Shinnecock Hills with Johnny Miller as its lead analyst.

The U.S. Golf Association’s 12-year deal with Fox Sports begins next year.

Driver charged

The North Carolina Highway Patrol says the man who drove NBC Sports analyst Roger Maltbie’s golf cart during the third round of the U.S. Open is facing four charges after an incident with a state trooper on the course.

According to a police report, Tommy Lineberry was charged with felony assault on a law enforcement officer, felony hit and run, driving while impaired, and resisting, obstructing and delaying a law enforcement officer.

North Carolina Department of Public Safety spokeswoman Pam Walker says Lineberry, 59, of Wilmington, was released from the Moore County jail Saturday night after posting bail.

Lineberry did not immediately return a telephone message seeking comment.

The trooper says Lineberry ignored instructions to stay put, then hit the officer with his cart.

Berger's 66

Daniel Berger closed his first U.S. Open with one of the week’s lowest scores at Pinehurst No 2.

The 21-year-old ranked 484th in the world finished at 4-under 66 in Sunday’s final round. It was the lowest round outside of runaway leader Martin Kaymer’s back-to-back 65s on Thursday and Friday.

“Today I hit a lot of greens, gave myself a lot of opportunities,” Berger said. “And when you do that, you’re bound to make some birdies.”

Berger came into the final day at 11-over, with most of that damage coming from a 78 on Saturday. But after managing just six birdies so far, Berger had five birdies with his only bogey coming on the 14th Sunday.

His biggest improvement came with his putter. After tallying at least 32 putts in each round, Berger had 26 on Sunday.

Berger, on the Web.com Tour, turned pro last year out of Florida State and was the medalist at the sectional qualifier at Vero Beach, Florida, this month.

“When you play on such a big stage as this, the Web.com doesn’t feel as big,” Berger said. “But obviously I’ve got to kind of shift my focus back to Web.com, have a couple of good weeks, and if all goes well I’ll be out here next year.”

Todd bounces back

Oddly enough, local favorite Brendon Todd felt relaxed Sunday after a nightmarish performance a day earlier.

His scorecard showed it, too. After shooting a 79 on Saturday, Todd had a 1-under 69 and finished three of his four rounds below par.

With more favorable pin placements, the 28-year-old Todd — who played high school golf about an hour’s drive from here — shook off an early double bogey and finished with five birdies. He finished at 4 over for the tournament, with a first-round 69 and a second-round 67.

“A major championship, that’s what we all play to win,” Todd said. “So the fact that I put myself in position to play in the last group on the weekend in a major, I think that’s going to be a huge experience for me.”

Ace for Johnson

Zach Johnson watched the ball drop into the ninth hole, flipped his club in the air then ran around high-fiving fans.

Managing an ace in the U.S. Open deserved a good celebration.

His shot landed about 20 feet left of the flag on the 172-yard hole, bounced twice, then curled down a ridge into the cup. It was the 44th ace in Open history and the third straight year that a player had a hole-in-one.

Johnson, who finished at 9 over, said it was his first in competition.

“I mean, it makes a pretty sour-to-average week a little sweeter right?” Johnson said. “Especially on Father’s Day.”

Remembering Payne

Matt Kuchar was the latest player to pay tribute to the late Payne Stewart at the site of his final victory.

The heels of Kuchar’s shoes bore the silhouette of Stewart thrusting his fist while standing on one leg. That’s the pose he struck after hitting the 15-foot putt that won the U.S. Open the first time it was held here in 1999. Stewart died four months later in a plane crash.

Rickie Fowler played the first round wearing plus-fours and knee-high argyle socks, the outfit that became Stewart’s trademark.

Fitzpatrick's finale

Matthew Fitzpatrick completed his final event as an amateur with a bit of history.

The Englishman had a 1-under 69 on Sunday as the only amateur to make the cut. That made him the first to hold the title of low amateur at the U.S. Open and British Open at the same time since Bobby Jones in 1930.

The 19-year-old U.S. Amateur champion finished the Open at 11 over and will make his pro debut next week in the Irish Open.