NEW YORK (Reuters) - Double heart-transplant recipient Erik Compton made the most of his sponsor’s exemption for the Greenbrier Classic in West Virginia by charging into a tie for the lead in Thursday’s first round.
The American shrugged off two bogeys in the first three holes to fire a sizzling seven-under-par 63 at The Greenbrier’s Old White Course in White Sulphur Springs, ending the day level with compatriot Matt Every.
Jeff Overton also got to seven under in ideal conditions for scoring before bogeying the par-three last to join fellow Americans George McNeill and Pat Perez on 64.
Zimbabwe’s Brendon de Jonge, a graduate of nearby Virginia Tech, Australian Aron Price and Americans Charles Howell III, John Rollins and Matt Bettencourt opened with matching 65s.
Compton, making only his seventh start on the PGA Tour this season because of his limited playing status, was delighted to card the lowest round of his career on the U.S. circuit.
“You have to drive it good here and, if you do, you can definitely take advantage,” the 30-year-old told reporters after recording nine birdies and two bogeys.
“I hit some really close shots, a couple of good putts, and I guess the round just kind of developed like that. It was a difficult start.”
Compton, who was diagnosed with an enlarged heart as a child and had his first transplant aged 12, only heard five days ago that he had gained a sponsor’s exemption for the inaugural Greenbrier Classic.
“I was doing gardening work for about eight days so I hadn’t touched a club,” he said. “So I went and practiced the next morning and then flew out here. It probably did me some good, because I had been pushing myself since the U.S. Open.
“It’s tough to play on sponsor’s invites ... you don’t know when you’re gonna tee up,” added Compton, who had a second heart transplant in 2008.
PGA Tour rookie Every eagled the par-five 12th, his third hole of the day, to reach the turn in six under but he picked up only one more shot on his homeward nine late in the day.
“The greens on the last nine I played were getting pretty rough, spiked up, and it was tough to make any putts,” he said. “I made a lot of my putts early ... but other than that, I’ll take it.”
World number five Jim Furyk, bidding for his third PGA Tour victory of the year, returned a 68 to finish level with fellow American Davis Love III and Spaniard Sergio Garcia.
Swede Carl Pettersson, winner of last week’s Canadian Open, carded a 71.
Writing by Mark Lamport-Stokes in Los Angeles; Editing by Steve Ginsburg
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