Erik Compton reacts to his birdie on the eighth hole...

Erik Compton reacts to his birdie on the eighth hole during the final round of the U.S. Open tournament in Pinehurst, N.C., Sunday, June 15, 2014. Credit: AP / David Goldman

In effect, there were two tournaments played Sunday at the U.S. Open. The one Martin Kaymer won by eight strokes and the one in which Erik Compton and everyone else played for second.

The 34-year-old Compton, who twice has undergone a heart transplant, tied for second with Rickie Fowler, a monumental boost to his career.

Not only did he get a nice big check, and a ton of publicity, he earned a spot in the 2015 Masters. And he'll be back in the U.S. Open next year, as well.

"Getting into the Masters," Compton said, "is a dream come true.

"I go from where I was a few years ago, and now I'm able to play in major championships. I think I showed the world today I'm capable of playing good golf under extreme pressure and heat."

Playing in only the second Open of his career, Compton shot a 2-over-par 72 in the final round at Pinehurst No. 2, and his 72-hole total of 1-under 279 was one of only three cumulative scores under par.

That he even is a professional athlete is remarkable, as the doctor who did the last surgery in 2008 explained.

"It's unheard of for a patient to be playing sports on a national level like this," the man who performed that transplant, Dr. Si Pham, told Golf Magazine.

That Compton finished ahead of such players as Dustin Johnson, defending champion Justin Rose and Rory McIlroy is no less remarkable.

"It's a different kind of pressure," Compton said when asked to compare the demands of golf to what he's gone through in his life. "It's exciting pressure. But I'm relieved to be done . . . Because you want to finish strong. That's all I kept telling myself when I got to 14, 15, 16. Just finish the race and get the ball in the hole."

Compton and Fowler started the round at 3 under and five back of Kaymer. The gap briefly was reduced to four. Then it grew and grew.

"I knew we were playing for second," Compton said. "I had my opportunities to put a little heat on him and I got to 4 under. Then I made a bogey. But all in all, finishing second and the up-and-down I made at 18 just makes the week really, really sweet."

After three birdies on the first 10 holes, Compton bogeyed 11, 12 and 15 for his 35-37-72.

"My name is there," he said referring to the leader board. "It's pretty neat. I won't really know the significance of what I accomplished until I watch the tapes and enjoy it."

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