By Mark Lamport-Stokes
PINEHURST North Carolina (Reuters) - Rickie Fowler and Erik Compton have followed very different paths to the PGA Tour but they converged in impressive style at the U.S. Open on Saturday as they ended the third round tied for second place.
Fowler, one of the most exciting talents to emerge in recent years, and journeyman Compton, a double heart-transplant recipient who has played mainly on the satellite tours, soared into contention with matching three-under-par 67s.
Though they trail tournament leader Martin Kaymer of Germany by five shots heading into Sunday's final round at Pinehurst Resort, the two Americans have so far relished their performances in the second major championship of the season.
"I'm very, very pleased with today's work," Fowler, 25, told reporters after he and Compton were the only two players in the 67-man field to shoot under par on a difficult day for scoring. "I kept it in play and stayed out of trouble when I could.
"I kind of minimized mistakes when I was in trouble, and made some good swings in bad spots. I made some really good iron swings, and got up and down when I needed to. It was all about moving forward today."
Fowler, who made the 2010 U.S. Ryder Cup team during his rookie PGA Tour season before clinching his first title on the circuit at the 2012 Wells Fargo Championship, has been especially delighted with his form in this year's majors.
He tied for fifth at the Masters in April and is in good position to record the fourth top-10 of his career in the majors at Pinehurst on Sunday.
"The main goal going into the year was to be ready for the majors and go contend in the majors," said the Californian. "I put myself in that position at Augusta and I've done that this week.
"I would definitely be very happy at the end of the year if I was in contention at all four majors. I really wouldn't care about what happened in the other tournaments just because my main goals were to be ready for the majors."
Compton, who was diagnosed with an enlarged heart as a child and had his first transplant aged 12, is competing in only his second major championship this week and has loved every minute.
"It's very special," said the 34-year-old, who missed the cut when he made his major debut in the 2010 U.S. Open at Pebble Beach. "I'm just happy to be able to play golf.
"But to play at this high level and in such a big tournament, it is something that I carry with me. And it gives me a lot of strength when I do have moments where I feel like I get emotional for a second.
"I'm just really, really happy to be here. I'm taking really tight lines off the tee and swinging hard. When you're doing that, it's pretty fun."
Compton, who had a second heart transplant in 2008 before playing his rookie season on the PGA Tour in 2012, has enjoyed a high comfort level this week at Pinehurst despite competing in only his second major.
"I've been playing good golf for a long time, since I was a junior golfer, college golfer, and playing at other pro levels, and this year I've had a great year," he said. "We're playing against the same guys.
"I just try to hit fairways and greens. It shouldn't feel any different than any other tournament. I have been through a lot in my life. And putting things in perspective may help me.
"Today I didn't feel much adrenaline or pressure. I just kind of enjoyed the round. It was just a good, solid day. Just really, really happy to be here."
(Reporting by Mark Lamport-Stokes; Editing by Julian Linden)