BROOKSVILLE, Fla. -- Erik Compton took a deep breath and tried to wax philosophical.
Given the cruel circumstances of the moment, words of wisdom or consolation were hard to conjure up and doubly difficult to swallow.
"Who's to say this isn't the best thing?" Compton said, his voice barely audible at times. "I am a believer in fate."
That belief was stretched to the breaking point on Saturday at Southern Hills Plantation Club. Whoever wrote that fate was a cruel mistress wasn't watching Compton finish his final round at the second stage of PGA Tour Qualifying School.
They low-balled the description. Fate is cold and capricious, too.
Trying to extend golf's most amazing feel-good story of the year, Compton shot a 1-over 73 in the final round and fell one short shy of making it to Q-school finals next month in La Quinta, Calif.
Given what he has accomplished in the six months since he received his second heart transplant in a harrowing 14-hour procedure, the near-miss was a tough pill to swallow. And Compton ought to know, since he swallows a handful of anti-rejection meds every morning to stay alive.
He began the day tied for 13th, but three-putted two holes on his back nine and finished 6 under, good for a tie for 22nd. The top 20 and ties advanced to the finals, where they are assured at least partial status on the Nationwide Tour next year.
"When you live and die by the way I play and live life, it will catch up to you," Compton said.
Gut-wrenching words, indeed, but there figure to be some tough days over the short term for Compton, who gave away too many shots down the stretch, including a three-putt par from 20 feet on the par-5 16th hole after hitting a seemingly finals-clinching approach from 245 yards.
"If I get to the finals, it opens a lot of doors for somebody like me," he said, staring at his feet.
Compton was visibly tired as he completed the four-day march and didn't hit any practice balls after any of the tournament rounds. He finished 72 holes at the PGA Tour's Disney World event last Sunday, the most golf he had played in well over a year.
"Obviously, the pressure definitely got to me," he said. "I'm disappointed with that."