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And this year, for the first time, he stayed there.

He first reached the big leagues in 2012 through the Nationwide Tour money list. He lost his card and went back to Q-school, surviving six rounds to get back to the PGA Tour. Going into the Deutsche Bank Championship, which starts Friday, his ranking is three spots behind Ernie Els, two spots ahead of Justin Leonard. He belongs.

Trouble is, that’s not how Compton views his job.

The public tends to look at him as a sympathetic figure, a walking miracle with two heart transplants and a PGA Tour card.

Compton sees himself as a golfer who would be more inclined to celebrate a victory than merely keeping his card. It was like that at the Honda Classic this year when he tied for fourth for his first top-10 finish on the PGA Tour. Everyone wanted to pat him on the head. He was kicking himself in the rear for a bogey on the last hole.

“It seems like a bit of tug-of-war going on inside there,” said Scott Piercy, who played with Compton last weekend. “He knows he’s living a dream. I think a little in his mind it’s like, `OK, I’m lucky to be here.’ But I know a competitor lurks in there, too. Because at the end of the day, there’s a lot of fight in that kid, for sure. He wants to win.”

Compton understands that. He says he’ll be at home, sitting alone on the couch, and his wife will ask him what’s going through his mind. His answer more times than not: How to get better. How to win.

“I want to be a top 50 player in the world,” Compton said. “I have to keep getting better. I’m bound to have a win and have a good season. It’s not impossible. I have a good swing. The guys out here are really, really good. But I’m really good, too. I’m not just a dead guy walking.”

He does not take his position lightly. Compton has given countless hours to “Donate Life America” to get out the message that kids are waiting every day for an organ to survive. He already was planning to be in the Boston area this week to speak about it. And now he gets to play golf, and even greater platform.

It will take another big week for him to advance to the third playoff event in Chicago. But at least it’s a chance.

“I want to see how far I can go,” Compton said. “I see a win in my future _ next week, next year.”

And then he grinned.

“There’s only 99 guys I have to beat, right?”