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  • Opportunity knocks for Allred

    Ashland native's big week makes him lock for Web.com finals, opens other doors
  • It's OK if Jason Allred changes his mind because, well, other things have changed.
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  • It's OK if Jason Allred changes his mind because, well, other things have changed.
    Before Sunday, the professional golfer planned to focus on the Web.com Tour.
    Now, maybe, maybe not.
    A world of opportunity has landed at his Footjoys. He tied for third place in the Northern Trust Open at Riviera Country Club, stealing more than his share of the spotlight in the PGA Tour event, for which he Monday qualified.
    His story was roundly embraced.
    Journeyman golf pro in his first tour event in nearly four years; very limited status on the game's junior circuit, the Web.com; a college graduate of nearby Pepperdine University, giving him local appeal to what was a fawning gallery; his third child on the way — for whom, he said, he'd bolt the Riviera grounds faster than a hard hook on hardpan if the Allreds were soon to be a fivesome.
    Is that Hollywood calling for script rights?
    Allred, of course, was stellar in the final round, shooting a bogey-free 68, which was 3-under par. He birdied the 17th hole and parred the 18th, just moments before playing partner and friend, Bubba Watson, closed out his round with a birdie and a victory.
    How good was Allred's story? Even Watson was captivated.
    "I've known him since, man, we were 14 or 15," said Watson, a Masters champion and five-time tour winner. "I was cheering him on, probably his biggest fan, especially inside the ropes. I want to see a friend like that do well."
    Watson had competition to be Allred's biggest fan. The Rogue Valley, alone, was bursting with them.
    So what now?
    How about, strike while the iron's — and putter's — hot.
    Joel Schuchmann is director of the PGA Tour. Like the rest of us, he enjoys a feel-good story. He's seen a few.
    "Sure, people take notice of that stuff," he said. "Sometimes it has a long shelf life, sometimes it doesn't."
    Allred has a chance to push back the expiration date. His top-10 finish earned him a spot in the PGA's Honda Classic, which begins Feb. 27 in Palm Beach Gardens, Fla. Nine of the top 10 players in the world are scheduled to be there.
    "If he happens to be on the leaderboard in that field," said Schuchmann, "then it's a story that will continue to resonate."
    That could lead to interest from other PGA events with sponsor exemptions in hand.
    The Honda Classic is the immediate carrot, along with a check for $388,600, from Allred's fine week of work.
    But with it came other perks, none bigger, perhaps, than a likely spot in the Web.com Tour Finals.
    Think about that. Every player on the Web.com battles all year to make the finals, a four-tournament series that begins in late August. The top 25 move on to the PGA.
    The field of 150 comes from the top 75 money winners in the Web.com regular season and those players ranked 126th through 200th on the FedExCup points list at the end of the PGA season.
    PGA non-members — and this is where Allred comes in — who are from 126 to 200 in points also make the Web.com finals.
    Allred earned 163 points in the Northern Trust. A year ago, it took 92 to crack the top 200.
    "Given he has 163 already," Kristen Burgess, of the PGA Tour's competition administration, said in an email, "I think that he will meet his goal."
    Essentially, Allred is playing with house money despite having conditional status on the Web.com. So low is his ranking, he expects to have to Monday qualify on that tour to get in early tournaments and improve his status.
    Besides Web.com finals eligibility, PGA performances don't carry over to the feeder tour.
    There are other scenarios, too.
    If Allred can get to 278 FedExCup points on the PGA — equal to 150th on last year's points list —0 he'd earn special temporary membership. The non-member restrictions of 12 PGA tournaments and seven sponsor exemptions would be lifted.
    This is where the appeal of his story could come in handy. The shelf life.
    The 33-year-old Allred is in his 12th year as a pro, and he's made a lot of contacts and written a lot of letters to tournament hosts seeking consideration for exemption. One of the nicest guys you'd meet, he offers to participate in whatever promotions or events the event has going.
    But being a nice guy doesn't necessarily cut it. Exemptions are hard to get.
    Lee Janzen, for instance, winner of two U.S. Opens, couldn't get one into the Northern Trust. He tried to Monday qualify, failed, then offered his caddie to Allred.
    "They're all over the board in terms of how they dole them out," Schuchmann said of sponsors and their exemptions. "There's not a clear explanation of how they do that. Every tournament is different."
    Often, exemptions are given to up-and-coming players. The idea is, if they're treated well, then enjoy tour success, they'll return to said stepping-stone events.
    Schuchmann used as an example Jordan Spieth last year. Spieth got a sponsor exemption, played well, and continued to get them until they paid off in a victory. He parlayed his opportunities into one of the great rookie seasons in PGA history.
    "The longer you can stay in the news cycle, the better," said Schuchmann.
    For Allred, a strong showing at the Honda Classic would facilitate that.
    And who knows, a week later, the Puerto Rico Open might come calling. It's a PGA event with a weaker field because it's opposite the World Golf Championships-Cadillac Championship.
    Puerto Rico is where Spieth earned his first PGA top 10.
    There's no telling how things will play out.
    It behooves most players to concentrate on one tour or the other, said Schuchmann.
    "Otherwise, you wind up being in the middle of the pack on both," he said.
    But with the Web.com finals a virtual lock and his surge up the PGA points and earnings lists, Allred has the luxury of devoting more time to the latter, if he so chooses.
    It takes a top-125 regular-season finish in points or money to land a PGA card for next year.
    Yes, things have changed mightily in recent days.
    The immediate concern for Allred and his wife, Kimberly, is the birth of their child.
    He said they'd "have fun" figuring out what role golf plays around that.
    With so many opportunities afoot, it might take longer than they envisioned.
    Reach sports editor Tim Trower at 541-776-4479, or email ttrower@mailtribune.com
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