Allred creates buzz in PGA Tour event
Jason Allred is understanding of anyone who didn't look for him in this week's PGA Tour field at Riviera Country Club in Los Angeles.
"There's no reason you should have," he laughed during a phone interview. "I've been a little under the radar."
Certainly, no one could have foreseen Allred — who got into the Northern Trust Open by Monday qualifying — threatening the most hallowed of numbers in golf, or the course record, but that's what the buzz was about as he completed 14 holes in the second round Friday at 9 under par.
The Ashland native bogeyed the 15th and 16th holes, quelling the excited social media chatter of journalists covering the event, but he still acquitted himself quite well on the par-71 layout.
Allred parred the last two holes for a 7-under 64, the best round at the tournament's midway point and good enough to vault him from a tie for 101st place at the start of the day into a tie for ninth place. Following an opening round 73, he's 5 under and four shots off the pace with a 133 entering today's third round.
Allred shot a 73 in the opening round, which he finished Friday morning because darkness halted play the day before for the last groups. He played 11/2 holes to complete Round 1, then started the second round about 15 minutes later.
Leader Bae Sang-moon shot a 66 Friday and is at 9-under 133, one stroke ahead of Aaron Baddeley and Robert Garrigus.
Allred is playing his first PGA event since the 2010 U.S. Open. He shot a 66 to grab one of four spots in Monday qualifying on the Eisenhower Course at Industry Hills.
It was his fourth attempt at qualifying this season. He didn't make it through in Hawaii, San Diego or Phoenix.
Allred, who lives in Scottsdale, Ariz., has conditional status on the Web.com Tour. The PGA's junior circuit began this week in Colombia and plays its first four events abroad. There is no qualifying for them, and when the tour returns to the U.S. in March, Allred said he'll likely have to start out trying to Monday qualify because his ranking isn't very high.
With that as a backdrop, suffice to say he took LA by surprise Friday.
"It's hard to pinpoint what it was," said Allred, who had three birdies on his card before stringing together four around the turn, on Nos. 8-11. "It wasn't anything really. Riviera is such a special place. It's really peaceful, and I just had so much fun, really to the point where pretty much before every shot I had to take an extra second to remind myself I was at Riviera playing in a tournament."
Allred had two full seasons on the PGA Tour, in 2005 and '08, but didn't play Riviera because the tournament filled quickly. A number of top foreign players get in it as a precursor to the WGC-Accenture Match Play Championship next week.
It wasn't until Allred's run of four birdies that things became especially interesting.
"After that, it was, 'Wow, this is getting pretty fun,'" he said.
Then at the par-3 14th, Allred holed out from a bunker, and the buzz of the magic number, "59," began. Six players in tour history have hit it, most recently Jim Furyk last year.
Allred needed birdies on three of his last four holes to do it. When that hope all but ended with his first bogey, talk of the course record of 61 surfaced. That, too, went by the wayside a hole later.
"I maybe got a little ahead of myself coming in," said Allred. "But I'm going to take it easy on myself. It's understandable. Those are tough holes. I didn't hit bad shots, but I didn't execute them great."
He wasn't thinking 59 or 61.
"Not really, no," said the 33-year-old. "Naturally, I had thoughts at the time like, 'Wow, I'm this many under or that many under.' In the past, I would have gone about it like, don't think that way or don't do this. Today I really just let it come and go. It's fine to do that, then get back to your job."
On the 14th, he tried to hit a soft 6-iron into the wind 185 yards. It hit in on the upslope of the bunker.
"It was one of those bunker shots I executed well and it just happened to come out just right and I holed it," said Allred. "That was neat. There were a lot of people hanging around in that area, so it was a fun moment of the day."
On the par-4 15th, with his confidence sky high, Allred hit a good drive in the fairway and got aggressive with a 5-iron. He pulled it slightly, short-siding himself to the hole and couldn't get up and down.
"At the time, I hadn't missed too many shots," he said. "It was a little bit of a shock. I reminded myself that everybody makes some bogeys."
The only shot he didn't feel committed to came on the next hole. His tee shot on the par 3 plugged in a bunker.
"I did a pretty good job of managing my situation to make bogey and get out of there," he said.
Allred barely missed a birdie putt on the 17th, then made a solid par 4 on the tough 18th.
He felt good about the way he hit the ball, even on the two bogey holes.
"Naturally, I could look back at the could'ves and would'ves," he said, "but at the same time, one of my goals is to do the best I can. What else can you ask for?"
It's probably the best round of his professional career, he said, given the circumstances. He shot a 63 on the Web.com Tour last year in Boise, Idaho.
Tee times and pairings for today weren't set Friday because two groups didn't finish play.
Allred still has plenty to look forward to.
He's never won on the PGA Tour. His best finish was a tie for 14th in Tucson, Ariz., in 2006.
The last Monday qualifier to win was Arjun Atwal at the 2010 Wyndham Championship. Prior to that, it was Fred Wadsworth at the 1986 Southern Open.
Barring victory, the top 10 finishers and ties earn a spot in the next open tournament, which begins Feb. 27 in Florida.
Topping all of that, Allred and his wife, Kimberly, are expecting their third child, which is due in two weeks. If the baby comes very soon, said Allred, "I'm out of here."
For now, he's still on the radar.
Reach sports editor Tim Trower at 541-776-4479, or email firstname.lastname@example.org