Allred on the cusp of Tour status at Wyndham

By Will GrayAugust 16, 2014, 2:10 pm

GREENSBORO, N.C. – The PGA Tour isn’t typically the backdrop for a Cinderella story.

Out here the rich get richer, by virtue of invitational tournaments and limited-field events with no cuts, and those on the outside are left with few avenues for quick ascent.

But then again, there are exceptions to every rule. Just ask Jason Allred.

A mild-mannered veteran from Scottsdale, Ariz., Allred began the year with only conditional status on the Web.com Tour, and no PGA Tour status whatsoever. After making the most of several chances in 2014, though, the 34-year-old heads into the weekend at the Wyndham Championship on the cusp of earning his card for next season.

Allred had a decorated junior golf career, highlighted by a victory over Trevor Immelman at the 1997 U.S. Junior Amateur. He played full-time on the PGA Tour in both 2005 and 2008, but hasn’t been on the big stage regularly since. After finishing T-95 at Web.com Tour Q-School last fall, he assumed that his 2014 schedule would take him to places like Valdosta, Wichita and Knoxville – if he was lucky.


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“I was way down the list. I wasn’t going to get in many of those events without qualifying,” Allred said. “Early on in the year, my plan was just to play my heart out in qualifiers there. Since I had some conditional status, I knew that if I would play well I might get into the reshuffle.”

His plans quickly changed in February, when he earned one of four spots available at a Monday qualifier for the Northern Trust Open. Allred made the cut, then shot 67-68 over the weekend at Riviera to finish tied for third, his best career result. He left L.A. with a six-figure check and enough non-member FedEx Cup points to clinch a spot in the Web.com Tour Finals this fall, where he would be able to potentially earn a PGA Tour card for 2015.

Except Allred didn’t stop there.

He went on to Monday qualify at three more PGA Tour stops – the HP Byron Nelson Championship, Travelers Championship and RBC Canadian Open. He also turned a pair of sponsor invites into big results, finishing T-15 at the Memorial after receiving a spot in the field at the 11th hour and tying for sixth last month at the Barracuda Championship, where he played in the final group on Sunday.

“He’s taken advantage of every opportunity,” said caddie Keith Nolan. “He’s earned a lot, but he’s also been fortunate. He’s just enjoyed every minute of it.”

It all means that Allred has plenty to play for this week at Sedgefield Country Club, site of the final regular-season event of 2013-14. As a non-member, he would become fully exempt for next year if he made the equivalent of a spot in the top 125 on either the season-long FedEx Cup points list or the money list.

While he’s relatively far back in terms of FedEx Cup points, Allred’s $612,477 haul is only $35,409 behind Bud Cauley for the No. 125 spot on the money list. Likely needing at least a top-25 finish to earn his card, he heads into the weekend in Greensboro tied for 28th after rounds of 69 and 66.

“I really hoped and dreamed this year might go this way, but to actually be here is such a thrill,” Allred said. “I hope I can hang on, but I have nothing to lose. Just play free.”

Even an unsuccessful trip through the four-event Finals series could yield full-time status on the Web.com Tour for 2015, an improvement from where Allred stood just six months ago. In an era where it can sometimes take players years to graduate from a developmental circuit to the PGA Tour, he has skipped several steps by displaying an uncanny affinity for one of golf’s biggest pressure-cookers: the Monday qualifier.

“I don’t feel like I’m old, but at the same time I’ve been doing this a long time,” he said. “I feel like if I show up there on Monday, just glad for the chance, it’s already a leg up on the field. Someone’s got to make it, and it’s a chance.

“I also feel like there’s a tendency to be teased into thinking you have to be crazy aggressive and make everything, and I feel like if you just play a good, solid round and play the percentages, it doesn’t mean you’re going to make it every time, but you’ll have a good chance.”

With a PGA Tour card now potentially just 36 holes away, Nolan has been focused on keeping his player’s attention on the task at hand, not on standings or projections.

“There are so many different scenarios,” Nolan said. “The hardest part this week is everybody congratulating him on the year that he’s had so far, thinking he’s done enough, but he hasn’t. It’s head down, hit the shot in front of you.

“We talk about ‘the circle.’ He takes care of everything inside the circle, and I’m in charge of the rest. As long as he does the right thing going into the circle, the results will show up.”

The typical career arc in golf does not include a breakthrough year at age 34, but Allred veered from the script long ago. Holding his daughter, Lucy, the youngest of three children who was born just eight days after his season turned on a dime at Riviera, he explained that he’s not shying away from the stakes this weekend.

Even if the end result is a travel schedule that includes Midland and Springfield, instead of Memphis and Scottsdale.

“I figure there’s probably no way to avoid it. I’m doing my best not to be afraid of it,” he said. “I’m definitely aware that with a good week it could mean some great things work-wise for next year, but I’m hopeful that I can hang on the truth for me that if I go play my heart out, I’m not a different person on Monday morning whether I’m on the Tour or not.”

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Hadwin returns to site of last year's 59

By Will GrayJanuary 17, 2018, 11:04 pm

Adam Hadwin had a career season last year, one that included shooting a 59 and winning a PGA Tour event. But those two achievements didn't occur in the same week.

While Hadwin's breakthrough victory came at the Valspar Championship in March, it was at the CareerBuilder Challenge in January when he first made headlines with a third-round 59 at La Quinta Country Club. Hadwin took a lead into the final round as a result, but he ultimately couldn't keep pace with Hudson Swafford.

He went on to earn a spot at the Tour Championship, and Hadwin made his first career Presidents Cup appearance in October. Now the Canadian returns to Palm Springs, eager to improve on last year's result and hoping to earn a spot in the final group for a third straight year after a T-6 finish in 2016.

"A lot of good memories here in the desert," Hadwin told reporters. "I feel very comfortable here, very at home. Lots of Canadians, so it's always fun to play well in front of those crowds and hopefully looking forward to another good week."

Hadwin's 59 last year was somewhat overshadowed, both by the fact that he didn't win the event and that it came just one week after Justin Thomas shot a 59 en route to victory at the Sony Open. But he's still among an exclusive club of just eight players to have broken 60 in competition on Tour and he's eager to get another crack at La Quinta on Saturday.

"If I'm in the same position on 18, I'm gunning for 58 this year," Hadwin said, "not playing safe for 59."

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Rahm: If I thought like Phil, I could not hit a shot

By Will GrayJanuary 17, 2018, 10:39 pm

When it comes to Jon Rahm and Phil Mickelson, there are plenty of common bonds. Both starred at Arizona State, both are now repped by the same agency and Rahm's former college coach and agent, Tim Mickelson, now serves full-time as his brother's caddie.

Those commonalities mean the two men have played plenty of practice rounds together, but the roads quickly diverge when it comes to on-course behavior. Rahm is quick, fiery and decisive; Mickelson is one of the most analytical players on Tour. And as Rahm told reporters Wednesday at the CareerBuilder Challenge, those differences won't end anytime soon.

"I don't need much. 'OK, it's like 120 (yards), this shot, right," Rahm said. "And then you have Phil, it's like, 'Oh, this shot, the moisture, this going on, this is like one mile an hour wind sideways, it's going to affect it one yard. This green is soft, this trajectory. They're thinking, and I'm like, 'I'm lost.' I'm like, 'God if I do that thought process, I could not hit a golf shot.'"


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The tactics may be more simplified, but Rahm can't argue with the results. While Mickelson is in the midst of a winless drought that is approaching five years, Rahm won three times around the world last year and will defend a PGA Tour title for the first time next week at Torrey Pines.

Both men are in the field this week in Palm Springs, where Mickelson will make his 2018 debut with what Rahm fully expects to be another dose of high-level analytics for the five-time major winner with his brother on the bag.

"It's funny, he gets to the green and then it's the same thing. He's very detail-oriented," Rahm said of Mickelson. "I'm there listening and I'm like, 'Man, I hope we're never paired together for anything because I can't think like this. I would not be able to play golf like that. But for me to listen to all that is really fun."

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DJ changes tune on golf ball distance debate

By Will GrayJanuary 17, 2018, 9:16 pm

World No. 1 Dustin Johnson is already one of the longest hitters in golf, so he's not looking for any changes to be made to golf ball technology - despite comments from him that hinted at just such a notion two months ago.

Johnson is in the Middle East this week for the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship, and he told BBC Sport Wednesday that he wouldn't be in favor of making changes to the golf ball in order to remedy some of the eye-popping distances players are hitting the ball with ever-increasing frequency.

"It's not like we are dominating golf courses," Johnson said. "When was the last time you saw someone make the game too easy? I don't really understand what all the debate is about because it doesn't matter how far it goes; it is about getting it in the hole."

Johnson's rhetorical question might be answered simply by looking back at his performance at the Sentry Tournament of Champions earlier this month, an eight-shot romp that featured a tee shot on the 433-yard 12th hole that bounded down a slope to within inches of the hole.

Johnson appeared much more willing to consider a reduced-distance ball option at the Hero World Challenge in November, when he sat next to tournament host Tiger Woods and supported Woods' notion that the ball should be addressed.

"I don't mind seeing every other professional sport, they play with one ball. All the pros play with the same ball," Johnson said. "In baseball, the guys that are bigger and stronger, they can hit a baseball a lot further than the smaller guys. ... I think there should be some kind of an advantage for guys who work on hitting it far and getting that speed that's needed, so having a ball, like the same ball that everyone plays, there's going to be, you're going to have more of an advantage."

Speaking Wednesday in Abu Dhabi, Johnson stood by the notion that regardless of whether the rules change or stay the same, he plans to have a leg up on the competition.

"If the ball is limited then it is going to limit everyone," he said. "I'm still going to hit it that much further than I guess the average Tour player."

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LPGA lists April date for new LA event

By Golf Channel DigitalJanuary 17, 2018, 8:18 pm

The LPGA’s return to Los Angeles will come with the new Hugel-JTBC Open being played at Wilshire Country Club April 19-22, the tour announced Wednesday.

When the LPGA originally released its schedule, it listed the Los Angeles event with the site to be announced at a later date.

The Hugel-JTBC Open will feature a 144-player field and a $1.5 million purse. It expands the tour’s West Coast swing, which will now be made up of four events in California in March and April.

The LPGA last played in Los Angeles in 2005. Wilshire Country Club hosted The Office Depot in 2001, with Annika Sorenstam winning there.