Reaching New Heights

By Rex HoggardJuly 4, 2009, 4:00 pm
AT&T NationalBETHESDA, Md. ' If youre having a hard time recognizing Michael Allen dont be alarmed, even those closest to the reluctant senior ' a sprawling group that includes the better part of anyone he has ever met ' may be wondering who this guy is and what did he do with Michael Allen?
The Allen who scorched Congressional for a third-round 65 and the second-to-last tee time on Sunday at the AT&T National bears little resemblance to the guy who lost his PGA Tour card so many times the members at Mesa (Ariz.) Country Club had a gold plate put on his locker that read: PGA Tour Q-School All-Time money winner.
Michael Allen
Michael Allen is trying to add a PGA Tour victory to his Champions Tour major. (Getty Images)
Or the Allen who was so at odds with his chosen profession a few years back he actively pursued a club pro job . . . at one of Donald Trumps courses, no less. Or the guy who figures hes worked his way through 20 or so swing coaches throughout his career looking for answers.
Or the guy who is 0-for-336 over two fruitless decades on Tour.
They said Ive lost 336 times, Allen smiled on Saturday. I guess Im overcoming my fear of losing.
The first sign things were different came in late May, when the young 50-year-old won the Senior PGA Championship in his first over-50 start. Allen was no longer the guy whod made more trips to Q-School than he could count ' Maybe Ive made it to final (stage) 13 times . . . too many . . . its depressing, he said. He was now a major champion.
Some saw the change coming. His caddie Mike Maroney was lured out of retirement by the prospect and swing coach Mike Mitchell had been waiting patiently for what was to come.
His mom once told me he was always a late bloomer, Mitchell said. Hes been grinding it out; its all hes ever done. All he knows.
The Senior PGA was the ultimate litmus test. Leading going into the final round, pressed by proven winners on a demanding golf course and ultimately triumphant ' perhaps the only tonic capable of clearing away 20 years of cobwebs and bad thoughts.
The golf universe doesnt give do-overs, just ask Jean Van de Velde. Allen, however, found himself recharged by his Senior PGA make good, flush with options and places to play and hungry to do what no one has ever done ' win his first Tour event after winning his first Champions Tour tilt.
I was just very comfortable. I was just confident in my game and with the situation and didnt want to accept second place, Allen said. I dont know why, but it made it fun. Im not always fighting myself right now. Im just playing the game.
Honesty has never been a problem for Allen. One of the circuits most likable and endearing players, he is comfortable with the fact that hes been a journeyman on the brink his entire career. And for all that time, nobody has done obscure better. He doesnt have any arrogance whatsoever, Mitchell said. He allowed me to maneuver him into a direction. For a lot of players without that personality it would have been very difficult.
His tie for 14th at last weeks Travelers Championship ' a finish that in the past would have merited a good bottle of Pinot Grigio, a cigar and a late night ' had him worried: Honestly, I was shanking it, he said.
So his caddie put in a call to Mitchell, who teaches out of Mission Hills in Palm Springs, Calif. When Mitchell arrived at Congressional he told Maroney it would take 12 minutes to fix his man. It took him six (minutes), the caddie smiled. There is a comfort level to the new Allen thats born only from experience. For the first time in a career that began in 1988, the father of two is finally comfortable in his Tour skin.
Probably, Allen said. You know what: I play every week because I enjoy playing now. I played the entire West Coast because I love all those tournaments.
The new-look Allen is no longer complicated by doubt or two of the scrappiest decades known to professional golf. Allen 2.0 knows where the ball is going, or how to fix what may be wrong to make it go where he wants it, and can make magic with that broom-handled putter.
Thats the guy his peers probably dont recognize. Outside the ropes, however, Allen is as engaging and genuine as hes always been.
In the wake of his Senior PGA victory, he bought the entire press corps Dom Perignon to celebrate and his caddie a 2009 Harley-Davidson Fat Bob motorcycle.
He also put the lads back at the Armstrong Gun in Sunningdale, England on notice. The Gun was Allens watering hole of choice when he lived in Sunningdale during his European Tour days.
His Senior PGA victory earned him a spot at the Senior British Open, which will be played at Sunningdale July 23-26. Few returns will be as sweet as this one.
The drinks will be flowing again, said Allen, who plans to take a week off after the Senior British and travel Europe with his family.
And what does a senior major winner on the brink of his first Tour victory drink when he returns to an old haunt?
Whatever they have on tap is good for me, Allen smiled.
Some things never change.
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    Facial hair Fowler's new good-luck charm

    By Rex HoggardJuly 20, 2018, 8:12 pm

    CARNOUSTIE, Scotland – Before, during and after the Fourth of July, Rickie Fowler missed a few appointments with his razor.

    He arrived in the United Kingdom for last week’s Scottish Open still unshaved and he tied for sixth place. Fowler, like most golfers, can give in to superstition, so he's decided to keep the caveman look going for this week’s Open Championship.

    “There could be some variations,” he smiled following his round on Friday at Carnoustie.

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    At this rate, he may never shave again. Fowler followed an opening 70 with a 69 on Friday to move into a tie for 11th place, just three strokes off the lead.

    Fowler also has some friendly competition in the beard department, with his roommate this week Justin Thomas also going for the rugged look.

    “I think he kind of followed my lead in a way. I think he ended up at home, and he had a little bit of scruff going. It's just fun,” Fowler said. “We mess around with it. Obviously, not taking it too seriously. But like I said, ended up playing halfway decent last week, so I couldn't really shave it off going into this week.”

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    Spieth (67) rebounds from tough Round 1 finish

    By Ryan LavnerJuly 20, 2018, 7:55 pm

    CARNOUSTIE, Scotland – Guess whose putter is starting to heat up again at a major?

    Even with a few wayward shots Friday at Carnoustie, Jordan Spieth made a significant climb up the leaderboard in the second round, firing a 4-under 67 to move just three shots off the lead.

    Spieth showed his trademark grit in bouncing back from a rough finish Thursday, when he mis-clubbed on the 15th hole, leading to a double bogey, and ended up playing the last four holes in 4 over.

    “I don’t know if I actually regrouped,” he said. “It more kind of fires me up a little.”

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    Spieth missed more than half of his fairways in the second round, but he was able to play his approach shots from the proper side of the hole. Sure, he “stole a few,” particularly with unlikely birdies on Nos. 10 and 11 after errant drives, but he took advantage and put himself in position to defend his claret jug.

    Spieth needed only 25 putts in the second round, and he credited a post-round adjustment Thursday for the improvement. The tweak allows his arms to do more of the work in his stroke, and he said he felt more confident on the greens.

    “It’s come a long way in the last few months, no doubt,” he said.

    More than anything, Spieth was relieved not to have to play “cut-line golf” on Friday, like he’s done each start since his spirited run at the Masters.

    “I know that my swing isn’t exactly where I want it to be; it’s nowhere near where it was at Birkdale,” he said. “But the short game is on point, and the swing is working in the right direction to get the confidence back.”

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    After 36, new Open favorite is ... Fleetwood

    By Golf Channel DigitalJuly 20, 2018, 7:49 pm

    With a handful of the pre-championship favorites exiting early, there is a new odds-on leader entering the third round of The Open at Carnoustie.

    While Zach Johnson and Kevin Kisner share the 36-hole lead, it's England's Tommy Fleetwood who leads the betting pack at 11/2. Fleetwood begins the third round one shot off the lead.

    Click here for the leaderboard and take a look below at the odds, courtesy Jeff Sherman at

    Tommy Fleetwood: 11/2

    Zach Johnson: 13/2

    Rory McIlroy: 7/1

    Jordan Spieth: 8/1

    Rickie Fowler: 9/1

    Kevin Kisner: 12/1

    Xander Schauffele: 16/1

    Tony Finau: 16/1

    Matt Kuchar: 18/1

    Pat Perez: 25/1

    Brooks Koepka: 25/1

    Erik van Rooyen: 50/1

    Alex Noren: 50/1

    Tiger Woods: 50/1

    Thorbjorn Olesen: 60/1

    Danny Willett: 60/1

    Francesco Molinari: 60/1

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    Perez (T-3) looks to remedy 'terrible' major record

    By Rex HoggardJuly 20, 2018, 7:34 pm

    CARNOUSTIE, Scotland – Pat Perez’s major record is infinitely forgettable. In 24 Grand Slam starts he has exactly one top-10 finish, more than a decade ago at the PGA Championship.

    “Terrible,” Perez said when asked to sum up his major career. “I won sixth [place]. Didn't even break top 5.”

    It’s strange, however, that his status atop The Open leaderboard through two rounds doesn’t seem out of character. The 42-year-old admits he doesn’t hit it long enough to contend at most major stops and also concedes he doesn’t exactly have a wealth of knowledge when it comes to the game’s biggest events, but something about The Open works for him.

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    “I didn't like it the first time I came over. When I went to St. Andrews in '05, I didn't like it because it was cold and terrible and this and that,” he said. “Over the years, I've really learned to like to come over here. Plus the fans are so awesome here. They know a good shot. They don't laugh at you if you hit a bad shot.”

    Perez gave the fans plenty to cheer on Friday at Carnoustie, playing 17 flawless holes to move into a share of the lead before a closing bogey dropped him into a tie for third place after a second-round 68.

    For Perez, links golf is the great equalizer that mitigates the advantages some of the younger, more powerful players have and it brings out the best in him.

    “It's hard enough that I don't feel like I have to hit perfect shots. That's the best,” he said. “Greens, you can kind of miss a shot, and it won't run off and go off the green 40 yards. You're still kind of on the green. You can have a 60-footer and actually think about making it because of the speed.”