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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Woods needs top-10 at Open to qualify for WGC

By Will GrayJuly 16, 2018, 4:34 pm

If Tiger Woods is going to qualify for the final WGC-Bridgestone Invitational at Firestone Country Club, he'll need to do something he hasn't done in five years this week at The Open.

Woods has won eight times at Firestone, including his most recent PGA Tour victory in 2013, and has openly stated that he would like to qualify for the no-cut event in Akron before it shifts to Memphis next year. But in order to do so, Woods will need to move into the top 50 in the Official World Golf Ranking after this week's event at Carnoustie.

Woods is currently ranked No. 71 in the world, down two spots from last week, and based on projections it means that he'll need to finish no worse than a tie for eighth to have a chance of cracking the top 50. Woods' last top-10 finish at a major came at the 2013 Open at Muirfield, where he tied for sixth.


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There are actually two OWGR cutoffs for the Bridgestone, July 23 and July 30. That means that Woods could theoretically still add a start at next week's RBC Canadian Open to chase a spot in the top 50, but he has said on multiple occasions that this week will be his last start of the month. The WGC-Bridgestone Invitational will be played Aug. 2-5.

There wasn't much movement in the world rankings last week, with the top 10 staying the same heading into the season's third major. Dustin Johnson remains world No. 1, followed by Justin Thomas, Justin Rose, Brooks Koepka and Jon Rahm. Defending Open champ Jordan Spieth is ranked sixth, with Rickie Fowler, Rory McIlroy, Jason Day and Tommy Fleetwood rounding out the top 10.

Despite taking the week off, Sweden's Alex Noren moved up three spots from No. 14 to No. 11, passing Patrick Reed, Bubba Watson and Paul Casey.

John Deere Classic champ Michael Kim went from No. 473 to No. 215 in the latest rankings, while South African Brandon Stone jumped from 371st to 110th with his win at the Scottish Open.

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Spieth takes familiar break ahead of Open defense

By Rex HoggardJuly 16, 2018, 3:50 pm

CARNOUSTIE, Scotland – As his title chances seemed to be slipping away during the final round of last year’s Open Championship, Jordan Spieth’s caddie took a moment to remind him who he was.

Following a bogey at No. 13, Michael Greller referenced a recent vacation he’d taken to Mexico where he’d spent time with Michael Phelps and Michael Jordan and why he deserved to be among that group of singular athletes.

Spieth, who won last year’s Open, decided to continue the tradition, spending time in Cabo again before this week’s championship.


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“I kind of went through the same schedule,” Spieth said on Monday at Carnoustie. “It was nice to have a little vacation.”

Spieth hasn’t played since the Travelers Championship; instead he attended the Special Olympics USA Games earlier this month in Seattle with his sister. It was Spieth’s first time back to the Pacific Northwest since he won the 2015 U.S. Open.

“I went out to Chambers Bay with [Greller],” Spieth said. “We kind of walked down the 18th hole. It was cool reliving those memories.”

But most of all Spieth said he needed a break after a particularly tough season.

“I had the itch to get back to it after a couple weeks of not really working,” he said. “It was nice to kind of have that itch to get back.”

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Harrington: Fiery Carnoustie evokes Hoylake in '06

By Ryan LavnerJuly 16, 2018, 3:45 pm

CARNOUSTIE, Scotland – One course came to mind when Padraig Harrington arrived on property and saw a firm, fast and yellow Carnoustie.

Hoylake in 2006.

That's when Tiger Woods avoided every bunker, bludgeoned the links with mid-irons and captured the last of his three Open titles.

So Harrington was asked: Given the similarity in firmness between Carnoustie and Hoylake, can Tiger stir the ghosts this week?


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“I really don’t know,” Harrington said Monday. “He’s good enough to win this championship, no doubt about it. I don’t think he could play golf like the way he did in 2006. Nobody else could have tried to play the golf course the way he did, and nobody else could have played the way he did. I suspect he couldn’t play that way now, either. But I don’t know if that’s the strategy this week, to lay up that far back.”

With three days until the start of this championship, that’s the biggest question mark for Harrington, the 2007 winner here. He doesn’t know what his strategy will be – but his game plan will need to be “fluid.” Do you attack the course with driver and try to fly the fairway bunkers? Or do you attempt to lay back with an iron, even though it’s difficult to control the amount of run-out on the baked-out fairways and bring the bunkers into play?

“The fairways at Hoylake are quite flat, even though they were very fast,” Harrington said. “There’s a lot of undulations in the fairways here, so if you are trying to lay up, you can get hit the back of a slope and kick forward an extra 20 or 30 yards more than you think. So it’s not as easy to eliminate all the risk by laying up.”

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How will players game-plan for Carnoustie?

By Rex HoggardJuly 16, 2018, 3:31 pm

CARNOUSTIE, Scotland – Justin Thomas took a familiar slash with his driver on the 18th tee on Monday at Carnoustie and watched anxiously as his golf ball bounced and bounded down the fairway.

Unlike the two previous editions of The Open, at what is widely considered the rota’s most demanding test, a particularly warm and dry summer has left Carnoustie a parched shade of yellow and players like Thomas searching for answers.

Under the best circumstances, Carnoustie is every bit the unforgiving participant. But this week promises to be something altogether different, with players already dumbfounded by how far the ball is chasing down fairways and over greens.

Brown is beautiful here at Royal Dark & Dusty.

But then it’s also proving to be something of a unique test.

Where most practice rounds at The Open are spent trying to figure out what lines are best off tees, this is more a study of lesser evils.

Tee shots, like at the par-4 17th hole, ask multiple questions with few answers. On his first attempt, Thomas hit 2-iron off the tee at No. 17. It cleared the Barry Burn and bounded down the middle of the fairway. Perfect, right? Not this year at Carnoustie, as Thomas’ tee shot kept rolling until it reached the same burn, which twists and turns through both the 17th and 18th fairways, at a farther intersection.


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“A hole like 17 in this wind, the trick is getting a club that will carry [the burn],” said Thomas, who played 18 holes on Monday with Tiger Woods. “If that hole gets downwind you can have a hard time carrying the burn and keeping it short of the other burn. It’s pretty bizarre.”

The sixth hole can offer a similar dilemma, with players needing to carry their tee shots 275 yards to avoid a pair of pot bunkers down the right side of the fairway. Yet just 26 yards past those pitfalls looms a second set of bunkers. Even for the game’s best, trying to weave a fairway wood or long-iron into a 26-yard window can be challenging.

“Six is a really hard hole, it really just depends on how you want to play it. If you want to take everything on and have a chance of hitting an iron into a par 5, or just kind of lay back and play it as a three-shot hole,” Thomas shrugged.

It’s difficult to quantify precisely how short the 7,400-yard layout is playing. It’s not so far players are flying the ball in the air, particularly with relatively little wind in the forecast the rest of the week, so much as it is a question of how a particular shot will run out after it’s made contact with the firm turf.

As the field began to get their first taste of the bouncy fun, one of the earliest indications something was askew came on Sunday when Padraig Harrington, who won The Open the last time it was played at Carnoustie in 2007, announced to the social world that he’d hit into the burn on the 18th hole.

“This time it was the one at the green, 457 yards away,” the Irishman tweeted. “The fairways are a tad fast.”

Most players have already resigned themselves to a steady diet of mid-irons off tees this week in an attempt to at least partially control the amount of run-out each shot will have.

Jordan Spieth, the defending champion, hadn’t played a practice round prior to his media session, but could tell what’s in store just from his abbreviated range session on Monday. “Extremely baked out,” he said.

The conditions have already led Spieth and his caddie, Micheal Greller, to conjure up a tentative game plan.

“You might wear out your 5- and 4-irons off the tee instead of hitting 3- or 2-irons like you’re used to,” Greller told him.

But even that might not be the answer, as Tommy Fleetwood discovered on Sunday during a practice round. Fleetwood has a unique connection with Carnoustie having shot the course record (63) during last year’s Dunhill Links Championship.

The Englishman doesn’t expect his record to be in danger this week.

In fact, he explained the dramatically different conditions were evident on the third hole on Sunday.

“There’s holes that have been nothing tee shots, like the third. If you play that in the middle of September or October [when the Dunhill is played] and it’s green and soft, you could just hit a mid-iron down the fairway and knock it on with a wedge,” Fleetwood said. “Yesterday it was playing so firm, the fairways really undulate and you have bunkers on either side, it’s actually all of a sudden a tough tee shot.”

The alternative to the iron game plan off the tee would be to simply hit driver, an option at least one long-hitter is considering this week if his practice round was any indication.

On Sunday, Jon Rahm played aggressively off each tee, taking the ubiquitous fairway bunkers out of play but at the same time tempting fate with each fairway ringed by fescue rough, which is relatively tame given the dry conditions. But even that option has consequences.

“It’s kind of strange where there’s not really a number that you know you’re going to be short,” said Fleetwood, who played his Sunday practice round with Rahm. “[Rahm] hit a drive on 15 that was like 400 yards. You just can’t account for that kind of stuff.”

Whatever tactic players choose, this Open Championship promises to be a much different test than what players have become accustomed to at Carnoustie.