Jason Allred had already played in three Monday qualifiers in 2014. He even flew all the way to Hawaii to give it a go for the Sony Open, but to no avail. Then, he almost skipped the Monday for this week’s Northern Trust Open — he and his wife are expecting their third child in a few weeks.
Allred, who has played the last few seasons on the Web.com Tour, luckily stuck to his plan to play and earned one of the four qualifying spots. While he didn’t open with the best first round (two-over 73), he made up for it and more on Friday, firing a seven-under 64 at the firm and fast Riviera CC, the low score of the tournament so far.
What’s clicked for him this week?
“Part of it really, I just felt a lot of freedom because my wife is two weeks from having our third child, so my family, I’m so thankful for them and I try to make them my priority, so we planned my schedule the best I could,” said Allred, who earned All-American honors at Pepperdine and won the 1997 U.S. Junior Amateur.
But when it came to leaving we were sitting on the couch on Saturday when I was getting ready to leave for her, it hit my wife she was going to be alone and thankfully her mom was able to fly down. I almost didn’t come here so thought I might as well let it rip, and just be able to look forward to having our third child, that’s helped. This is a game that I love, but I try too hard sometimes, put it in perspective.”
After holing out a bunker shot on no. 14, Allred was nine-under for his round and briefly put on 59 watch. Which quickly ended after he bogeyed the following two holes.
“I think after that bunker shot went in, it was such an exciting shot and that gave me a little adrenaline rush, so I think that’s where I hopefully can be better equipped next time to just setting down a little bit because I look back and from then on, I just felt a little click with my swing,” said Allred. “I hit some pretty good shots coming in.”
Allred hasn’t played with the big boys in quite some time. His last start on the PGA Tour came at the 2010 U.S. Open, so he’s a little rusty when it comes to competing on the highest level again.
“They definitely did, but for the most part it was in a really good way,” said Allred when asked if the nerves kicked in. “The caddie, again, he’s doing a great job, and it’s so fun to feel butterflies. At times I’ve dealt with them when it’s I’ve played fearful but it’s fun, I keep telling myself, this is I didn’t practice, to get in a place where I’m feeling nervous like that.
“Again, it’s such a unique challenge to be out there and deal with the emotions. I told my wife a couple days ago, if I can go through this weekend and just look back and be able to look back and say I really enjoyed it and stay present, I’ll be happy. Thankfully I did that.
“Naturally I would have loved to finish off my round a little better today but even with that I’m going to give every shot my very best.”
Allred credits his success this week to his solid putting on Riviera’s challenging (and sometimes bumpy) greens.
“Today I made several nice putts,” he said. “I didn’t make anything crazy long but I made probably four or five nice 15-footers, which on these greens is really fun and a bonus to go in.
“You can’t go crazy out there because it will bite you pretty quick but I felt like I was able to make aggressive swings and pick good targets.”
Allred is five-under at the halfway mark and tied for ninth, trailing 36-hole leader Sang Moon Bae by four shots.
For the second consecutive year, Sang Moon Bae holds the 36-hole lead at Riviera for the Northern Trust Open. Bae shot a solid five-under 66 for a two-day total of nine-under to take a one-shot lead over Aaron Baddeley and Robert Garrigus.
Bae struggled in the third round last year and never recovered after posting a five-over 76.
“I didn’t play well third round last year,” said the 27-year-old from South Korea. “It was really, really good experience, and I learned a lot. You know, I felt much improvement, improved a lot than last year.”
He learned that he needed to stay patient when things weren’t always going his way or when he was missing short putts. Now, the attribute is a great strength of his.
“Patience is one of the strongest points of my game,” he said.
A few months later Bae captured his first PGA Tour title at the HP Byron Nelson Championship.
Aaron Baddeley is rekindling his mojo at Riviera. It seems like nearly a lifetime ago when he won the Northern Trust Open in 2011.
Baddeley finished his round by rolling in four consecutive birdies to fire a six-under 65, eight-under total.
“Coming in, I was like, if that could get through that would be great and to birdie the last four was extra special,” he said. “I’m excited, definitely. Definitely excited to finish like that and just to have a chance to win here is great.”
With the wonderful weather in the Los Angeles area as of late — which is expected to continue throughout the weekend — the conditions at Riviera are difficult with the course playing very firm and fast. And it’ll only become more challenging.
“It’s a strong course, especially when it’s dry and firm like it is, if you miss it out of position, it’s really hard to get the ball up-and-down,” said Baddeley. “Today was good, because I made a couple good saves but coming in, I had some good looks and made them.”
The conditions are forcing the players to think more and pick their targets more strategically.
“You just have to think a little bit more, because the ball instead of stopping on the greens, you have to think about the ball bouncing forward so some pins you just don’t go at,” he said. “You just take 20, 30 feet and try and make it.”
Traditionally, Robert Garrigus hasn’t included the Northern Trust Open to his schedule. When you look at his record at Riviera, it’s easy to see why — in four starts, he’s missed a few cuts and withdrawn and his best finish is T51 in 2011.
Despite three-putting two of the last three holes, Garrigus shot a second consecutive four-under 67, eight-under total, to trail the lead by just one stroke.
Prior to the first round, his career-best at Riviera was a two-under 69.
“I just stopped telling myself that I hated this place, so to speak,” said Garrigus, candidly, following the first round. “But I convinced myself this is my favorite golf course of the year and I tell you what, this is the best shape I’ve ever seen it.”
It’s amazing what a change in attitude will do.
Garrigus is playing this year because he has yet to qualify for next week’s WGC-Accenture Match Play Championship. He knows he needs a win to get into the field.
“It’s nice to just make the cut here, let alone playing as well as I am,” he said in his post-round presser on Friday. “I usually don’t play that well here, but you know, this week, I changed my attitude and I kind of added this tournament late on my schedule about Sunday night.
“I decided I was going to fly down here and give it a shot because I want to get into the Match Play and I think I have to win to do that. All systems go.”
Garrigus is no stranger to overcoming obstacles, including addictions, and credits his mental toughness to his new outlook.
“I’m pretty strong mentally,” he said. “I guess I’ve dealt with a lot of things in my life that lead to that. I’m sure you all are very aware of that. I can will myself to do that. I have pretty goodwill power so as soon as I stepped on the first hole this week, I’m like, I absolutely love this place.
“Even though I haven’t played well here before, you know, it’s just one thing that I pride myself in is my mental game. I can be pretty calm when things are turning inside, so it’s nice to be out here, and I’m starting to really like it, just because I’m actually seeing the reads. I’ve never really been able to see the reads. I’m rolling it good. My speed’s good. It’s been steamrolling which is really nice to see.”
He’s not the only player to choose to skip a venue based on personal preferences, as he reminded us.
“If you think about it, there are a lot of places where people play well and a lot of places where you don’t,” he pointed out. “There’s a reason why Tiger doesn’t come here is because it doesn’t fit his eye, and that’s one of the things I struggled with.”
A new driver in his bag has also contributed to this week’s success because it’s helped him hit more of a cut, which is a necessity at Riviera. He cracked his former TaylorMade SLDR in San Diego, so he had to have a new one made, and it’s working out real well.
“I switched drivers a couple weeks ago and I’m starting to hit a cut and a lot of these tee shots are cut tee shots, and it’s kind of snowballed,” said Garrigus. “On 17, I can set it on the left and I’ve completely eliminated the left side of the golf course out here and that’s a huge deal. I have short irons in and it’s starting to be kind of nice actually, especially on Saturday, because I think I’ve only made one cut. It’s been a lot of fun this week.”
Garrigus, a long-hitter on Tour, hit driver on the par-4 475 yard 18th and left himself with only a sand wedge into the green on Friday. Which is completely bonkers because that’s an incredibly long hole.
“I was hitting those balls 350, 360, and it’s laughable, because I’ve never hit a sand wedge into 18,” he said. “It’s boding well because I’m hitting it straight and if I’m hitting it straight and I’m swinging confident, it’s going to be a lot of fun this weekend if I can keep my composure.”
If you follow any player or caddies (and media) on Twitter, then you’ll have noticed there have been a tremendous number of tweets involving complaints and comments about the traffic in Los Angeles. I’ll leave you with this gem from Garrigus.
Q. How much have you kept track or know much about the freeway closure here and are you making any different arrangements as far as where you’re staying?
ROBERT GARRIGUS: My caddie, I’m sure, has paid close attention. I’m sure he has to get on the 405 he didn’t want to stay in Santa Monica because I don’t pay him ten grand a week. I’m staying in right downtown Santa Monica, so I whip up San Vicente and to Sunset; it’s pretty easy.
It’s actually a pretty nice week, if you stay in Santa Monica. But if you say anywhere other than that, it’s a nightmare. I mean, you guys know as well as I do, you get on those roads out here and it’s a parking lot. It’s the only city I’ve ever seen somebody sell flowers and newspapers on the freeway. It’s kind of crazy. Doesn’t happen very often. Here and Baltimore maybe, that’s about it.
Jon Peterson, who shot 75 in the first round, didn’t show up for his tee time on Friday. He was disqualified because he failed to contact PGA Tour officials.
He sent a tweet to explain the no-show:
Couldn’t make it to the track this morning. Been feeling bad since Wednesday and ran a fever all night.
— John Peterson (@JohnPetersonLSU) February 14, 2014
I’m not sure if he was aware of the protocol around pulling out of a tournament for being sick. I’m also not sure if he would’ve been feeling *that* ill had he shot 65 instead of 75 on Thursday. Just sayin’.
Oh, and I can’t believe I almost forgot — Happy Valentines Day! XOXO