Insider: Refocused Allen looking for second win of season at ACE Group Classic
February 11, 2014
By Vartan Kupelian, PGATOUR.COM
- Michael Allen is coming off the tour's first full-field event victory at the Allianz Championship. (Cohen/Getty Images)
Flip the switch back to the final event of the 2013 Champions Tour season, the Charles Schwab Cup Championship.
Michael Allen, who grew up in San Mateo, just a few In-N-Out Burgers south of TPC Harding Park, is walking off the 18th green when he stops to talk about playing in front of his friends, his affection for San Francisco and the course, and the state of his game.
Life is good for Allen. No complaints there. He won twice last year. But as he approached this Champions Tour season, he knew exactly what was missing and what he wanted to accomplish.
“Next year I have to do the little things better, pay better attention to the details,” he said.
Allen has made a good start toward that goal. He’ll tee it up this week at the ACE Group Classic after winning the first full-field event at the Allianz Championship in a playoff over Duffy Waldorf. It was the sixth Champions Tour victory for Allen. Who wouldn’t take six victories? But Allen has set the bar higher.
Why wouldn’t he after winning his debut on the Champions Tour – at a major championship, no less? Right out of the gate, Allen won the 2009 Senior PGA Championship.
Allen is one of the top players on the Champions Tour and has been since that day at Canterbury Golf Club in Cleveland when he was 2 strokes better than Larry Mize. In the numbers game, Allen had another excellent season in 2013. Money List, Charles Schwab Cup points, wins, top 10s, statistics.
“I’ve played nicely but I haven’t capitalized as much as I should have,” Allen said at TPC Harding Park.
That’s where his frustration came from as he returned home to Scottsdale for the offseason.
Allen won multiple events in 2013 for the second straight season. He was in the top 10 on the Money List for the second straight year and third time in four seasons. What’s more, Allen finished in the top five in nine of his 24 starts – that’s a batting average of better than .350.
He won the Mississippi Gulf Resort Classic with a final-round rush. He made seven birdies on the first 13 holes on that Sunday at Fallen Oak. In October, Allen added the Greater Hickory Kia Classic at Rock Browne, also in a playoff.
Allen finished fifth or better last year in three straight major championships, beginning with the Regions Tradition (T5). He backed that up with a T4 at the Constellation SENIOR PLAYERS Championship and added a solo fifth at the U.S. Senior Open.
But there were enough near-misses along the way to make Allen consider his game plan for 2013. He has already demonstrated that when he sets his mind to something, chances are excellent he’ll get it done. Perhaps the best example of that is the 2012 U.S. Open on his home course, The Olympic Club. Allen’s goal was to defy the odds, qualify and compete at The Olympic Club. He did. At age 53 he competed well enough to make the cut and tie for 56th against the youngsters.
Something else Allen has going for him as he begins his fifth full season on the Champions Tour is a greater sense of familiarity with the surroundings.
“I’m finding that out more and more,” he said. “It gets easier and easier for me.”
What’s not easy is winning on the Champions Tour. Allen needed an outstanding week of putting and some magical escapes at Allianz. In the playoff against Waldorf, both his tee shots on the 18th hole at Old Sound missed the fairway.
On the first playoff hole, Allen drove into the left rough. He finessed a shot through trees off the pine straw onto the green. He two-putted for birdie. When Allen and Waldorf returned the 18th tee for the second time in the playoff, Allen over-compensated and drove into the right rough. He was left to improvise again and lasered a 6-iron onto the green for another crack at eagle. He two-putted again and it was enough when Waldorf missed his birdie putt after hitting his second into a greenside bunker.
On the Old Course at Broken Sound, Allen became the fourth golfer to open with a 60 and go on to win. He joins a group with Bruce Fleisher (2002), Tom Purtzer (2004) and Nick Price (2011).
What got it done for Allen was his work on the greens. He ranked No. 1 for the week with 26 putts a round. It helped him set a tournament record at Allianz of 18-under 198, the total shared by Waldorf. That was one shot better than three golfers in Allianz history – Rocco Mediate (2013), Bernhard Langer and John Cook (both 2010).
Allen’s best finish in the ACE Group Classic is a T16 in 2012.