Comfort breeds success

After going winless during a 300-start PGA Tour career, Michael Allen won the 2009 Senior PGA Championship in his senior circuit debut. Since that victory, he's become a dominant player, and fully expects to excel for years to come.


Michael Allen's senior-circuit success has enabled him to believe that he should contend on a regular. (Getty Images)

By T.J. Auclair, Interactive Producer

BENTON HARBOR, Mich. – Michael Allen spent all or part of 11 seasons on the PGA Tour in the last two decades, amassing more than 300 starts. Despite all that time practicing and playing against the best players in the world, he didn’t have a single victory to show for his efforts.

That isn’t to say it wasn’t a fruitful career for Allen on the PGA Tour – after all, he earned over $6 million and counting, as he still plays an event here and there.

These days, though, the 53-year-old Allen spends most of his time on the Champions Tour. He said he feels comfortable on the 50-and-over circuit, and it sure shows.

Allen’s Champions Tour debut came in the 2009 Senior PGA Championship. He received a special exemption to play that year based on his PGA Tour career earnings and made the most of the opportunity, winning by two strokes over Larry Mize at Canterbury Golf Club in Beachwood, Ohio.

Winning a major championship isn’t such a bad way to snap a winless drought.

"At the time, I was doing pretty well on the PGA Tour, keeping my card, but coming out here was going to be tough," Allen recalled Wednesday on the eve of the 73rd Senior PGA Championship at Harbor Shores. "And so it gave me a real foothold to come out here and kind of earn my way out here, which has been a wonderful thing for me.

"Once you win it's nice to sit there, like last night [at the Champions Dinner] with Tom Watson and Jack Nicklaus and you just go through all the names of the great players that are part of this game, and to be sitting in there on that same trophy with those guys and be a part of it all, it is a nice feeling, " he added.

"It's something where you sit there and being a little guy in the game basically my whole life to being now a part of these great names is something that certainly I'm very proud of.  And I know my father looking down would be proud and it's been a great thing. And the PGA of America's something I've been a member of for 35 years or something and so it's nice to be associated with the whole thing."

Allen is no longer the little guy plodding along with a nice career. He’s now “the man” on the Champions Tour, where he’s dominating in 2012 with six top-10 finishes in eight starts, highlighted by back-to-back victories in April. His worst finish in four events since the end of March was in his last start. How bad was that? A tie for fourth at the Insperity Championship presented by United Healthcare.

"I come out here now and I'm playing against all these great players that have beaten me for so long, but for some different reasons now I'm one of the better players out here, I certainly believe," he said. "Certainly for my time for the next few years I should be competitive most weeks if I'm playing well."

If Allen’s solid play this season carries into this week, he could become a multiple major champion. After getting a look at Harbor Shores these last two days, he likes what he sees.

"Overall you get out there and you look and there's certainly areas that you can play balls off of slopes and if you can really be accurate with short irons, there's a lot of short irons, there's a few longer ones, but there's a lot of short irons where you got some really small areas to hit to," he said. "But if you can hit them … and you got backstops … if you can use the course well to your advantage, I think you can score decent out here."

Unlike when he played nervously on the PGA Tour, Allen said he’s much more in tune with his game now and the fact that he should, and does, contend regularly.

"You come out looking forward to it," explained Allen, who currently occupies the No. 1 spot in the Charles Schwab Cup standings. "I'm not scared like I used to be with, am I going to hit a big hook or be able it putt all right, am I going to be able to do this or that.

"You always question those things when you're young and hence it leads to a lot of doubt. And now I know I'm not perfect by any means, I'm not the best player in the world, but I feel like I'm going to play well, I have confidence in what I'm doing. I come out here and I enjoy myself."