By T.J. Auclair, PGA.com Interactive Producer
BENTON HARBOR, Mich. – Brutal wind wreaked havoc on the first round of the 73rd Senior PGA Championship presented by KitchenAid on Thursday, but even so, Michael Allen’s 6-over 77 was shocking.
Allen has been the best player on the Champions Tour in 2012. He’s the Charles Schwab Cup points leader. He’s got two wins, a second and two third-place showings in eight starts. Even more, prior to Thursday in 24 rounds on the Champions Tour this year, he failed to break 70 just six times. His 77 was four strokes more than his worst round in 2012.
Friday was a much different story.
The 2009 Senior PGA Champion returned to form in a big way during the second round, firing a Harbor Shores course-record 7-under 64 to get to 1-under 141 and back into the mix. It was the best score in a Senior PGA Championship since Allen Doyle shot the same score in the final round of the 1999 event at PGA National.
“When I finished yesterday, I was pretty [upset] and a few bottles of wine later I'm feeling a little better, you know,” Allen joked. “I didn't get too overly dramatic about it. But I knew I had to play a good round today and I didn't want to come out here and embarrass myself. I just kind of had a nice warm up this morning and sometimes you get that bad round going and just like that gut wrenching feeling that I'm not getting these days like I always used to get.
“I came out today, as I told you before, I love the challenge, like on the Tour, of playing a really hard course, and that's what this is. So I just knew today I was going to go out one way or the other and try and play a good round and try and beat the golf course. And I was able to today.”
Allen, who was a winless journeyman on the PGA Tour for several years before finding his niche on the 50-and-over circuit where he has three wins and counting, was bogey-free on Friday, hitting all but one fairway and all but one green. And, perhaps most impressively, only one of his seven birdies – the one at No. 15 – came on a par 5.
Allen thought he had one at the ninth hole with a 35-foot putt that just missed, but it slipped away from the hole at the last second.
“I actually gave it a little fist pump, because I thought I had it,” Allen said. “And that would have been nice to make. And I just, it just fell out of the hole, which was a little embarrassing to fist pump and then not make it.”
But that was OK. Allen didn’t have anything to be embarrassed about on Friday.
Moments before Allen’s 64, it was another PGA Tour journeyman, Joel Edwards, who dazzled at Harbor Shores with a short-lived, tournament-best 4-under 68 to get to 2-under 140 for the tournament and right near the top of the leaderboard.
Edwards played through the worst of the wind on Thursday – with gusts of 30+ mph at times – and fought hard for a 2-over 73.
His hard work and perseverance in the first round made the low score in the second round all the more satisfying for Edwards.
“I felt like I played good yesterday, I really did,” said Edwards, whose lone PGA Tour win came at the 2001 Air Canada Championship. “I hit some really squirrely shots, but the wind's going to magnify it, if it's just a little bit unsolid, it's going to go sideways. It doesn't matter. If it's drawing just a little bit it's going to really go, if it's not hit correctly.
“I don't mean to sound like Hogan, but it's true,” he added. “When you put wind on top of what the golf course is anyway, it's going to be really, really hard. Even today with the north wind it's still hard. Because then you got the holes that were into the wind yesterday were down wind, so you really don't know where to hit it.”
If it was as challenging as Edwards claims, it certainly didn’t show. He hit all 13 fairways and all 18 greens. All of the scoring in his bogey-free round was done on the front nine – his back – where he picked up birdies on Nos. 1, 5, 6 and 9.
The highlight of the round was the birdie at 6, where Edwards holed a 40-footer.
“I had a couple of those this week that I thought was going to go left, and I was putting a 20 footer coming back from the right,” he said. “So this time I said, ‘Well I'm going to gamble and just see what it doesn't look like. And I gambled and it went in.”
Overall, Friday was a dreamlike round for Edwards, making just his fourth Champions Tour start this year.
“Doesn't happen very often, but, yeah, I struck it really nice and didn't make a bogey,” he said. “I'll bet that doesn't happen very often around here.”