Michael Allen went into Saturday’s second round of the Allianz Championship on the Old Course at Broken Sound in Boca Raton with a somewhat comfortable three-stroke lead.
Now, with the second round complete, that advantage has dwindled to a not-so-comfortable one-shot lead.
Nevertheless, Allen decided to look on the bright side.
“Hey, I’m still leading,” he said.
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In Friday’s first round, everything came easy for Allen, who shot an Allianz and course record with a 12-under-par 60.
On Saturday, he shot a respectable 3-under 69 for a 15-under total of 129, one shot better than Scott Dunlap (63-67 — 130) and Chien Soon Lu (65-65 —130).
Duffy Waldorf, 51, shot a 9-under 63 and is alone in fourth place at 13-under.
“It wasn’t an easy day for me,” Allen said. “It was one of those rounds that you just want to hang in there. On a day like [Saturday], I was fighting for everything. I had to. Everything was easy on Friday. This round, everything was difficult.”
The fact that he kept his composure and played tough despite some errant shots made Allen, 55, say, “In a funny way, it was one of those rounds you’re kind of proud of. Even if it wasn’t very smooth.”
Particularly ragged was the start of his round.
“I came out and thought I was ready to go,” Allen said. “People were coming up and were all happy for me about Friday’s 60. They were congratulating me and all that.”
“All that” might have been somewhat of a distraction.
Allen quickly hit a bad drive on No. 1, although he salvaged par. He made pars on the first five holes but then bogeyed No. 6 to go 1-over for the day. The magic was gone.
In his mind, Allen came up with a strategy. Just wait things out.
“I just tried to go out there and keep playing,” he said. “I knew it would turn around. On Friday, everything was coming up right next to the hole. That was not happening in this round.”
On No. 7, Allen gave up the lead when Dunlap made birdie.
When Allen made the turn, his game made its turnaround. The wait was over. Allen birdied Nos. 11 and 12 followed by four consecutive pars.
After No. 15, Allen, Dunlap and Lu were all tied at 13-under. All three made par on No. 16, but Allen eked out his eventual one-stroke advantage by making birdies on No.17 (a six-foot putt) and No. 18 (a beautiful bunker shot that left him a four-foot putt for birdie).
Dunlap, 50, and Lu, 54, both have had respectable careers, but certainly not what would be classified as spectacular. A victory in the Allianz would be a breakthrough for them.
Lu, who lives in Taiwan, has 34 professional wins, but most have come on the Asian tours.
Dunlap lives in Duluth, Ga., and is a graduate of the University of Florida. He has two victories on the Nationwide Tour (now the Web.com Tour) to his credit.
Asked about his strategy in Sunday’s final round and if there was anybody in particular he was worried about, Dunlap said with a laugh, “I have a hard enough time worrying about my own game, let alone worrying about somebody else’s.”