Michael Allen held the second-round lead at the Greater Gwinnett Championship. That is, until he called a two-shot penalty on himself for an obscure violation on No. 4 at TPC Sugarloaf on Saturday.
Allen followed that with another double bogey, regained his footing, then rallied to shoot 73 and finish two shots off the lead heading into Sunday’s final round. Afterward, Allen was lauded by his peers for calling a penalty on himself that most likely would have gone unnoticed.
“I think most guys that play the game, that’s kind of the basis of our game,” said Allen, a 54-year-old from Arizona. “That’s why it’s unique. I sit on the sidelines of the (Phoenix) Suns’ games, and I love the action. But how many times do you see the ball go out of bounds off somebody and they’re all going, ‘he did it; he did it.’ That’s not our game. Our game is about integrity and following the rules and trying to abide within them.”
Allen’s definitely was an unusual ruling. He hit his drive on the 557-yard, par-5 hole between two bunkers. He arrived at his ball thinking he had gotten a break, then he noticed two hard pine cones six inches in front of his ball and in line of his swing. He instinctively reached out with his club and knocked them away.
Only after Allen had cleared the objects did he realize what he had done. The pine cones had left divots in the mud. Rule 23 in the Rules of Golf allows for the removal of loose impediments, but not if they are embedded in the ground.
Allen informed playing partner Mark O’Meara what he’d done, then informed a rules official after he had putt out for what would have been a par.
“I was a little surprised it was two shots,” he said with a laugh. “I thought it’d be one, but it was just one of those things you do. No one probably would have noticed, but you just do it.”
Allen’s fellow competitors lauded his sportsmanship after the round.
“Only happens in golf,” Bernhard Langer said. “That’s what sets us apart. In no other sport will you hear a guy say I kicked the other guy, give me a yellow card. That’s what makes golf so unique.”
Toledo eyeing first victory: Esteban Toledo’s only win as a professional golfer came on the Web.com Tour in 2005, and the only other time he played in the final pairing on Sunday on the PGA Tour was in the 2002 Buick Open. His playing partner that day was Tiger Woods, who shot 70 to Toledo’s 73 to win and beat him by four shots.
But Toledo didn’t lose because he was intimidated.
“I told him I was going to beat him on the first tee,” Toledo said with a smile. “He remembers that and laughs about it. But I did. I’m a fighter. I’m a boxer. And I like the challenge.”
Fittingly perhaps, Toledo on Sunday will be pitted against one of the greatest players on the Champions Tour. Langer currently is ranked No. 1, with four top 10s and a win in five events.
“I see him on TV all the time and in Ryder Cups and on the PGA Tour,” Toledo said. “He’s a really nice follow to play with, and I feel great about it. He’s one of my idols on this tour.”
Etc.: Toledo’s 36-hole total of 138 is the highest score after two rounds of a 54-hole Champions event since the 2009 ACE Group Classic (140). … Tom Pernice has one-putted 22 of 36 greens. … Players were complaining about the 453-yard No. 9 hole, which was the most difficult Saturday with an average score of 4.430.