Jason Alred nearly toppled the course record at the Riviera Country Club… (Jeff Gross, Getty Images )
It was as if the scoreboard was malfunctioning. The leaders at the Northern Trust Open were tracked with precision — every hole, every shot. Suddenly, a guy who barely had any business playing the tournament was threatening the course record.
As word spread throughout Riviera Country Club, fans scampered to catch up to this birdie machine. So did the Golf Channel cameras, a pretty heady notion for a player all too often not ready for prime time.
For Jason Allred, this was the round of his life. He looked up and saw the cameras staring at him, and all those people. He was overwhelmed. He loved every second of it.
"It's so fun to feel those butterflies," Allred said. "This is why I practice, to get to a place where you're feeling nervous."
Allred shot a seven-under-par 64 on Friday, the best round of the tournament so far. He is tied for ninth after two rounds, five shots behind leader Sang-Moon Bae of South Korea.
Bae, at nine-under 133, is one shot ahead of Aaron Baddeley and Robert Garrigus and two ahead of Charlie Beljan. Four players, including first-round leader Dustin Johnson, are tied for fifth at six under par.
Bae had a share of the lead after two rounds here last year. He shot a 76 in the third round, a 67 on Sunday, and finished tied for eighth.
"It was a really, really good experience," he said. "I learned a lot. I need patience, that's all."
Baddeley has won three times in 284 PGA Tour events, with his last victory three years ago. Garrigus has one victory — in 2010 — in 215 tournaments.
"Feels like 10 years since I won," Garrigus said.
Allred never has won. He is 33.
He turned pro in 2002, after graduating from Pepperdine. He has played 57 events on the PGA Tour, with no victories. He has played 103 events on the JV tour, currently known as the web.com tour, also with no victories.
Allred last had a PGA Tour card in 2008. His world golf ranking, according to the tour website: No. 900.
He showed up here this week with one round of experience at Riviera in his life. He never played the course during his days at Pepperdine.
"I had a chance or two. I must have been studying," he said, laughing.
There are no millions on the fringes of pro golf. The trip from Arizona would be at his own expense. He would have to leave his wife, Kimberly, at home, two weeks from the due date for the couple's third child.
He decided to enter the Monday qualifier, with four spots in the field available to 117 contestants. He got one.
"I almost didn't even come here," Allred said. "I might as well just let it rip."
He shot a 73 in the first round, with two birdies and four bogeys. On Friday, he birdied the first hole. He had par on the second and third holes, then birdies on eight of the next 11.
At that point, he was nine under par, with the course record of 61 in his sights. Not that he had any idea what the record might be.
"I'm going to be kicking myself if I just missed it," he said.
Allred would have needed a birdie and three pars on his final four holes to tie the mark. But he bogeyed the 15th and 16th holes and finished with two pars.
Yeah, he said, he got a little excited, and his swing got a little too quick. But he had little kids following him around, and the standard-bearer in his group asked him for an autograph. There is nothing jaded in his game.
If the weekend goes well, Allred could finish in the top 10 in a PGA Tour event for the first time. If not, he'll always have Friday, when he suddenly looked up to see the eyes of the golf world upon him.
"That was so cool," he said. "I'm at Riviera, playing a great round and having a blast."