Robert Allenby: I Will Win Again

Robert Allenby has never been a quitter and never backward in coming forward.

Leading by two shots as he stood on the 18th tee at the El Camaleón Golf Club in Mexico last month and on the cusp of his first PGA Tour win in 10 years, Allenby said he “played it like a rookie”.

Robert Allenby Robert Allenby (Credit: Anthony Powter)

A wayward driver and a double bogey penned onto his scorecard for the final hole resulted in a playoff. Allenby should have been celebrating breaking his 10 year winless streak on the US PGA Tour.

A par at the last would have given the 40-year-old Australian an eight-under 63 in the final round and a victory. Many times before, the Florida-based Melbournian had closed tournaments with a regulation par, instead, extra holes were to be needed to determine the outcome.

As far as playoffs go, Allenby is rock solid having a 3-1 winning record on the PGA Tour before Mexico. His worldwide playoff record is 11-2.

Yet this was to be no ordinary playoff as Allenby and American John Huh went seven consecutive holes in even par, with neither able to break the dead lock. Then at the eighth play-off hole, Allenby stumbled with a bogey and handed Huh his first Tour win.

It was the second longest playoff in the history of the PGA Tour – the longest was in 1949 when Lloyd Mangrum and Cary Middlecoff decided to split the prize purse after going eleven extra holes.

Allenby, a four-time winner on the PGA Tour, could only console himself with the result and what had eventuated during the closing stages of the tournament.

Earlier in the day he kicked off his round by making five straight birdies on holes two through six and added three more until his only blemish of the round – a double bogey at the 18th.

The way Allenby played the eighteenth had proven costly and left him pondering the “what-if’s”, yet Allenby is not a player to lament the past.

“Obviously disappointed, disappointed that I didn’t hit three wood off 18 in regulation, like I should have,” said Allenby.

“But that’s the way it goes. You make some mistakes sometimes, and that was a major one, obviously. I mean, I had this tournament in the bag, a two-shot lead with one hole to play and just played it like a rookie, pretty much.”

Allenby still has not won a US tour event since the Pennsylvania Classic in 2001, although he has thirteen PGA Tour of Australasia victories and four European Tour titles.

Allenby can see an upside to his blown title chance in Mexico.

He knows he’s playing well enough again to be competitive on tour and he’s making inroads towards his goal of returning to the world top-50.

Currently, he sits 60th but is moving in the right direction with his runner-up finish in Mexico taking him ten spots up the ranking.

“Yeah sure I should have won that,” said Allenby. “I have too much experience to screw it up like that but at the same time I have to take the positives out of the week.”

“I have totally put it behind me. The only thing I can do now is make sure nothing like that ever happens again. That’s golf. You have to learn from your mistakes and move on.”

Allenby might have plenty to say at times, often it’s controversial, other times it’s to the point and how he sees it. But he is a fighter and a guy that wears his heart on his sleeve – both on and off the course.

However, there’s another side to Allenby that you don’t see on the course. You would not label it Allenby’s soft side, rather a part of him that is committed to giving something back to others experiencing their own challenges in their lives.

For 21 years, Allenby has devoted much of his spare time to an organisation known as “Challenge”, a cancer support network for children and their families where patients and family members gain access to playgroup, camps, family holidays, tickets to concerts and events, relaxation retreats, home help, massage, as well as in-hospital support.

His association with Challenge stems from the memory of his childhood friend who died of leukaemia, and after turning professional Allenby decided to use his name and status to start a fundraising golf day to help kids in similar situations.

The Robert Allenby Golf Day and Gala Dinner has grown to become one of Australia’s most prestigious golfing days on the charity circuit with many international and Australian golfers coming along in support of Challenge.

Since 1992 it has raised in excess of $20 million plus another $1 million that Allenby has personally donated to the organisation.

Whilst the glove is on, Allenby presents as a tenacious competitor, staring down his opponents and giving his best to secure another victory to add to his 22 world wide titles since turning professional in 1991.

He had a difficult year in more ways than one last year – splitting from his long-time wife, sacking not one but two caddies and being on the receiving end of some improper questioning about his Presidents Cup performance.

“I’ve taken a lot of hits,” says Allenby.

“I’ve taken a lot of things on the chin and it’s made me a stronger person. I’m okay with it because I’m okay with myself.”

“I’ve won 22 times around the world. I’ve competed in six Presidents Cups. I’ve been consistently inside the top-50 in the world my whole career. I fall out every now and then, and obviously 2011 was a bit of as struggle because I had a lot of mental things happening but I’ve been a pretty consistent player over the years.”

Allenby draws upon his past life experiences in moving forward. Whilst losing in the playoff last month in Mexico was disappointing – it was not earth shattering for Allenby.

“I have come away with more confidence in where my game is and, who knows, it might just help me to come out and win!”