By Mark Lamport-Stokes
PACIFIC PALISADES, California (Reuters) - Whatever happens in Sunday's final round of the Northern Trust Open, American Jason Allred will be able to celebrate a fairytale week of the unexpected at Riviera Country Club.
A graduate of the nearby Pepperdine University, Allred is playing his first PGA Tour event since the 2010 U.S. Open, where he tied for 47th, after earning one of four spots in the Riviera field via Monday qualifying.
Allred had decided to try to qualify for this week because he and his wife are expecting their third child at the end of the month and so far, so good.
The 33-year-old has amazingly strung together scores of two-over-par 73, 64 and 67 to surge into a tie for fourth place at nine-under after 54 holes, just three strokes behind leader William McGirt.
"This is somewhat of a new situation for me but I sure am having fun," Allred told reporters after posting a nine-under total of 204 on Saturday. It feels so good to be out there and have a blast.
"I told my wife a couple weeks ago, if I can look back on the week and say I really enjoyed it and stayed present in the moment, whatever happens I'll be proud of myself for that.
"It's so special to be back in this Pepperdine area. Coach is one of my best friends in the world and he had a lot of the team out here today so just a really special treat to be here."
Allred, who worked as a whitewater rafting guide after college, was a member of the PGA Tour in 2005 and 2008 but has otherwise played most of his professional golf on the satellite circuits.
His most significant achievements include winning the 1997 U.S. junior title and competing in the British Open (2005) and the U.S. Open (2006 and 2010). This week's experience at Riviera can certainly be added to that list.
"Gosh, yesterday I happened to hit a great shot at 14 and I made a great putt there (from 25 feet) today," Allred said of the reaction he has earned from the supportive fans at Riviera over the past three days.
"And making the (par) putt on 18 today (from 14 feet) is probably the most excitement I felt from the crowd really ever in my career."
Asked how much his expectations had changed this week after rocketing from qualifying into contention for the title, he replied: "It's totally blown them out of the water.
"But you know what ... even when I go out to practise, whether it's to prepare for a Gateway tournament or this week, I still have that belief in me that I have it in me to win big golf tournaments.
"At times, even I have had a hard time believing that over the years, but it sure is fun to be out here and be able to have a chance."
(Reporting by Mark Lamport-Stokes; Editing by Ian Ransom)