LOS ANGELES: Australian golfer Robert Allenby returns to the Sony Open in Hawaii this week hoping it will help erase psychological scars from the mysterious incident last year that left him bruised and bloodied and unable to recall what happened.
The 44-year-old from Melbourne tees off in Thursday’s opening round at Waialae Country Club having missed the event only three times in 17 PGA campaigns. Last year he missed the cut, met his caddie and a friend for dinner and was later found bruised and unconscious with a bloody forehead a block away with no memory of how he got there.
“I’m a professional golfer and this is a tournament I love to come to,” Allenby said. “I’m not going to let one bad occasion ruin such a beautiful place.”
Allenby was told by a homeless woman that he was tossed from the trunk of a car and she helped him escape. Another man said he saw Allenby fall and strike his head on a rock. Allenby still has a 2 1/2-hour memory gap and says someone slipping a knockout drug into his drink explains his memory loss.
Hawaii police arrested Owen Harbison for using Allenby’s credit cards and sentenced him to five years in jail last August.
Golf Channel, citing unnamed sources, reported that Allenby ran up a $3,400 tab at a strip club, but Hawaii police said the report was not true.
In the wake of the incident, Allenby managed to make only six PGA cuts last season and this year is using a one-time exemption for his top-50 place on the career money list in order to play.
Allenby has said he still suffers nightmares related to the incident and has seen a psychologist to help him recover.
“The whole thing coming here is trying to put last year behind me and hopefully I come here and play well,” Allenby said.
“And if I don’t play well I think I still achieve a lot by coming here.
“There have been a lot of thoughts over the last year — lot of good things, lot of negative things, probably more negative than anything. That was the whole piece of the puzzle in coming here and trying to dilute all the negative stuff.
“Hawaii is such a beautiful place and I also didn’t want people to think I was never going to come back here again because of what happened. I don’t want that to deter others from coming here because of what happened to me.”
Allenby was the 2010 ruuner-up of the event, shared fourth at the tournament in 2003 and placed eighth in 2007.
“I’ve been working my ass off the last four weeks at home, trying to reconnect with the old swing and old thoughts of how I do play this game and how I used to play the game and what made me successful,” Allenby said.
“I lost a lot of confidence in my myself from last year with what happened here. I didn’t want to be out in public but I had to be because I had to do my job. The media definitely humiliated me and it was a very hard thing to overcome.
Just returning to the Sony Open and handling the pressure will help Allenby take steps in improving his game, mentally and physically.
“Just being here right now I’ve already overcome a lot,” said Allenby. “When I got off the plane it was, ‘This is great.’ I’m glad I’m here. I have no regrets for coming and really looking forward to a great week and hopefully competing.”
American Jimmy Walker seeks a Hawaii three-peat. No player has taken the same event three consecutive years since US veteran Steve Stricker at the John Deere Classic from 2009-2011.
Australian Adam Scott is the highest ranked player in the field at 11th.