Tue, Oct 24, 2006 - Page 19 News List

Durant perseveres to win Funai Classic going away

AFP , ORLANDO, FLORIDA

Joe Durant of the US celebrates on the 18th green after his victory at the Funai Classic at the Walt Disney World Resort on Sunday in Lake Buena Vista, Florida.

PHOTO: AFP

Joe Durant, who had gone winless in 151 consecutive PGA tournaments, posted seven birdies en route to a four-stroke victory on Sunday in the US$4.6 million Funai Classic.

Durant produced a flawless final round, firing a seven-under-par 65 in ideal conditions on the Magnolia course.

He finished at 25-under 263, collecting US$828,000 in prize money.

Frank Lickliter (62) and Troy Matteson (70) tied for second at 267.

"I felt if I could play the way I did yesterday, I would have a very good chance and that's what happened," said Durant, 42, who jumped to 29th on this year's money list.

Durant, 42, is one of the best drivers on tour, but mediocre putting has prevented him from having the sort of career he perhaps should have.

However, he mastered the greens here to collect his fourth PGA Tour title, his first since 2001, when he won back-to-back events.

Starting the final round one stroke behind third-round leader Matteson, he took a while to make his move, taking the lead for good with a birdie at the par-five 10th to go 22 under.

With nobody else able to mount a serious challenge, Durant was under little pressure, but he added further birdies at the 13th, 14th and 16th holes for good measure to win in style.

Durant claimed the key to his victory was a 3m par save on the second hole.

"Once I made that I settled down, but I didn't relax until I birdied the 16th," he said.

"This is one of the biggest tournaments for me to win, because it's such a family event and my family has been the backbone of my career. We always dreamed about standing on the 18th [green for the victory presentation] with Mickey [Mouse]."

Durant's wife and two children even came out to watch him finish on Sunday, after spending the rest of the week visiting Disney's various attractions.

Durant revealed that the low point of his year occurred in July in Milwaukee, where his hotel room was robbed while he was playing the first round.

He lost a computer, passport and several iPods, among other things, none of which have been recovered.

"I was so depressed," he said. "I played terrible that day but I went back out Friday and shot [67] and made the cut. For me, that was like winning the US Open, because I felt I had hit rock bottom and things were going to turn around."

Justin Rose, who shot a 60 in the first round, made a costly bogey at the final hole to fall out of second place, lipping-out a 5m putt to finish fourth on 20-under 268.

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