Stress-Free Scott Shares Lead

By Sports NetworkNovember 3, 2006, 5:00 pm
2006 The TOUR Championship presented by Coca-ColaATLANTA -- Joe Durant played his way into The TOUR Championship with a six-week run of spectacular golf.
He needs it to last two more days.
'I'm just trying to stay out of my own way right now and not wake up for a little while longer,' Durant said Friday after shooting another 2-under 68 to remain tied for the lead at East Lake Golf Club.
Retief Goosen
Overnight co-leader Retief Goosen shot 1-over 71 Friday to fall three back.
Durant saved par from a bunker at the tough, par-3 18th for the second day in a row and ended atop the leaderboard alongside Australian Adam Scott at 4-under-par 136.
With a win and three other top-5 finishes in his last four starts, Durant made it to 23rd on the PGA TOUR money list to earn his berth in the PGA TOUR's final event.
'Two more days and I can have a nice offseason,' said Durant, whose title at the Funai Classic two weeks ago was his first in five years.
Scott fired a 3-under 67, just missing a long putt at 18 that would have given him the outright lead. He and Durant are three shots ahead of Retief Goosen, Stuart Appleby, Trevor Immelman and Brett Quigley.
Durant shared the first-round lead with Goosen after a cold, blustery Thursday that saw scores skyrocket among some of golf's biggest names. Playing in the final pairing with the two-time U.S. Open winner on Friday, Durant more than held his own.
After making a bogey at the par-3 second, Durant posted birdies at Nos. 4, 7 and 9 to make the turn tied with Scott at 4 under.
'I was kind of tentative starting out,' Durant said. 'I don't know why I felt nervous today, but I kind of did starting out. After I birdied No. 4 I kind of settled down and got into a rhythm.'
Durant drained a 17-foot birdie putt at the 12th to take a brief one-shot lead on Scott, then fell back into a tie when he made bogey from a fairway bunker at the 13th.
The key to his round was a series of saved pars on the final five holes, including one from the rough at the par-5 15th, and a pair of two-putts from 30 feet at the 16th and 17th holes.
Then, at the 18th, Durant found the same bunker he had on Thursday. From 35 yards away, he chipped within 9 feet and made the par putt to remain tied with Scott, who was already in the clubhouse.
'That's a very difficult hole for me,' Durant said, 'because I'm right in between clubs -- a 5-wood's too much and a 3-iron is just not enough. I am lucky to have made two pars from that bunker.'
Scott, who hasn't won since 2004, had four birdies on the front nine. He made a 6-foot birdie putt at the ninth that put him at 5 under and in sole possession of the lead, but gave that shot back when he made bogey from a bunker at the 10th.
A series of frustrating putts -- a 12-footer at the 17th lipped out, an impressive 33-foot try at the 18th just missed -- left Scott with disappointing pars, but in good position heading to the weekend.
'I hit good putts,' he said, 'but they were obviously just slight misreads.'
One thing is sure this week: East Lake, home of Bobby Jones, is playing like a U.S. Open course. Grinding it out for pars just might get the job done.
'When you don't drop shots, it makes life a lot easier out there,' said Scott, who ranks fourth in driving accuracy and third in greens in regulation. 'I think the key to that around here is getting in the fairway off the tee.'
For Durant, who is tops in putting, the key has been to find a way to make the intermediate putts.
'That's really been the difference,' he said, 'the 4-to-10-foot range putt that I've been making.'
Among the remaining pack, several players took their shots at the lead Friday.
Goosen, the 2004 champion, led by one after an eight-foot birdie at No. 3. But he was done in by a pair of bogeys, including a three-putt disaster at the par-5 15th. He shot a 1-over 71 to end alongside Appleby, fellow South African Immelman and Quigley at 1-under 139.
The highlight of Appleby's round was a chip-in birdie from 60 feet at the 15th. The Australian had five birdies, three bogeys and a double-bogey in a round of 70.
Immelman shot a 4-under 66 and earned his share of third place with three birdies on his final five holes, including one from 22 feet at the tough 18th.
Quigley's round was less up-and-down than the others, a steady 2-under 68 that featured two birdies and 16 pars.
World No. 2 Jim Furyk -- the only top-three golfer in the field after Tiger Woods and Phil Mickelson opted out -- shot a 1-over 71 to fall from a tie for third into a tie for seventh place.
He was joined at even-par 140 by Luke Donald (67) and Zack Johnson (69).
Vijay Singh, the 2002 winner, had a 2-over 72 and shares 10th place with Arron Oberholser (70) and Tom Pernice, Jr. (72) at 141.
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