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Assault on Par Continues at Hope

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Sixty-two is normally considered a special number in professional golf. Not so Thursday in La Quinta, Calif.
 
Three players carded 62 in the second round of the Bob Hope Chrysler Classic. But it wasn't even the low round of the day, as Joe Durant fired an 11-under-par 61 to take the lead in the 90-hole tournament.
 
Durant's day on the Indian Wells course consisted of one eagle, ten birdies and a bogey. He finished his remarkable round - a career best by four shots - with six consecutive birdies.
 
'I was just on fire all day,' Durant said. 'That's about as good as I can play.'
 
At 18-under-par through two rounds, Durant leads Chris Smith by three strokes. Smith shot a no-so-shabby eight-under-par 64 at Bermuda Dunes to move to 15-under.
 
Bob Tway, Miguel Angel Jimenez and Mark Calcavecchia share third place at 14-under. Tway and Jimenez each posted 10-under-par 62s - Tway at Indian Wells and Jimenez at PGA West.
 
Jimenez started the tournament 5-over through four holes, but has birdied 19 of his last 32.
 
'It feels like you are in a cloud,' said the Spaniard, who has won seven times internationally but never on the PGA Tour. 'I don't mind. I just hope it keeps going like that.'
 
Calcavecchia, who earlier in the year shot 60 in the second round of the Phoenix Open, carded a more human-esque 6-under-par 66 at Indian Wells.
 
Durant is lucky he's more proficient at hitting fairways and greens than selling insurance. In 1991 Durant quit the game for six months. He earned his insurance license, but never sold a policy.
 
Thanks to a pep talk from his wife, Tracey, Durant returned to the touring life with an improved outlook.
 
He alternated between the Buy.Com and PGA Tours from 1993 to 1996, before stabilizing himself with the big boys. After maintaining his PGA Tour card with a top-100 finish on the 1997 money list, Durant became a first-time winner at the '98 Western Open.
 
A rib injury set him back in '99. He finished the season 157th in earnings. But armed with a two-year exemption courtesy his win at Cog Hill, Durant made 18 of 28 cuts in 2000, finishing 76th on the money list.
 
Durant, 36, began the '01 campaign in similar fashion, making three cuts in four starts but never shooting lower than 68 - officially, that is. Durant shot 61 in the Tucson Open pro-am last month.
 
'I think that helped me today,' he said. 'I was just trying to keep on firing at the flag.'
 
Durant opened the tournament in seven-under-par 65, tying his career low round on the PGA Tour. Thursday, he was poised for another solid round. He eagled the par-five 18th to make the turn in five-under 31. However, he bogeyed the very next hole, the par-4 first.
 
It didn't prove to be a deterrent.
 
Durant birdied the par-4 second, and following a par at the third, finished with six straight red numbers.
 
'Who knows what the scores will be, but you have to think really low,' Durant said.
 
Smith can certainly find inspiration in Durant's tale. Just four years ago, he was the first player to receive a 'battle-field' promotion to the PGA Tour; which is awarded when a player wins three times in one season on the Buy.Com Tour.
 
It's been a struggle ever since. Smith finished 144th on the money list in 1998 and was forced to retain his card via Q-School. In '99 he wasn't as fortunate. After ending the year 184th in earnings, Smith failed to secure his PGA Tour playing privileges in the qualifying tournament.
 
It was back to the Buy.Com Tour, where Smith again manhandled the more scorer-friendly courses. He completed the season sixth on the money list; thanks to a Tour record five runner-up finishes.
 
It now appears as if Smith has found his groove on the big tour. He opened in 66 and closed in 67 to tie for 10th at last week's Buick Invitational.
 
This week, Smith opened in 65 and followed that with 64. His day included seven birdies in an eight-hole stretch.
 
Trailing Smith and Durant are a host of more established players. In addition to Tway, Jimenez and Calcavecchia are Brad Faxon, David Duval and Billy Mayfair; all three of whom are tied for 10th at 11-under-par.
 
Mayfair was the third of the players to shoot 62 in the second round, doing so at Indian Wells. Duval shot 68 at La Quinta; while Faxon recorded back-to-back eagles, but also produced three bogeys for a 67 at Bermuda Dunes.
 
First-round leader Harrison Frazar is now tied for 13th at 10-under, following a Day-Two 1-under-par 71 at Bermuda Dunes.
 
News, Notes and Numbers
*Joe Durant's 36-hole total of 126 is two strokes higher than the Tour record. Mark Calcavecchia shot back-to-back rounds of 60-64 in his victory at the Phoenix Open.
 
*Durant's 61 ties an Indian Wells course record, set by Bert Yancey in 1974 and tied by David Edwards in 1987.
 
*Brad Faxon has now recorded 10 eagles in 2001 - a career high. In fact, golf's premiere putter has as many eagles this season as he had in the previous three years combined.
 
*The 90-hole tournament scoring record is 35-under 325 by Tom Kite in 1993.
 
Click here for Full-Field scores from the Bob Hope!