Quite a change from where he was a few months ago.
Once faced with the possibility of losing his PGA TOUR card, Durant closed out a stunning turnaround by finishing third Sunday in the season-ending TOUR Championship.
He was no lower than sixth over his last five tournaments, holding off Jim Furyk to win the 11-tourney Fall Finish and its $500,000 bonus. Troy Matteson, who didn't qualify for the elite field in Atlanta, wound up third.
'It just kind of came out of the blue, to be honest with you,' Durant said. 'I've just played very well the last month and a half, two months. I made a lot of putts and seemed to not get in my way a lot, which is a pleasant change.'
He missed the cut in five of his first 19 tournaments this year, with only one finish higher than 36th. Adding to the misery, a thief snatched his briefcase, laptop and other electronic items from his hotel room in Milwaukee.
The following week, Durant got things rolling with a third-place finish in the Buick Open. He won at Disney two weeks ago to crack the top 30 on the money list, and made sure he kept his spot in the TOUR Championship by tying for fourth at Innisbrook last weekend.
'I'm pretty tired right now,' Durant said. 'I hate to see it end, but hopefully I can kind of pick up (in 2007) where I'm leaving off.'
He closed with a 3-under 67 at East Lake, four strokes behind winner Adam Scott. Durant finished 13th on the money list with more than $2.8 million, the best year of his career. In 2001, Durant was No. 14 with earnings of just under $2.4 million.
'I hate to see the year end, but I'm looking forward to next year,' he said. 'I kind of need to stay on top of things a little bit and just keep working.'
Stuart Appleby experienced a wide range of emotions Sunday -- and that was just on the final three holes.
Appleby nearly holed out a long birdie at No. 16, which was followed by a drive that came close to providing another item for sale in the merchandise tent along the 17th fairway. Finally, he sank a testy par-saver at the devilish final hole after two poor shots.
Appleby thought he had a birdie at 16, raising his putter in the air as the 45-foot putt approach the cup. But it curled around the right side and spun out, leaving him with a tap-in for par.
The Aussie tossed away his putter in disgust and held his hands on his head for several seconds, as if he couldn't believe the ball didn't go in. He was still muttering to his caddie as he walked to the next hole.
'It looked perfect,' Appleby said, shaking his head.
Maybe that was still on his mind when he pushed his drive far right of the fairway at No. 17. The ball wound up next to a wooden ramp leading to a side-by-side merchandise shop and concession stand, which allowed Appleby to take relief.
He tried to drop the ball in a beaten-down spot of grass, but it hopped into the rough. The gallery groaned. After getting some fans to move the table they were sitting at, Appleby launched a shot that cleared a batch of trees and a corporate chalet, landing in a bunker right of the green.
He blasted to about 9 feet but failed to make the putt, taking bogey.
'I deserved to make a birdie at 16,' Appleby said. 'I guess I didn't deserve to make a par at 17.'
Appleby's final tee shot wound up left of the green on the par-3 18th, an uphill, 239-yard hole. His chip came up about 19 feet short, but he rolled in the putt to save par.
'That is one tough hole,' he said. 'One of the toughest we play.'
Tiger Woods wasn't at East Lake, but he already had more than enough money to wrap up the Arnold Palmer Award as the leading money-winner on the PGA TOUR.
Woods finished with $9,941,563 in official earnings, more than $2.7 million ahead of runner-up Jim Furyk. It was the second straight money title for Woods and the seventh of his 11-year pro career.
Furyk's second-place showing was the best of his career, and he also claimed the Vardon Trophy for the best adjusted scoring average at 68.86. He edged out Adam Scott (68.95).
Woods finished with an average of 68.11, but he didn't play the minimum 60 TOUR rounds that are required to qualify for the Vardon award. He did win the Byron Nelson Award, given by the TOUR for the best adjusted average with a minimum of 50 rounds.
Meanwhile, 11 players locked up their exemption into the 2007 British Open by finishing in the top 20 on the money list. They were Trevor Immelman (seventh), Stuart Appleby (eighth), Brett Wetterich (10th), David Toms (11th), Rory Sabbatini (12th), Joe Durant (13th), Chad Campbell (14th), Stewart Cink (15th), Davis Love III (16th), Rod Pampling (17th) and Brett Quigley (20th).
There hasn't been a final-day birdie at East Lake's 18th hole since Shigeki Maruyama in 2002. ... Adam Scott finished a career-best third on the money list with just under $5 million in earnings, bolstered by the $1,170,000 paycheck for winning the TOUR Championship. ... Scott's win was the eighth by an Australian this year. Stuart Appleby and Geoff Ogilivy had two apiece.
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