An Average Joe Finally Makes it to the Big Time
The truth is, Joe Durant used to be both of those. He sold insurance for a couple of weeks in 1990. Well, 'sold' is much too strong a word. The health-and-life racket was too much for his reserved personality. He wasn't even about to get into property, which takes considerably more time to master.
And you might have even seen him around the Edwin Watts golf warehouse in 1992 if you happened to be in Fort Walton Beach, Fl. He did that, too, for about three months. He was dutifully learning the trade from the bottom up, hoping to get to the next step, selling merchandise inside a store.
Somehow, though, Durant never really committed himself to these noble professions. His mind kept wandering back to the golf course, where he swatted the drives and putted the putts . where he was THE show, not just someone who keeps the show up and going.
Today, it has paid off. With the ever-present encouragement of his wife Tracey - some would call it old-fashioned nagging - he stuck it out until finally, at the age of 36, he made it. He is the only player on the PGA Tour who has won twice in 2001, and he won in back-to-back outings at the Bob Hope Chrysler Classic and the Genuity Championship, otherwise known simply as 'the Doral.'
Just one year ago, it didn't seem like such a good move. Maybe he should have stuck with Edwin Watts. His personality didn't really mesh with being a good insurance salesman, but maybe Tracey didn't really know what she was talking about. Maybe he should have gone into something else and left the stinking golf clubs to themselves.
'I got off to a horrible start last year,' he said. 'I was 0-for-5 on the West Coast. I didn't play Doral last year, but flying down to the Honda, I lost my clubs. The beginning of last year was pretty ugly.
'But then, I think, losing my clubs was almost a blessing in disguise, because at that point I was like, 'What else can possibly happen?''
Sounds like Durant wouldn't complain if he lost his job. Hey, it saves the gas you would use going to and from work, and you certainly could use the extra sleep. Which is roughly the idea Joe had when it came time to think about how he was going to make a living for the family.
Enter Tracey again.
'When I decided I was going to play golf again (some would say he never really decided to quit) which was probably around this time of 1992, she just said, 'Hey, if you are going to play again' - we had talked about it - she said, 'If you are going to play again, you are going to have to improve your attitude.'
'She just basically put the hammer down and said, 'Hey, this how it is going to be,' which was a good thing. I welcomed it, trust me; after the way I played before, I needed it. I needed it bad.'
So Durant banged around in the next few years, plugging along on the Buy.Com Tour and occasionally on the big tour. He even played the Masters in 1998, though he was - typically - hurt when he did it. He had the redoubtable Tracey to thank for this one, too. He had broken a rib throwing around her bag at Pebble Beach. That's one heck of a way to play in the Masters, but for Durant, it was certainly par for the course.
So, at the age of 36, almost 37, Joe is an overnight sensation. And it is a little surprising if you don't know him. Well - it's surprising even if you DO know him.
'I have not always been the quickest product when it came to things,' he said by way of explanation. 'I am happy just to be playing well.
'Who knows what the rest of the year is going to hold? I don't know. I could go out and go 0-for-the-rest-of-the-year. I am just going to try to keep playing the best I can, but it is nice to be playing well. It has been a long time coming.'
And does Durant ever get back to Fort Walton Beach, just for old times sake, just to schlep a few cartons, toss around a few cardboard boxes?
'No,' he says, and the laughter comes easily. 'I haven't been back there since - no.'
He hasn't been back there just to reminisce? It is very close to Pensacola, his home, you know. 'Yeah - lift a box or two,' he says, laughing.
'I am sure I would have to practice to learn how to do it again.'
If he wanted to do it, though, sure he would practice. He would do it. And if he slacked off - Tracey would make sure he did it.
Lewis hopes to win at Volvik with baby on the way
Stacy Lewis was listening to more than her caddie on her march up the leaderboard Saturday at the Volvik Championship.
Pregnant with her first child, she is listening to her body in a new way these days.
And she could hear a message coming through loud and clear toward the end of her round at Travis Point Country Club in Ann Arbor, Mich.
“The little one was telling me it’s dinnertime,” Lewis said.
Lewis birdied five of the last six holes to shoot 5-under-par 67 and move into position to make a Sunday run at winning her 13th LPGA title. She is two shots behind the leader, Minjee Lee, whose 68 moved her to 12 under overall.
Sunday has the makings of a free for all with 10 players within three shots of the lead.
Lewis, 33, is four months pregnant, with her due date Nov. 3. She’s expecting to play just a few more times before putting the clubs away to get ready for the birth. She said she’s likely to make the Marathon Classic in mid-July her last start of the season before returning next year.
Of course, Lewis would relish winning with child.
“I don’t care what limitations I have or what is going on with my body, I want to give myself a chance to win,” she told LPGA.com at the Kingsmill Championship last week.
Lewis claimed an emotional victory with her last title, taking the Cambia Portland Classic late last summer after announcing earlier in the week that she would donate her entire winnings to the Hurricane Harvey relief efforts in her Houston hometown.
A victory Sunday would also come with a lot of emotion.
It’s been an interesting year for Lewis.
There’s been the joy of learning she’s ready to begin the family she has been yearning for, and the struggle to play well after bouncing back from injury.
Lewis missed three cuts in a row before making it into the weekend at the Kingsmill Championship last week. That’s one more cut than she missed cumulatively in the previous six years. In six starts this year, Lewis hasn’t finished among the top 50 yet, but she hasn’t felt right, either.
The former world No. 1 didn’t make her second start of 2018 until April, at the year’s first major, the ANA Inspiration. She withdrew from the HSBC Women’s World Championship in late February with a strained right oblique muscle and didn’t play again for a month.
Still, Lewis is finding plenty to get excited about with the baby on the way.
“I kind of had my first Mother’s Day,” Lewis told LPGA.com last week. “It puts golf into perspective. It makes those bad days not seem so bad. It helps me sleep better at night. We are just really excited.”
Rose hasn't visited restroom at Colonial - here's why
In case you're unaware, it's pretty hot in Texas.
Temperatures at Colonial Country Club have approached 100 degrees this week, leaving players to battle both the golf course and potential dehydration.
With the help of his caddie Mark Fulcher, Fort Worth Invitational leader Justin Rose has been plenty hot himself, staking himself to a four-shot lead.
"Yeah, Fulch has done a great job of just literally handing me water bottle after water bottle. It seems relentless, to be honest with you," Rose said Saturday.
So just how much are players sweating the heat at Colonial? Well, it doesn't sound like all that water is making it all the way through Rose.
"I haven't even seen the inside of a restroom yet, so you can't even drink quick enough out there," he shared.
Up four, Rose knows a lead can slip away
Up four shots heading into Sunday at the Fort Worth Invitational, Justin Rose has tied the largest 54-hole lead of his PGA Tour career.
On the previous two occasions he took a 54-hole Tour lead into the final round, he closed.
And yet, Rose knows just how quickly a lead can slip away. After all, it was Rose who erased a six-shot deficit earlier this season to overtake Dustin Johnson and win the WGC-HSBC Championship.
"I think I was in the lead going into the final round in Turkey when I won, and I had a four-shot lead going into the final round in Indonesia in December and managed to put that one away," Rose said Saturday, thinking back to his two other victories late last year.
"I was five, six back maybe of DJ, so I've got experience the other way. ... So you can see how things can go both ways real quick. That's why there is no point in getting too far ahead of myself."
Up one to start the third round Saturday, Rose extended his lead to as much as five when he birdied four of his first six holes.
He leads the field in strokes gained: tee-to-green (+12.853) and strokes gained: approach-the-green (+7.931).
Rose has won five times worldwide, including at the 2016 Rio Olympics, since his last victory in the United States, at the 2015 Zurich Classic.
With a win Sunday, he'd tie Nick Faldo for the most PGA Tour wins by an Englishman post-World War II, with nine.
But he isn't celebrating just yet.
"It is a big lead, but it's not big enough to be counting the holes away. You've got to go out and play good, you've got to go out positive, you've got to continue to make birdies and keep going forward.
"So my mindset is to not really focus on the lead, it's to focus on my game tomorrow and my performance. You know, just keep executing the way I have been. That's going to be my challenge tomorrow. Going to look forward to that mindset."
Grillo still hunting follow-up to debut win
Following a round of 1-under 69 Saturday, Emiliano Grillo will enter Sunday's final round at Colonial four shots behind leader Justin Rose.
Grillo is hunting his first win since he took the 2015 Safeway Open in his rookie debut as a PGA Tour member.
The young Argentinian finished 11th in the FedExCup points race that season, contending in big events and finishing runner-up at the 2016 Barclays.
In the process, Grillo had to learn to pace himself and that it can be fruitless to chase after success week to week.
"That was a hot run in there," Grillo said Saturday, referring to his rookie year. "I played, in 2016, I played the majors very well. I played the big tournaments very well. I was in contention after two, three days in most of the big events.
"I think, you know, I wanted to do better. I pushed for it. Some of the tournaments I ended up being 50th or 60th just because I wanted to play. I wanted to play well so badly. That played against me, so I learned from that. In that rookie year, I learned that."
Grillo was still plenty successful in his sophomore season, advancing to the BMW Championship last fall.
But now he's beginning to regain some of that form that made him such an immediate success on Tour. Grillo has recorded four top-10 finishes year - a T-9 at Mayakoba, a T-8 at Honda, a T-3 at Houston, and a T-9 at Wells Fargo - and will now look to outduel U.S. Open champs in Rose and Brooks Koepka on Sunday at Colonial.
"Well, he's top 10 in the world, so everything he does he does it pretty well," Grillo said of Rose. "You know, he does his own thing. Like I say, he's top 10 in the world. Nothing wrong with his game. ...
"He's in the lead on a Sunday. Doesn't matter where you're playing, he's got to go out and shoot under par. He's got 50 guys behind him trying to reach him, and I'm one of those. I've just got to go out and do what he did today on those first five or six holes and try to get him in the early holes."