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Durant set for 3M Championship defense – PGA Tour |

Durant set for 3M Championship defense – PGA Tour

Joe Durant arrived at the 3M Championship a year ago as a consistent threat to win but without his initial breakthrough in an individual event on PGA TOUR Champions.

That breakthrough came over the weekend at the TPC Twin Cities. After a slow start in Friday’s first round, Durant proceeded to shoot 17 under on the weekend. His final-round 9-under 63 got him into a playoff with Miguel Angel Jimenez. Durant then eagled the first playoff hole to earn his first individual title (he had won on PGA TOUR Champions with Billy Andrade in the Bass Pro Shops Legends of Golf in 2015) since 2006 on the PGA TOUR.

“I was beginning to wonder if I was ever going to win one,” Durant said after picking up the $262,500 winner’s check. “And after Friday’s round, when I shot 2 under, I didn’t think it was going to be this weekend either, honestly. … I’ve been knocking on the door, but those doubts start creeping in your mind though if you could ever shoot low enough for three days to do it. So, I’m very thankful.”

The victory was the highlight of a stellar season for Durant. It was his seventh top 10 of 2016 and he would go on to record six more and finish fifth in the race for the Schwab Cup.

Durant, 53, carried over his play to the start of this season. He had four top 11s in his first five events, including a tie for sixth at the Allianz Championship. But he struggled through May, which included the year’s first two majors. Durant finished T57 at the Regions Tradition and T46 at the KitchenAid Senior PGA Championship.

But looking forward to a return to the site of his first individual PGA TOUR Champions victory seems to have gotten Durant back on track. Since the calendar turned to June he has been in the top 13 in four of five events, including a tie for third at the American Family Insurance Championship and a T12 at the U.S. Senior Open. He did withdraw after an opening-round 82 at The Senior Open Championship last week at Royal Porthcawl, but he’s ready to defend his title this week.

“By the time we roll around to playing out there the courses are just immaculate,” Durant, a Pensacola, Flprida, native told KSTP-TV in Minneapolis at 3M Championship media day in June. “All of the Midwest tournaments have an air about them. The galleries are bigger, they’re excited to see us come to town. There’s just a great energy.”

Durant is one of the most consistent players off the tee on PGA TOUR Champions and one of its best ball-strikers (where he ranks fourth). He’s not particularly long off the tee (33rd in driving distance), but he keeps it in the short grass (eighth in driving accuracy). And that leads him to hitting a lot of greens (ninth in GIR) but not being much of a threat to reach par 5s (only three eagles all year).

That makes what he did over the weekend last year at TPC Twin Cities even more remarkable. Durant showed everyone on PGA TOUR Champions including himself that he could go low and lower, and he knows that is what it takes to win.

“Out here you’ve got to beat a big name if you’re going to win a golf tournament,” Durant told KSTP. “Because the guys don’t back down out here. You have to make birdies down the stretch not pars. It’s a great tour to be a part of, and I enjoy every minute of it.”

Durant certainly is capable of going on another run similar to last year. If he gains another boost of confidence at the 3M Championship he’ll be a threat in the Schwab Cup Playoffs.

“It [the victory last year] didn’t change my life, but it made me feel better about things,” Durant told KSTP. “You have to shoot so low to win that some doubts creep in, but I played great down the stretch here last year. It was one of my more satisfying wins.”

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