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PGA Laughers Keep Coming

Golf: Durant is the latest to crank up a scoring record, finishing 36 under to win Hope Classic by four strokes.

February 19, 2001|THOMAS BONK | TIMES STAFF WRITER

LA QUINTA — This golf thing is getting out of hand. It's another week, another record-breaking tournament on the pro golf tour, where any day now, you're going to see somebody shoot a 58.

In fact, Paul Stankowski thinks he knows when.

"Uh, July 31," said Stankowski.

He was joking, right?

Maybe not, but what they're doing out on the tour is a complete joke, at least as far as figuring out what the heck par is.

On Sunday at the Palmer Course at PGA West, it was Joe Durant's turn to wreck the scoring charts, which he accomplished with a record-smacking 36 under par, for a 90-hole total of 324 and a numbingly routine four-shot victory over Stankowski at the Bob Hope Chrysler Classic.

No one has shot a lower score or gone lower in relation to par than Durant. And for everyone who says they saw that coming, yeah, right.

Durant, who once quit the tour in disgust to sell insurance only to be talked into getting back into it by his wife, had never before made the cut in the Hope.

All that changed this week here in the desert, where Durant went 65-61-67-66-65, fell one short of the tour record with 36 birdies and had only two bogeys--none over the last 49 holes.

"I don't know what to say," said Durant, whose total broke the record of 35 under par set here by Tom Kite in 1993. "It was a really magical week."

In that case, there have been a bunch of them lately. At the Sony Open, Brad Faxon's 260 set a tournament record. At Phoenix, Mark Calcavecchia's 256 was the lowest 72-hole score in history. At Pebble Beach, Davis Love III played the first seven holes on the last day in eight under.

And now, there is Joe Durant.

The 36-year-old from Molino, Fla., who won the 1998 Motorola Western Open, enjoyed the biggest payday of his career, which has seen him bounce back and forth between the PGA Tour and the Hogan/Nike Tour for the last 11 years. But for five days, he was the absolute and undeniable star of the show.

No one got closer than three shots to Durant, who said he had some added incentive.

"I just didn't want to have to explain how I blew a five-shot lead," he said.

Not at this place. It must be comforting to the players to realize that the Hope again followed its annual custom of genial host and willing doormat.

In the first two rounds, there were 16 rounds of 64 or better, one more than all the other tournaments combined.

The cut was 11 under, matching the lowest ever, set last year at this tournament.

In the second round, there were three scores of 62, and they still weren't the low score of the day.

In all, the pros had five rounds of 62 and two rounds of 61, produced an amazing total of 2,762 birdies (1,047 at PGA West) and 96 eagles.

Stankowski believes the scores are going to continue to drop, mainly because the players are better, the equipment is better and the courses are better. In fact, he doesn't see any way it's going to stop . . . well, maybe a couple.

"Put rocks in the bunker . . . grow rough on the fairways," said Stankowski, who never played in more than a 5-mph breeze.

"It was Dome Golf," he said. "It doesn't get any better than this. It doesn't get any easier conditions. Gosh, it's a no-brainer. Guys are going to shoot low. I'm disappointed I didn't shoot lower, but good night!"

Indeed. Jerry Kelly shot 20 under and tied for 26th.

"I mean, 20 under, and it makes you feel like you're playing bad," Kelly said. "Yeah, 20 under and I'm getting lapped."

With a five-shot lead over Calcavecchia to begin the day, all Durant really needed to do was guide his golf ball around the bouncy fairways and the carpeted greens without dunking it in the water or smacking it into somebody's back yard.

He played the front nine in three under and led by six. When he made birdie at No. 10, rolling in a 10-footer, and followed it with another birdie at the par-five No. 11, the title was essentially his.

Stankowski could have made it slightly closer, but he missed a five-footer for birdie at the 17th, allowing Durant to nonchalantly close it out, even while failing to birdie the last hole from five feet.

"It really didn't matter," Stankowski said. "Joe was just too good."

Or it was Joe's week. And if you want to keep going this way, it was Joe's turn. As we have found out on tour this year, they're taking turns being too good.

(BEGIN TEXT OF INFOBOX / INFOGRAPHIC)

The Breakdown

How Joe Durant arrived at his record-setting 36-under-par score:

*--*

Eagles Birdies Pars Bogeys Double Bogeys Rounds (Total) 1 36 51 2 0 61-67-66-65 (324)

*--*

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