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Sombre start to year for Joe Durant

Joe Durant had not qualified for the winners-only Mercedes-Benz Championship in five years, so his holiday season was brimming with excitement about a trip to Maui to start the year.

He arrived in a somber mood, still stunned over the Christmas Eve death of his sister-in-law.

"My brother and his wife were at our house and we had a party for a bunch of us, and they went back to the condo at the beach," Durant said. "They were there about 30 minutes and she passed away. They still don't have a cause of death."

Durant was extremely close to his older brother, Flip, and his wife, Frances, who came to several PGA Tour events.

He was supposed to arrive at Kapalua on Wednesday, but the family held a memorial service for Frances Durant on Thursday, and Durant flew to Hawaii on Saturday.

"It was a tough holiday," Durant said. "Trust me, coming over here ... it was a hard trip to make. As excited as you are about going some place, when that happens to someone you love so much ... You want to get excited because you know your family is excited, but it's tough."

Durant never imagined he would be at Kapalua six months ago.

He was in danger of losing his card, but a top-10 showing at the Buick Open got him off the bubble. He won at Disney, tied for fourth in Tampa and ended the year with a tie for third at the Tour Championship, moving up to 13th on the money list with more than $2.8 million, his highest finish.

"It was a great finish for me and for my family," he said. "Halfway through the year, I wanted the year to be over. And by the end of the year, I didn't want it to stop."

January 3, 2007


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