Durant & Goosen share opening lead
Joe Durant is surprised to be playing in the $6.5 million Tour Championship. Now he is leading the prestigious season-ending event.
Durant carded a 2-under-par 68 matched only by former champion Retief Goosen in Thursday's first round at East Lake.
"I can't believe I'm here this week after where I stood halfway through the year," Durant said.
Durant was languishing on the money list at late as August. But a barnstorming end to the season that included a victory and three other top-four finishes in his final eight events catapulted him into the top 30 on the money list.
The sweet-swinging 42-year-old, who leads the PGA Tour in driving accuracy, struggled off the tee in chilly, windy conditions. But it didn't stop him from making five birdies to join Goosen, one stroke ahead of Vijay Singh, Adam Scott, Stuart Appleby, Jim Furyk, Stewart Cink and Tom Pernice in the elite 27-man field.
"My putting kept me in it as much as anything today, because I didn't feel like I hit the ball great," Durant said. "I managed my game well but I wasn't able to be aggressive."
Durant made his move with four birdies on the first seven holes before hanging on as the breeze strengthened and conditions become more difficult.
"It was very difficult with the wind - much cooler than (Wednesday) - and virtually every hole was a crosswind," he said. "I'm very pleased with 2-under."
Goosen, the 2004 champion, enjoyed a hot streak around the turn, picking up three shots in four holes. He bogeyed the tough par-3 18th but was hardly in a mood to complain.
"You knew no one was going to shoot 62. You just felt like you had to hang in there," he said. "I've been trying to work on a few things in my swing. It's not easy going out and trusting it, but to get a good round in sort of gives you a bit more confidence.
"The course is playing long, especially some of the holes into the wind. Luckily this year the rough is not quite as heavy as the last two years, so you can hit it in the rough and still have a chance of getting to the green."
After nine years flying solo, Goosen recently started working with Florida-based instructor Gregor Jamieson.
"It's something I decided on a couple of months ago," he said. "It's going to be a slow process. I want to do it now, so when I start next year it's not all new."
Furyk made a round-high six birdies but undid some of his good work with three bogeys and a double-bogey.
"I scored well on the front nine, got the ball around well," he said. "Then I three-putted 11 (and) made a bad double-bogey on 13."
On 13, Furyk started with a drive into the left fairway bunker, then found a greenside bunker and needed two strokes to extricate himself. He also bogeyed the next hole but "sucked it up" and birdied Nos. 15 and 18 to inch within one of the lead.
"I had my ups and downs," he said. "I didn't play as consistent as I would have liked but I made a bunch of birdies to cover up those mistakes."
Appleby was delighted to break par after bogeying the first two holes.
"That's the round I was hoping for after the start I had," he said. "It was either going to be a long day, or I'd have to do something partly special, because the weather wasn't conducive to making five or six birdies. It was nothing brilliant, just hard work."
The field averaged 72.1 strokes. No one contributed more to the high scoring average than Davis Love III, whose 82 was the day's worst score by five shots.
Love hit only five fairways, seven greens in regulation and needed 33 putts. At least he is assured of playing all four rounds, because there is no cut.