Joe Durant kept waiting for some sort of late surge, even as he became increasingly aware holes were starting to run in short supply.
It takes a stockpile of birdies to contend at the Price Cutter Charity Championship presented by Dr. Pepper, and the 49-year-old Floridian figured it would take 16 under to put himself in the Sunday mix.
He was right on target after a pair of 4-under-par 68s, but fell back with a third-round 71. “I’m thinking I need to pick up the pace,” Durant recalled, “then the last day I shoot 1 under on the front.”
Then the tide started to turn. Durant reeled off three straight birdies after making the turn, picked up another at No. 15 and closed things out with an eagle and a back-nine 30 that allowed him to hit his mark of 16 under.
It wasn’t enough to catch runaway winner Andrew Svoboda, but Durant’s sixth-place finish was his best of the season. It also pushed him up to 60th on the money list -- across the line for a spot in the fast-approaching Web.com Tour Finals.
“Where the scoring’s low,” Durant said, “you’ve got to avoid that panic attack like you’ve got to birdie every third hole. Just take one shot at a time and be patient and keep giving yourself opportunities.”
It’s not a bad approach to the end of the season, either, as patience levels decrease with every week that falls off the calendar. Durant will get another shot to move up the money list when he tees it up at this week's News Sentinel Open presented by Pilot.
On one hand, just two weeks remain to move into the money list’s top 25 and grab one of the first batch of PGA TOUR cards to be handed out. Or to reserve a Finals berth by finishing among the next 50, earning a second chance at promotion.
On the other hand, one good outing might suffice.
“All you can do is keep plugging,” Durant said. “If it doesn’t happen this week, there’s still next week. Now late in the year, there does come a point where you start running out of next weeks. Hopefully you’ve taken care of business before that happens.”
The Pensacola, Fla., native has seen the other side, too, flirting with “bubble” status more than once as the FedExCup points race entered its final weeks. He reached the FedExCup Playoffs just once, finishing 123rd during the debut season in 2007.
Of course, those came after his prime years in the late 1990s to mid-2000s. Two of his four PGA TOUR victories came in back-to-back starts, going from the old Bob Hope event in 2001 to Doral with a week in between.
His last victory came at the 2006 Disney stop, though he nearly added another just three years ago in Mexico, finishing two shots behind Cameron Beckman.
The past two years have found Durant splitting time between the PGA TOUR and the Web.com Tour. He managed to get 14 starts on the PGA TOUR in 2012, but saw that number cut in half this year as the shortened PGA TOUR schedule created fewer opportunities in the Past Champions category.
“I kind of knew I was going to have limited access this year,” he said.
“Coming out of the Past Champions category, the only chance you have to do well is if you come out and light it up in one of your first starts. That might get you access to a few more tournaments. Or you could do like Woody did.”
Woody Austin, three months older than Durant, went from Past Champion to current winner when he nabbed the Sanderson Farms Championship in Mississippi. It was just his fourth PGA TOUR start of 2013.
“That takes care of everything, obviously,” Durant quipped.
For Durant, though, the path to regaining a full PGA TOUR card has been through the Web.com Tour schedule. Seven PGA TOUR starts have left him at No. 226 on the money list – seven shy of earning a Finals berth – while he’s on the good side of the Web.com cut line.
“My goal’s been to have access to those four Playoff events, then see what happens,” Durant said.
In a sense, the make-or-break aspect certainly doesn’t run as high for Durant as for his younger peers. He turns 50 next April, early enough to give him nearly a full season on the Champions Tour.
But he’d also like one more turn on the PGA TOUR, allowing him to play when the Champions Tour is off or make one more visit to favorite places.
“Places like Colonial and Harbour Town that I’ve really loved playing,” Durant said. “I’d love to play the Humana (Challenge in partnership with the Clinton Foundation) as well -- I won there and Palm Springs is a really nice spot. And Waialae -- my wife and I love it there.”
It looks as though Durant will at least get the chance to play for it. Patience has served him well in the past. Perhaps it will again.