It’s not often a golfer chokes away 3-foot putts in the final round of a tournament and rebounds to kiss the trophy. Yet there was Joe Durant on the 18th green at TPC Twin Cities late Sunday afternoon up close and personal with his new hardware.
The 52-year-old missed a trio of gimme-range putts during the final round of the 3M Championship. He still shot 9-under 63 to match Miguel Angel Jimenez at 19 under par after 54 holes and force the first 3M playoff since 1998. Durant won on the first extra hole.
“On the range I knew I was hitting it really solid, as solid as I’d been hitting it in a long time,” Durant said after collecting a $252,500 winner’s check. “I was just trying to stay out of my own way.”
His close-range misses almost cost him, but who needs 3-footers when the golf gods give you a gift right in your wheelhouse?
In the playoff, Durant striped his drive off the tee on the par-5 18th and drew a 5-iron from 186 yards for his second shot.
“The perfect number,” he said.
Using his natural fade, Durant aimed 10 yards left of the pin and muscled a shot over the gigantic pond. The ball landed inside of 10 feet.
After Jimenez missed his eagle try from behind the hole, Durant stepped up and blocked out the earlier misses from short distances.
“I was just trying to keep my big fat head still on that putt and make sure I didn’t peek on it,” he said. “It went right in the middle.”
Four shots behind Jimenez to start Sunday, Durant was 4 under through the first six holes. He made two more birdies, then stuck his approach on No. 9 to 3 feet — and missed the putt.
Durant came to the 13th hole at 18 under, the leader by a stroke over Jimenez, who was in the midst of a six-hole stretch without a birdie. During a weekend that finished with the second-lowest scoring average in the 24-year tournament history, that’s an eternity.
Durant pushed a 3-foot putt for birdie and a two-shot advantage. Then the comebacker for par lipped out.
“I knew I had to stay aggressive,” Durant said, and he did with a rebound birdie at No. 14. “That sort of settled the ship a little bit.”
Others weren’t so lucky.
Bernhard Langer came up one hole short of joining the playoff party.
The two-time 3M winner played the first seven holes in 6 under and got to 17 under for the tournament until an errant shot at No. 14 found the edge of a pond. Langer removed his shoes and socks and punched out while standing in shin-high water, leading to a bogey.
“I just hit a bad shot, made a bad swing and got an ugly bounce as well,” Langer said.
Jimenez made a double bogey on No. 14 then rolled in four consecutive birdies for a 67, forcing the playoff.
His final-hole eagle putt from 25 feet hit a spike mark in the middle of his line and skipped left. The would-be winning putt came to rest centimeters from the cup, and an agitated Jimenez pointed the butt end of his putter at the culprit.
“But that’s golf,” he said.
Sunday, golf was on Durant’s side.
“That’s a world-class player,” Durant said after the playoff. “And I was just fortunate to prevail this time.”