Originally created 04/22/01

Durant leads Houston Open



THE WOODLANDS, Texas -- Joe Durant waited for the right moment to make his move Saturday in the Houston Open.

Durant, battling erratic iron play most of the day, birdied two of the last three holes in a round of 1-under 71 to take a one-stroke lead into the final round.

"One of the big keys for me was I watched the leaderboard and most of us were hanging around par," Durant said. "I decided to try and hang around par and sneak in a birdie or two."

Durant, who shared the first-round lead with Lee Janzen, was two shots off Janzen's pace going into the 16th hole Saturday. Durant birdied No. 17 to tie Janzen, and pulled ahead when Janzen bogeyed the final hole.

Durant, with two victories this year, had a 9-under 207 total. Janzen's late falter gave him a 73 and a 208 total. Hal Sutton was another stroke back at 209 after a 71.

A victory on Sunday would make Durant and Tiger Woods the only three-time winners on the PGA Tour this year.

Wind gusts up to 25 mph bothered the players.

"He (Janzen) played a lot better than I did," Durant said. "On the front nine I didn't know where the ball was going. My irons, some of them, we 20 to 30 yards off line. It was a struggle."

Durant said his opening shot on No. 17, "Went 10 yards to the left of where I was aiming. I was lucky."

Durant hit a 7-iron to 15 feet of the hole and made the birdie putt to tie Janzen.

Janzen, winless since the 1998 U.S. Open, started the day 9 under and played steady until he faltered on the 442-yard, par-4 18th. He hit a 6-iron shot over the green, then chipped past and almost went into the water. His par putt stopped at the lip of the cup.

"I hit a lot of good shots today, maybe the shot on 18 and a couple of shots that I'd like to have back," Janzen said. "It was just a matter of I really didn't get the putts to drop that I made the first two days."

Janzen had only one birdie for the day after getting 13 in the first two rounds.

Sutton started the day three shots behind Janzen.

"I wish somebody'd turn the wind machine off here in Houston," Sutton said. "It's been blowing ever since we got here. This course is tough when the wind is blowing. It's gusty too. That makes it more difficult.

"I hit a lot of really pretty shots in the air and they ended up 30 or 40 feet short."

Durant hit a 7-iron onto the green at No. 17 and sank the putt to pull into a tie with Janzen, playing in the same twosome. Janzen had to scramble on No. 17, hitting an 8-iron from a slope near the water to help save par.

Janzen held his 9-under par status through his first six holes before he bogeyed the par-4 seventh hole. He got back on track with a birdie on No. 8 and stayed there until the final hole.

Durant had two bogeys on the front nine before heating up on the back. He birdied No. 10 and then parred until starting his birdie run for the lead.

Chris DiMarco, who started the day four shots off the pace, got within one shot of Janzen's lead with a birdie on the par-3 16th, but fell back on the next hole with a double bogey.

DiMarco finished with a 71 and was tied at 210 with Kevin Sutherland, who shot a 69. Scott Hoch was at 211 along with Ben Ferguson, Carlos Franco, Shaun Micheel and Tom Pernice Jr.

Vijay Singh, the tour's No. 2 money winner, shot a 69 for a 212 total, and David Duval had a 72 for a 214 total.

"Somebody could tee off shooting tomorrow," Janzen said. "If Joe hadn't birdied 16 and 17, 8 under could still be leading. Nine under is still not that far ahead."