LA QUINTA, Calif. (AP) -- Joe Durant was so frustrated trying to play golf for a living that he quit the game to sell insurance. Luckily for him, he turned out to be even worse at selling than he had been at playing.
Durant's decision to return to golf paid more dividends Friday when he shot a 67 to take a three-shot lead over Paul Stankowski through three rounds of the Bob Hope Classic.
The 5-under round was the worst yet this week for Durant, who shot a 61 a day earlier. But he kept the same lead he started the day with, with two rounds to go in the 90-hole tournament.
"Anytime you shoot a low round, the next day is kind of difficult," Durant said. "It was a little tough to follow yesterday."
Playing with three amateurs on the PGA West Palmer course, Durant's solid but unspectacular round was good enough to get him to 23 under on a day when the scoring assault abated somewhat. Though the scores weren't quite as low as the first two days, 92 of the 128 players in the field still broke par.
It still left him in position to challenge Tom Kite's tour record of 35 under set here in 1993, but more importantly it gave him a bit of a cushion going into the weekend where birdies figure to be plentiful.
"The key to this tournament is staying patient even if the world is making a million birdies," Durant said. "In the past it's been difficult for me because I get impatient."
A day after Durant shot a 61 and three others had 62s, the lowest round Friday was a 63 by Scott McCarron. Stankowski had a 65 to get to three back, while Kevin Sutherland was another shot back and four others were tied at five off the lead.
Sutherland provided some excitement with a hole-in-one on the 130-yard 17th hole en route to a 66 on the PGA West course, one of four in the Hope rotation.
"As it turned out, I didn't play too well after that," said Sutherland, who played the back nine first. "I kind of forgot about the hole-in-one pretty fast."
Durant made only his second bogey of the tournament when he missed the green on the par-3 fifth hole and couldn't get up-and-down. He came right back with a birdie on the next hole, though, and made four more birdies on the back nine.
The last one came on a curling 45-foot putt over a ridge on the 16th hole that had him pumping his fist and slapping palms with his amateur partners in glee.
"That's the best putt I've hit in a long time," he said.
Durant, whose only win came in the 1998 Western Open, very nearly saw his golf career end before he made onto the PGA Tour. A mini-tour player, he was so frustrated with golf in 1991 that he quit to sell insurance.
That didn't exactly work out, as Durant failed to sell one policy in three months.
"I was the world's worst salesman," he said.
Durant went to work for a golf mail-order shop and, five months after quitting the game, began playing again. He toiled on the Nike Tour for the better part of six years before finally finding a full-time place on the PGA Tour in 1997.
In an era of spoiled tour millionaires, he's one player who knows how fortunate he is to be playing golf for a living.
"I feel I'm one of the luckiest guys in the world to do what I do," Durant said. "I'm fortunate to be out on tour now and hopefully I'll be out here for a while longer."
Divots: Jesper Parnevik, the 2000 winner, withdrew on the eve of the tournament to be with his pregnant wife. Mia Parnevik gave birth Friday to a boy in Florida. "It seems like I made the right decision," the Swedish player said. ... Sutherland's hole-in-one was the first of the tournament. It came on No. 17 at PGA West, where on Sunday the same feat would earn a car. ... Unlike most tournaments, the cut won't be made until the end of play Saturday, when the 128-player field will be trimmed to low 70 and ties for a final round on the PGA West Palmer course.
LUTZ, Fla. (AP) -- Jack Nicklaus, winless since 1996, shot a 4-under 67 for a share of the first-round lead with Doug Tewell in the Verizon Classic.
Nicklaus, 61, who had hip replacement surgery in January 1999, had a bogey-free round on the TPC at Tampa Bay.
Ray Floyd, rebounding from an upper respiratory infection, opened with a 68. Defending champion Bruce Fleisher, Jim Holtgrieve and Allen Doyle shot 69s.
MELBOURNE, Australia (AP) -- Australia's Adam Scott shot a 6-under 66 to take a one-stroke lead over countrymen Brad King and Peter Lonard in the Australian Masters.
Scott, the 20-year-old star who won the Alfred Dunhill last month in South Africa for his first pro title, had a 7-under 137 total on the Huntingdale course. King and Lonard shot 68s.
Scotland's Colin Montgomerie had a 67 to top a seven-player group at 139. Spain's Sergio Garcia missed the cut with rounds of 75 and 73.
SHAH ALAM, Malaysia (AP) -- New Zealand's Michael Campbell shot a 5-under 67 in rainy conditions to take two-stroke lead in the suspended second round of the Malaysian Open.
Campbell had an 8-under 136 total on the Saurjana course. New Zealand's Elliot Boult was second after a 66.
Masters champion Vijay Singh of Fiji was three strokes behind Campbell with two holes to play. John Daly shot his second straight 72.
Royal Swazi Sun Open
MBABANE, Swaziland (AP) -- Scotland's Murray Urquhart matched the Sunshine Tour record with an 8-under 28 on the final nine holes en route to a 64 and a share of the lead in the Royal Swazi Sun Open.
Urquhart and England's Mark Hilton (65) had 12-under 132 totals. American Bruce Vaughan (68) was two strokes back along with South Africa's Bradford Vaughan (67), England's Peter Wilson (71) and Switzerland's Andre Bossert (68).
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