Every winter between Christmas and New Year's, I jot down my
goals for the upcoming Tour season. For this year my list
included earning $1 million, winning a tournament and having at
least seven top 10 finishes. Making the Ryder Cup for the first
time wasn't a consideration because accomplishing that seemed as
improbable as earning enough to buy a Caribbean island. That
changed when I won two consecutive starts--the Bob Hope Chrysler
Classic and the Genuity Championship--and vaulted from 52nd to
eighth in the Ryder Cup standings. Overnight I had morphed from
an unknown who could only dream about representing the U.S. in
the Ryder Cup to a celebrity holding one of the team's 10
automatic berths. I thought, O.K., what do I do now?
What I did was make the Ryder Cup my primary focus. It would be
hard for it not to be. Friends ask me about it hourly. Even my
wife, Tracey, lovingly yet constantly reminds me that she wants
me to make the team so that she can meet President Bush. I get
goose bumps just thinking about being at the Belfry--watching the
flags go up at the opening ceremony, wearing red-white-and-blue
uniforms and hearing my name announced on the 1st tee. Trouble
is, being a candidate for the team took me out of my routine.
I've done too many outings and interviews, which cut into
practice, and I've played more events than usual. I typically
take several two-week breaks during the season, but I desperately
want to stay in the top 10, so I didn't take off two straight
weeks until this month, and I did so only because of a bulging
disk in my neck.
Curtis Strange, our captain, has been a huge help. He called on
July 30 to tell me to focus on what I can control--my golf--at this
week's Buick Open and at the PGA. I'm 10th in the standings, but
my year won't be ruined if I slip and don't make the team. I'll
still take Tracey and our two children on a nice vacation after
the season, maybe to the Caribbean.
Joe Durant's last top 10 came in the Houston Open in April.
COLOR PHOTO: DARREN CARROLL