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Duke Thrilled with First Tour Title
After 187 starts on the PGA Tour, Ken Duke finally logged his first win Sunday. The 44-year-old, who's gone back and forth between the Web.com, Canadian and PGA tours since turning pro in 1994, closed with a 4-under 66 to tie Chris Stroud at 12-under 268 in regulation, then he birdied the second playoff hole to finally get his maiden victory in the Travelers Championship.
The win was worth $1.08 million, 500 FedEx Cup points, a two-year Tour exemption, and an automatic invitation to next year's Masters.
Duke never doubted he'd finally visit the winner's circle on golf's most prestigious circuit. "You gotta believe in yourself in everything you do," said the Arkansas native, who was born in the town of Hope, the hometown of former President Bill Clinton.
"That's why those guys at the top are winning week in, week out because they believe they can do it. It's kind of one of those things once you finally do it it might come easier the next time. And that's kind of the way I feel."
The Travelers has a knack for bringing the best in players seeking their first victory. Duke is one of the six in the past eight years to do that, joining J.J. Henry (2006), Hunter Mahan ('07), Bubba Watson ('10) Fredrik Jacobsen ('11) and Marc Leishman, last year.
Here's what Duke said during his post-round interview Sunday evening at the host course, TPC River Highlands in Cromwell, Conn.
MODERATOR: Okay. We will waste no time. We will jump right in. We'd like to welcome the 2013 Travelers Championship winner, Ken Duke. Ken, I know this has been long overdue for you. Congratulations on your first PGA Tour. With that said, I will turn it over to you. With the win you move up to 20th in the FedEx Cup standings as well, and I know that's a good sound as well. So I'll turn it over to you for comments.
KEN DUKE: Yeah. It's been a long time. I've been on the Canadian tour, the mini tours, Asian Tour, South American Tour, all of them; Web.com, and it's just great to be a part of this big family on the PGA Tour. And thanks to Travelers for everything they've done, being a big supporter of the tour. Makes it easy for us to come out here and play in beautiful tournaments like this.
MODERATOR: Okay. We'll jump in and take some questions.
Q. After Chris Stroud tapped in for par, it looked like you didn't even line up the first time you looked at it from the other side and kind of put your head down. Were you thinking? Did you look at the line or did you know the line and just needed a minute to compose?
KEN DUKE: I just needed to settle down a little bit. I had the same putt in regulation, just a little left to right if any. And I told myself it's my turn. There's no reason why you can't just knock this in. Just slow down just a little bit and knock it in. And that's what I did.
Q. Ken, I understand that you wouldn't be out here if you didn't think you could win, but after doing this 20 years, about 200 starts, how would you describe or what would you say the odds were of actually doing it?
KEN DUKE: Yeah. You gotta believe in yourself in everything you do. That's why those guys at the top are winning week in, week out because they believe they can do it. It's kind of one of those things once you finally do it it might come easier the next time. And that's kind of the way I feel. I owe a lot to Bob Toski. I met him in 2006. He won his first tournament up here in '53 at Wethersfield, and he called me this morning and said "it's your time too." You have to be patient. You can't make things happen out here. You can't win by pushing everything. You just have to be patient. And that's kind of the way I live life. I'm an easy going kind of guy, just kind of go with the flow kind of guy, and that's the way I play golf.
Q. Congratulations. It's been a long hot couple of days here in Hartford. What have you done to relax off the course, just mentally prepare for something like today?
KEN DUKE: A lot of nothing, really. I've had a host a lady that's been hosting me all week, Ms. Connie Watson. She's a member over at Wethersfield, so we've been over there a few times to have dinner and stuff. Just to kind of get away, that's kind of the way I do it, get away from the course and all the fans and all the players. And it's good to stay in a home sometimes instead of hotel, hotel. So just kind of been taking it easy, watching the hockey, watching the basketball. The Heat won, and I'm in South Florida. So it's been a great week this week.
Q. Can you just take us through maybe the emotions of 18 in regulation, make the putt, thinking maybe it's over and then obviously Chris chips in? And then take us through the emotions of when you actually did win.
KEN DUKE: Yeah. You are always going to think that that person is going to make the putt and I knew if he didn't it's my turn to win it. I just kind of told myself after it went by, it's my turn. It's been a long time. I've lost tournaments by somebody chipping in on the last hole like that or making a long putt and beating me, I mean probably six or seven times. And there's nothing you can do about it. But finally doing it, it's awesome. I got a lot of text messages, voicemails this week, but I got a text message from a guy named Joe Ford. He's the VP at Augusta, and he just doesn't send me text messages. And I got it on I think I got it on Friday, when I finished Friday. And that means I get to go back to Augusta. So that's a big deal.
Q. Did you text him back yet?
KEN DUKE: I haven't gotten there. I can only imagine what that phone has going on right now. (Laughs). I get a lot of messages when I play good, zero when I play bad. But something like this, I cannot imagine what that phone's got going on. It's going to be exciting.
Q. Ken, I had the chance to walk with some of your biggest fans today, Team Duke. Can you talk about that supporting role and how they've supported you over the years?
KEN DUKE: Yeah. My wife's aunt and uncle live in South Florida on the west side in Punta Gorda, and they have two or three couples that live there, too. Couple of them live in Connecticut; couple of them live in Boston, and they live in Michigan in the summertime, but they're all down there during the winter. And then a good friend of mine Fred Smith up in Lowell, Mass, him and his brothers and friends came down. I met Fred in 2004 at Fenway. We were at a game, and he was sitting right beside us with his dad and his brothers, and it just seems like we've just kind of become friends. And that's kind of the way I am. When I meet somebody like that, we've just become friends. He's been a big fan of mine, and he came down on Thursday and Friday, and he said, "just make the cut because I want to come back on Sunday."
So he came back today with some more friends. It's people like that that keeps you going. They're always pulling for you in the good times and the bad times. And it's special to just about every week I go somewhere there's someone there. And it's really nice.
Q. Ken, can you talk a little bit more about that relationship with Bob Toski, how he's helped you as a player and how special it must be now knowing that you and he have won the same tournament?
KEN DUKE: Yeah. It's special. I've never really taken a lot of lessons, growing up with not a lot in Arkansas. My mom and dad did what they had to do. They had to work for a living. And I had to do what I had to do. I had to practice at 6 or 7 in the morning before I went to school and just do that. But got down to Florida and ended up meeting Mr. Toski. He said, "come see me." So I went to see him in 2006 in January. And with my back problems he made me swing the golf club, it seemed like it was easier. And no one's ever told me the way to swing the club.
I mean just I mean the guy has played with Hogan and Snead and Demaret and all of them. And sometimes I go down to his place, and we just talk. You know, we might not even hit any balls. And had a great session with him last week on Wednesday and I was swinging really good. And you know, the way he says things, it might all be the same, but it seems like it's different every time we talk and every time we're on the range. And that's the knowledge of somebody like that, because he's played with the best. He's taught the best. He's amazing. And I wouldn't be here now if I would have never met him. He's just a special guy.
Q. Ken, the shot you hit on 10, it looked like it was going towards the trees. It hit the trees, bounced back, and after you made the birdie putt, you pointed up to the trees or to the sky. Can you expand on that a little bit?
KEN DUKE: It did hit the tree. (Laughs). It was going left. It hit the tree, and I was pointing at the tree. I don't know how it kicked back. You know, I've seen stuff like that happen before, you know, when you don't expect it and ended up making the putt which was great, but I did point at the tree and say thank you. You need breaks like that every once in a while.
Q. After that 45 foot bomb you hit there, you threw about 15 punches it looked like, and you got can you just talk about that shot and also, you threw an awful lot of punches in the air, including at the camera in the end. Can you talk a little bit about that also?
KEN DUKE: I don't know where that came from. I don't know where it came from. But it was a tough putt, and it broke left to right and all the way down there and somehow it was losing speed and I was hoping it would just stop right by the hole. It was so scary, get a little firm there and it can go right off the green. And next thing you know it moved back to the left and went in.
Something like that you need I feel like the whole year has been that way. I haven't really had anything happen. I've played pretty well, but I've never had anything happen, you know, something like that to go. I've holed one a few weeks ago at Memorial, No. 18 from the rough. And it seemed like from then on I feel like it was going my way. And just getting it up and down a few times today and throughout the week, I just felt like, you know what, it might be time.
Q. Ken, at what point did you know what Bubba Watson had done on 16 and that you were in the lead?
KEN DUKE: I was on 17 tee, and we were waiting. And I saw him hit. I didn't know it went in the water, to be honest with you. But I knew it wasn't just him. I knew Stroud was there. I knew Graham DaLaet was there. And I know 16, 17 might not be the birdie holes, but 18 obviously could have been. But I was just trying to finish. I was trying to get in and post a number and see what happens.
Q. Ken, two very unrelated questions. You rattled off all those places that you've played before, different tours. During those years and those times, what kept you clinging to the hope that you could play on this Tour and win on this Tour? And the second question is in your media guide you said that Larry Byrd is a hero of yours. How did that come about?
KEN DUKE: I signed up to play this game for a living in 1994. Obviously you don't know how it's going to work out. And some people make it, some people don't. But I've always just believed in myself and tried to have fun with the game. Most of the time you go out and play with your buddies, you try to have fun. And I've taken that to this level here. And I think no question, that's kept me going. Obviously I've had some bad years and almost quit a couple times. But it just seemed like something happened the next few weeks or whatever that kept me going and kept me going. I had some sponsors early that kept me going. Then I finally got out on the Web.com and out here and made some money, and it seemed like I just kept going.
Larry, The Legend, that's my guy. I've always liked him when I was younger in school, and I always played basketball with the boys, and I was 33, Larry Byrd. Everyone was the Laker guys and stuff. But I've gotten a couple jerseys from him, and I've met him a couple of times, but he's my guy. And we got in a tweeting war the other night. I'm not a big tweeter, but everybody was giving me a hard time about the Heat and San Antonio and the playoffs, and I said there's only one guy that can pull this through, and that's Larry Legend. I've kind of taking the way his worth ethic, not growing up with a lot and pushing yourself and always believing that you can do it and just keep pushing. And he's done what he's done. And I finally got me a win. It's really nice.
MODERATOR: Okay. Anybody else? All right. Ken Duke, congratulations on your win.
KEN DUKE: Thank you guys for everything. (Applause).
The transcript for the above interview is courtesy of ASAP Sports.