POTOMAC -- Ben Crenshaw got his first look at the Tournament Players Course at Avenel yesterday and later said not only that he enjoyed the holes but also that the course couldn't be in better shape.
Crenshaw couldn't compare conditions with those for previous tournaments, but his comments still will be welcomed by Kemper Open officials, who spent the past year in an improvement program that included bunker modification and tree planting to give the course greater definition.
Crenshaw, who had not made a Washington appearance since the 1976 PGA Championship at Congressional Country Club, used his architectural knowledge in talking about the 6,917-yard layout, which has been the target of criticism in the past, including references to it as a "moonscape" and a wish that at least one hole be blown up.
"There are a lot of risk-reward scenarios," Crenshaw said. "I like its playability, the routing is good, and there is a lot of variety in the holes. For instance, they worked the creek in beautifully. It is on the left [on some holes], the right, and it crosses the fairway.
"It's strategic architecture. If there is trouble on one side, the closer the player gets to that feature -- bunker, creek, whatever -- the more he is rewarded with a good approach for his second shot. He has an easier angle toward the green than the one who plays it safer and gets a much tougher angle for his second shot.
"It's in contrast to a lot of courses that play like kicking a field goal. They give you a path 40 yards wide with no risk, no reward. You just get out and just go."
Crenshaw said he has skipped the Kemper in the past mainly because of schedule conflicts. This time, it fit in, since he has to qualify (for the first time since 1974) for the U.S. Open on Monday at Woodmont Country Club in Rockville and since he wants to play in a few events going into the Open.
"I've wanted to come see the course and play, but it [the Kemper] usually has followed my playing about four, five weeks in a row."
* A two-time tour winner this season, Corey Pavin ("I'm very tired"), heads a list of four withdrawals. The others are John Cook (injured hand), Dan Halldorson (illness) and Bob Lohr, who tied for second at the Colonial on Sunday and left immediately for his home in Orlando, Fla. His wife, Marie, in the middle of a pregnancy, has been ordered to bed by her doctor. "I need to be with her," Lohr said.
Their replacements are Kim Young, Ed Fiori, Barry Jaeckel and Clarence Rose.
* The entries for today's 10-man Merrill Lynch Shootout are Jay Don Blake, Mark Brooks, Steve Elkington, Fred Funk, Scott Hoch, Gil Morgan, John Huston, Jeff Sluman and Tim Simpson. A replacement for John Cook will be announced this morning.
The program will begin at 3 p.m., to be followed 30 minutes after its conclusion by the Gatorade Youth Clinic. Funk, assisted by Middle Atlantic Professional Golfers' Association players, will focus on the concerns of junior golfers. Juniors (15 years old and under) will get in for a special all-day admission of $2.
* Frederick native Donnie Hammond has seen a clinic of a couple of years ago grow to a nine-hole pro-am at VFW-Frederick, and today he and tour regular Clark Burroughs will be on hand for a 12-foursomes event that attracted 28 sponsors.
As for the state of his game, Hammond says, "It's anybody's guess." The nine-year tour regular, who has been working with teaching professional Phil Ritzen in Orlando, Fla., said he is hitting the ball well but that "getting it from the range to the course may be another subject."
Kemper Open field
John Adams, Fulton Allem, Michael Allen, J.C. Anderson, Billy Andrade, Tommy Armour III, Perry Arthur, Emlyn Aubrey, Ian Baker-Finch, Mike Barillo, Dave Barr, Andy Bean, Chip Beck, Brad Bell, Jim Benepe, Ronnie Black, Jay Don Blake, Jim Booros, Charlie Bowles, Bob Boyd, Bill Britton, Mark Brooks, Billy Ray Brown, Greg Bruckner, Bart Bryant, Brad Bryant, Clark Burroughs, Bill Buttner, Curt Byrum, Tom Byrum, David Canipe, Brandel Chamblee, Barry Cheesman, Brian Claar, Bobby Clampett, Keith Clearwater, Russ Cochran, Carl Cooper.
Ben Crenshaw, John Daly, Marco Dawson, Jay Delsing, Clark Dennis, Mike Donald, Trevor Dodds, Ed Dougherty, Bob Eastwood, David Edwards, Joel Edwards, Steve Elkington, Brad Fabel, Brad Faxon, Rick Fehr, Ed Fiori, Dan Forsman, Fred Funk, Jim Gallagher Jr., Buddy Gardner, Bob Gilder, Hubert Green, Scott Gump, Jay Haas, Jerry Haas, Gary Hallberg, Donnie Hammond, Dudley Hart, Morris Hatalsky, Mark Hayes, Scott Hoch, a-Richard Holland, Ed Humenik, John Huston, John Inman, Barry Jaeckel, Lee Janzen, Brandt Jobe, Steve Jones.