POTOMAC -- Gil Morgan, a 19-year veteran of the Professional Golfers' Association Tour, may be a casualty of the strongest Kemper Open field in recent years.
A year ago, Morgan shot a closing-round 69 for a 72-hole total of 274, and a one-stroke victory over Ian Baker-Finch.
Most players say that being a defending champion means nothing more than you played well for at least one tournament last year.
Now Morgan pads that thought, saying, "The better the field, the better the guys play, and that always makes it harder to defend."
The Oklahoma native, 44, sees his game as "kind of mixed" right now. "I'm not playing as well as I was this time last year. My putting has been bugging me the most."
Morgan, who has played in 10 of the 11 Washington-area Kempers, is the leading Kemper money-winner, with $322,925. He also was a two-round leader in the 1976 PGA at Congressional CC, but is quick to point out, "I don't know why I play well here."
Morgan had a quick 1991 start with a pair of top-five finishes in the first three weeks, but not a lot of success since then. Of 10 events thereafter, he has finished in the money seven times, with a best of tie-30th at Los Angeles in February.
"I'm looking forward to this week. I always seem to play better on tougher courses. I'm better when the winning total is in the range of 8-15 under (he was 10 under last year) rather than 20-under or better. I just don't have a lot of low rounds."
* Jay Don Blake defeated Steve Elkington in a chip-off on the ninth hole to win the Merrill Lynch Shootout. After parring the ninth hole, Elkington hit his chip shot 10 feet from the pin, and Blake then put his within five feet for the $4,000 prize.
BTC With one of the 10 starters eliminated at each hole, the other losers, in order, were: No. 1, Mark Brooks; No. 2, Ted Schulz; No. 3, Morgan; No. 4, Scott Hoch; No. 5, John Huston; No. 6, Fred Funk; No. 7, Chip Beck; No. 8, Jeff Sluman.
* There are eight 1991 winners in the field: Tom Kite, Lanny Wadkins, Blake, Schulz, Elkington, Larry Silveira, Brooks, and Kenny Perry.
From the money list, the field includes three top-10 (Wadkins, Blake, Elkington); three more in the top-20 (Perry, Mark O'Meara, and Baker-Finch), and three more in the top-25 (Kite, Brooks, and Beck).
NOTES: With last week's check for $45,600, Funk, of Laurel, reached a career-best $192,212 to be 39th on the money list. . . . In this year's field, Tripp Shreves, 20, an amateur out of Congressional CC, is the youngest, and Mike McGinnis, 52, head professional at Holly Hills CC in Ijamsville, is the oldest.
Pro-am tee times
Starting times for the pros in today's Kemper Open pro-am at TPC-Avenel. The first name listed will use the first tee, the second name will begin on the 10th tee.
7 a.m. -- Tom Kite, Larry Mize; 7:09 -- Chip Beck, Steve Elkington; 7:18 -- Tom Byrum, Jay Don Blake; 7:27 -- Brian Tennyson, Billy Ray Brown; 7:36 -- Bill Britton, David Peoples; 7:45 -- Andy Bean, Dave Stockton; 7:54 -- Morris Hatalsky, Chris Perry; 8:03 -- Kenny Perry, Jeff Sluman; 8:12 -- Mark Brooks, Scott Hoch; 8:21 -- Ben Crenshaw, John Huston; 8:30 -- Jim Gallagher Jr., Mark Lye; 8:39 -- Lanny Wadkins, Billy Mayfair; 8:48 -- Payne Stewart, Tim Simpson.
Noon -- Gil Morgan, Mark O'Meara; 12:09 -- Greg Norman, Ian Baker-Finch; 12:18 -- Fred Funk, Donnie Hammond; 12:27 -- Steve Jones, Tommy Armour III; 12:36 -- Mike Donald, Mike Reid; 12:45 -- Jerry Pate, Calvin Peete; 12:54 -- Billy Andrade, Russ Cochran; 1:03 -- Jay Delsing, Peter Persons; 1:12 -- Doug Tewell, Willie Wood; 1:21 -- Hal Sutton, Don Pooley; 1:30 -- Dave Barr, Brad Faxon; 1:39 -- Joey Sindelar, Ted Schulz; 1:48 -- Dan Forsman, Jodie Mudd.