POTOMAC — Divots from the Kemper: POTOMAC -- With a couple of days in the paint-blistering mid-90s already in the bank, and with the tourney just under way with increased humidity in the forecast, many of the touring pros view the Kemper Open stop as a necessary evil on the way to the U.S. Open in a couple of weeks. Not Gil Morgan.
The defending champ and top all-time money-winner for the tourney sees a return to Avenel as a chance to "get it going again. Looking at the success I've had here," he said, "I'm looking for the Kemper to be a turning point for me this year."
The Oklahoma optometrist hasn't even made the cut in three of the last five tournaments he has played, but he remains confident, pointing out, "I've always played well here. I don't know why. Maybe it's the time of year or the type of golf courses in this area."
Morgan's run near the top started more than a decade ago when he finished third behind John Mahaffey. Two years later, he was in the three hole again, tied with Jack Nicklaus. In 1983, Gil finished in a four-way tie for second, beaten by Fred Couples in a five-way playoff. He finished fifth in 1989.
"I've had some runs of pretty good golf," he said, "but I just haven't been able to put it all together."
The way things are in the game these days, most tourists don't allow themselves to get too far down in the dumps. Morgan explained: "You just never know what's going to happen out here. You see some players miss the cut by five or six strokes one week and win the very next week."
Take Tom Purtzer, for instance. He won the Colonial last week, his 267 proving to be an 18-stroke improvement over his effort at the Memorial the week before. Conversely, Kenny Perry won the Memorial with a 273 before falling to a tie for 62nd last week.
* The reaction at the tournament site when word came that top money-winner Corey Pavin had pulled out was no reaction. He's a wisp of a guy who probably carries too much of a tourney load and no doubt needed the rest -- to count his money ($721,898).
* Bob Lohr, tied for second in Fort Worth last weekend, also pulled out (his wife is expecting).
* The star of Tuesday's Merrill Lynch Shoot-Out, won by Jay Don Blake (requiring only one birdie), was CBS golf analyst Gary McCord, who had players and crowd alike in stitches with his public address commentary.
* It took four withdrawals for Barry Jaeckel to make the field and keep his streak of having been in all 12 Kempers staged in Washington, the first seven at Congressional CC.
* Speaking of Congressional, which is just across the street from Avenel, Greg Norman says it is one of his 10 favorite courses throughout the world. Meanwhile, Avenel might sneak into his top 2,000.
Norman, after being off for six weeks, shot 71-75-69-71 (286) at the Memorial two weeks ago.
* With a fifth-place finish and $45,600 paycheck at the Colonial, Laurel's Fred Funk is nearing $200,000 for the year.
* USA Network is doing two hours of Kemper coverage beginning at 4 p.m. today and tomorrow. CBS moves in for the weekend.
* One of the more interesting entries in the field is Dave Stockton, who won the PGA Championship at Congressional in 1976. Dave still plays a mean game, but he'll be checking out everyone else's game as captain of the U.S. team for the Ryder Cup matches coming up in September.
* The Kemper already has earmarked $87,500 for local charities.
* Day passes to the tourney are $20 and an extra $10 gets you into the Pavilion Club tent.
* There have been six first-time winners on the tour in 1991 with 20 different golfers winning the 21 events.
* About 15 of the touring pros took part in the Safeway Easter Seals Pro-Am at Turf Valley CC yesterday. Avenel hosted pro-am events Monday and yesterday.
Ben Crenshaw, playing in this area for the first time in 15 years, will try to qualify for the U.S. Open at Woodmont CC Monday.
* Marylander Webb Heintzelman was invited to the tourney, but had to pass out of deference to his sixth-place standing on the Hogan Tour. The top five are exempted onto next year's PGA Tour and the Hogans are in Pittsburgh this week.
* The best national amateur, NCAA and Northern Telecom Open champion Phil Mickelson of Arizona State could do in the PAC-10 championships was a tie for fourth.