POTOMAC -- Dave Toms, whose exploits are such that he commands about two inches of small type in the 384-page PGA Tour media guide, was no more than a minute into an explanation of his record 63 yesterday when a listener whispered, "The guy has to be making this stuff up."
Toms, who carried just a one-stroke lead into today's second round of the Kemper Open despite tying the course mark at Avenel, had quite a story to tell:
* He got married last Saturday.
* He closed on a very expensive house in Shreveport, La., last week.
* He had never even been on the grounds at Avenel until Tuesday and still hadn't played the course when he teed it up for real before a gallery of one, new wife Sonya.
* He had not survived the cut in his last five tournaments.
* After college, it took him three attempts at the qualifying school to make it on tour.
* He decided to return to his old putter after utilizing another for the last six months.
Of such diverse circumstances and pressures are career efforts wrought, obviously.
"You know, it probably helped me that me and my caddie knew very little about the course," said the former LSU All-American. "I couldn't start thinking ahead to an upcoming par-5 or what club I was going to use on a par-3. I just had to play each hole as it came to me."
It turned out to be love at first sight, Dave dropping an 18-footer for a birdie immediately, then hitting two more from 8 and 10 feet for an outgoing 33. He then proceeded to go totally berserk, dropping birdie putts on five of the next seven holes.
The round, his second 63 in a season that has seem him win about $100,000, due mainly to a third-place finish in Tucson, pushed Jay Don Blake into second spot and Brad Fabel, John Inman and Wayne Levi into a three-way tie for third at 65.
Defending champ Billy Andrade, who certainly hasn't lost the magic here, started out with four birdies on the first five holes and checked in with a 66 after requiring just 30 blows to complete the first nine holes.
All told, 54 golfers broke par (71) and 16 more equaled it. Last year, the cut fell at 140, 2-under-par, and it could be more of the same this time around even though the course has been lengthened and, supposedly, toughened up.
"After the pro-am [Wednesday], I thought the scores would be up," said Blake. "But even though some of the holes were two or three clubs longer because of the recent rain, we could score because the greens were so consistent. You could read them and just about all putts ran true."
Blake also had a story to tell, detailing how he had played very little golf the last two weeks when a back injury forced him to pull out of tour stops in Texas. "I hit the ball terribly in a pro-am Tuesday and didn't get to play [Wednesday], so I'd say I was fortunate to hit it so well and execute such a good round of golf under the circumstances."
The leader was asked if, after a big wedding in Louisiana, it wasn't a bit of a strain hustling up to Washington to play golf a couple of days later. "The house we bought, we also furnished and decorated it ourselves. I had to make some money very soon," he explained. "I'll play the next two weeks, then we'll take a honeymoon the week of the U.S. Open."
What manner of golfer is this bypassing the Open? "I was going to play a qualifier for it in Texas, but it got rained out on a Monday. I couldn't stick around Tuesday because I had to close on the house back home," he answered. The guy produced another interesting hunk of information every 15 seconds.
For instance, it was back at the beginning of the year when he came out of nowhere to shoot a final-round 63 good for a 272 score and a $75,000 check in Arizona. "They used two courses at the Northern Telecon tourney," he said, "and I didn't get to see one of them until I played it."
NOTES -- Mark Rypien of the Washington Redskins had a birdie on the last hole he played, but still required 80 strokes to make it around the 7,000-yard layout. "It's the most intensive pressure I've ever been under, but I had a ball," said the Super Bowl MVP quarterback. Better yet, there were two pros in back of him, Dennis Watson and Dave Quinn, with 81s.
Mark carded an 82 in the pro-am, so maybe he knew his hopes for a 74 or 75 were a tad optimistic, especially when he noted, "the club felt like it weighed a thousand pounds on the first tee."
Toms' 63 tied the course record set by Ted Schulz in the third round last year. Schulz was among 20 players turning in a 1-under 70, including Greg Norman, Fred Funk, Mark O'Meara, Payne Stewart, Gil Morgan and Jeff Sluman . . . PGA champ John Daly, he of the booming drives and impressive gallery, had a 68.