Kemper floats an extra day

Henry, Lickliter appear in command

Kemper Insurance Open Golf

May 28, 2001|By Don Markus | Don Markus,SUN STAFF

POTOMAC - This year's $3.5 million Kemper Insurance Open won't be remembered for the way J. J. Henry or Frank Lickliter or one of the other relative unknowns in contention here the past few days won his first PGA Tour event at the waterlogged Tournament Players Club at Avenel.

Nor will it be remembered for the way Phil Mickelson or Justin Leonard saw their chances washed away when the rain-delayed third round was finally played. Ultimately, it will be recalled for the first Monday finish in the event's 34-year history.

After a 10-minute fog delay in the morning and three rain delays in the afternoon, play was finally suspended at 6:42 last night.

When the tournament resumes this morning at 9 - weather permitting - Henry will be on the 15th tee and Lickliter on the 10th green. Both are at 16-under-par.

With the rest of the competition seemingly out of contention - only Bradley Hughes of Australia, at 12-under through nine holes, seems to have a chance - it likely will come down to either Henry or Lickliter becoming the tournament's third straight first-time winner.

Henry, a 26-year-old tour rookie, came into the week ranked 183rd on the money list and had missed the cut in eight of his first 12 tournaments, including his last two. Lickliter, 31, lost in a playoff to Mickelson earlier this year in the Buick Invitational.

"I'd like to be playing well enough not to be in a playoff," Lickliter said. "If it happens, I think I'll be a lot more prepared than I was the last time."

Lickliter was referring to a playoff in which he followed Mickelson on the tee. After Mickelson drove into the trees, Lickliter inexplicably pulled out his driver. He, too, drove into the trees. Mickelson wound up winning the hole - and the tournament - with a double-bogey.

Asked yesterday whether he has ever second-guessed himself for using a driver, Lickliter said: "Not once. Not one iota."

Tournament officials here might be asking themselves whether they should have allowed play in the third round to start late Saturday afternoon when the sun was out rather than wait to start yesterday, only to have fog delay things for a few minutes and rain to wreak havoc throughout the afternoon.

Lickliter started the round at 8-under and got to as low as 13-under with a string of five birdies over six holes on the front in the morning. He led by as many as four strokes before finishing at 6-under 65 for a three-round total of 13-under-par 200 and a two-stroke lead over Dan Forsman.

After a 67, Henry was three behind and tied with Per-Ulrik Johannson of Sweden. Henry quickly got himself in the hunt with a string of three straight birdies starting at the par-4 fourth. He briefly took the lead at 16-under with a birdie on the par-5 13th, but was tied by Lickliter's birdie at the par-3 ninth.

"I'm definitely disappointed [not to finish]," Henry said. "I was feeling it out here today. I was firing at it after the second rain delay, but I've got to finish strong. ... When the second round was called [Friday] I was in the middle of the 14th hole and I finished 2-under. That's got to be in the back of my mind."

What Mickelson has to be thinking about was what happened yesterday morning. Starting out at 7-under and two shots behind Hughes, Mickelson's errant drive on the par-5 sixth hole led to a bogey on what is normally a birdie hole. He later three-putted for par on the par-5 13th, missing a 30-inch birdie putt.

Mickelson wound up with a 1-over 72 and finished the day at 10-under after completing half of the final round.

Leonard, the 1997 champion, never made it that far. Starting at 6-under par through two rounds, he double-bogeyed the par-4 fourth hole and triple-bogeyed the par-4 12th to finish at 7-over 78. He played the front nine in 1-under in the afternoon.

It left the tournament to the lesser-known players and, ultimately, to either Lickliter or Henry.

Considering where they are on the course, it seems that the advantage belongs to Lickliter, since he has more opportunities to birdie, including the par-5 13th.

But considering the pressure both will face in trying to win their first PGA Tour event, playing fewer holes might be in Henry's favor.

"There's a lot of golf left for me. I'm not going to worry about what anybody else is doing," Lickliter said. "I'm just happy to be tied for the lead."

Said Henry: "I can't control what other guys do. I think I have to finish strong. ... I'm going to try to get something to eat, get a good night's sleep and dream good things."

The only other player with an outside chance is Hughes, the former Australian Rules football player who is also looking for his first win on the PGA Tour.

Hughes got into contention by putting a 3-wood approach to within 5 feet on the sixth hole, making his eagle putt to go to 11-under and then getting a birdie on the par-4 seventh.

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