POTOMAC -- Sometimes golfers on the PGA Tour have a hint that a good round is lurking. They might have made a few putts the previous week, or felt things coming together on the practice tee.
And sometimes, like yesterday at Avenel, they have no clue at all.
Tour rookie David Toms, who had missed the cut in his last five tournaments, shot an out-of-nowhere 8-under-par 63 to take the opening-round lead at the $1.1 million Kemper Open.
It tied the course record, set last year by Ted Schulz, and gave Toms a one-shot lead over Jay Don Blake. Brad Fabel, John Inman and Wayne Levi are two strokes behind, and defending champion Billy Andrade is three back.
"I know I'm capable of shooting some good scores," said Toms, 25, who equaled the final round he shot earlier this year at the Northern Telecom Open in Tucson, where he finished third. "It's a matter of getting all the things going at the same time."
Toms has had a lot of things going lately, but none involving golf. He recently was forced to withdraw from a rain-delayed U.S. Open qualifying round in Dallas to settle on a new house.
After getting married Saturday in Shreveport, La., Toms and his bride, Sonya, are putting off their honeymoon until next month. They are spending this week at a Holiday Inn to cut down on bills.
"I've had a lot on my mind," said Toms, who qualified for the tour late last year on his third try and, until recently, had put together a decent rookie year. "I haven't had much time to concentrate on my golf."
Avenel wasn't among his thoughts. In fact, when he showed up at the 10th tee early yesterday afternoon, it was the first time he had seen the newly lengthened Tournament Players Club course.
Toms knew nothing about how easy it had played during its first five years, or the improvements that had seemingly made it more challenging. In this case, a little local knowledge might have been dangerous.
"I think it helped," Toms said. "I was just going from hole to hole. That's probably the best way to do it because you can't look ahead to any particular hole."
Like Toms, Blake seemed to be a bit shocked by his 7-under 64. Though he has played well this year, and finished second as recently as the BellSouth Classic in Atlanta three weeks ago, Blake had to withdraw from the past two tournaments because of back problems.
"In a way, it was a surprise," said Blake, who has won once in five years on tour. "I didn't play hardly any golf before I came here. I was going out to see if my game would hold up and my back would hang in there. Fortunately today, I hung in there and put up a good score."
Toms and Blake weren't the only players who found the perfectly coiffed 7,005-yard course a panacea for their problems, both physical and otherwise. Among them:
* Levi, the tour's leading player two years ago who slumped badly last season. Levi, 40, is coming back after withdrawing last week because he strained his neck while wrestling with his 4-year-old son.
* Inman, the younger brother of former tour pro and 1976 Kemper champion Joe Inman. Since winning the Provident Classic as a rookie in 1987, Inman, 29, has watched his game go steadily downhill.
* Andrade, who after winning Kemper and Westchester back to back last year has struggled most of this season. He has missed the cut seven times in 14 tournaments, including last week at The Colonial.
"You're only as good as your last round, and my last one was pretty pitiful," said Andrade, 91st on the money list this year. "It's nice to get off to a good start. It gives me some confidence."
It nearly turned out to be an even better start for Andrade. But after playing the back side in 5-under, and getting to 6-under by ramming in a 40-footer for birdie from the fringe of the par-3 third hole, Andrade stumbled a bit.
After missing a three-footer for birdie at the still easy par-5 sixth hole, then bogeying the 461-yard par-4 seventh when he failed to get out of a green-side bunker, Andrade saved par from a bunker at No. 8 and salvaged as good a round as he's had in a while.
"Thrilled," Andrade said.
So was Toms.
The leader . . .
David Toms.. . . ... .. 33-30-63
. . . and followers
Jay Don Blake. . .... . 33-31-64
John Inman. .. ... .... 31-34-65
Wayne Levi. ........... 34-31-65
Brad Fabel. ......... . 33-32-65
Billy Andrade. ... .... 36-30-66
John Daly. ............ 33-35-68
Fred Funk. ............ 37-33-70
Mark Rypien. .......... 40-40-80
Complete scores, 6C