POTOMAC -- The stars came out yesterday for the second round of the $1.1 million Kemper Open, and not a moment too soon. Just as the tournament was heating up. Just as the network television cameras were coming on.
Despite late stumbles, U.S. Open champion Payne Stewart, PGA champion John Daly and former British Open champion Mark Calcavecchia breathed some excitement into what had been a yawn-inspiring leader board at Avenel.
While four lesser-knowns still share the lead at 8-under-par 134 -- rookie and first-round leader David Toms, Jay Don Blake, Brad Fabel and Bob Gilder -- the presence of the others should make for an interesting weekend.
Calcavecchia, who started at 4-under and briefly tied for the lead before succumbing with bogeys at 16 and 17, is two shots behind after a 2-under 69. Daly is in a group of four players at 5-under, and Stewart was among those at 4-under. "It was kind of a disappointing finish, but I'm not going to let it bother me," said Calcavecchia, who is also one shot behind rookie Greg Kraft. "I'm having a lot of fun."
Said Stewart, who bogeyed the final hole for a 3-under 68: "Almost. One real mistake on the last hole cost me. But the trophy isn't awarded today."
With Toms and Fabel searching for their first PGA Tour victory, several others on the leader board are looking for their first in a while. Gilder hasn't won in nine years. Stewart and Daly haven't won since their respective major championships at Hazeltine and Crooked Stick last summer.
On a day when the leader boards around the 7,005-yard TPC course resembled rush-hour traffic on the nearby Beltway -- lots of backups -- it was Daly's climb into contention that caused the biggest stir. Bigger than John Inman's hole-in-one on the 239-yard par-3 third. Bigger than defending champion Billy Andrade killing a bird with his tee shot at No. 6.
And bigger than local hero Mark Rypien, whose ill-fated PGA Tour debut pumped up a second-round record-crowd to around 32,000. Things got so wild around Daly that he said, "It looked like a Redskins football game."
Though he might be hitting his jaw-dropping drives -- including a 330-yard poke at the 467-yard par-4 15th -- Daly isn't putting well enough to win. He blew a chance to be in the lead, or at least closer to it, by four -- putting from 40 feet for bogey on the easy par-5 sixth hole and by lipping out a four-footer for birdie on 15.
"I'm satisfied with the way I'm hitting the ball, but I'm not satisfied with the way I'm scoring," said Daly, whose wife, Bettye, walked all 18 holes yesterday despite being due with their first child. "I'm hitting the ball too good to be only 5-under, but I can't make a putt."
Stewart's stir yesterday wasn't caused by his shots as much as by the choice of colors in his outfit: the blue and silver of the locally hated Dallas Cowboys. He will likely wear nearly as reviled New York Giants' blue and white today, and hopes he stays in contention by the time he pulls out the burgundy and gold of the Washington Redskins for tomorrow's final round.
"That's a good guess," said Stewart.
Rypien, who normally wears those colors as the Redskins quarterback, was wearing red and black for the second straight day. The red was in Rypien's face and the black was on his scorecard. Rypien shot a thoroughly humbling 91 for a two-round total of 29-over par. He missed the cut by 28 shots.
With Rypien gone, the last two rounds will be left to the regular tour players. It will also, if the weather forecasters are correct, be left to the long-hitters since the recently toughened 7,005-yard course will be made even longer by the anticipated rain.
"That would be a little to my advantage," said Calcavecchia. "This is a tough course for short hitters. A short hitter could get worn out hitting all those 2- and 3-irons into greens."
Said Daly: "I'd rather play the golf course from the professional tees than the ladies' tees. We haven't played No. 6 from the tips, or No. 8. The last few times it's rained, the PGA has moved the tees up. I want to play them from the tips [way back]."
Aside from Daly and Calcavecchia, among those in contention who fit into the category of long hitters are Duffy Waldorf, who is at 6-under, and former Kemper Open champion Bill Glasson, at 5-under. Looming off in the distance is two-time Kemper champion Greg Norman, who is at 3-under after a 2-under 69.
"I know there are some guys up there who haven't won, or DTC haven't come close to winning, or haven't won in a long time," said Calcavecchia, who broke a personal drought of more than a year by winning this year's Phoenix Open. "But you never know what's going to happen. One of those guys could go nuts and blow everyone away."
Or they might start playing like Mark Rypien.
! The leaders . . .
Bob Gilder .. .. .68-66--134
David Toms .. .. .63-71--134
Brad Fabel .. .. .65-69--134
Jay Don Blake .. .64-70--134
. . . and followers
Greg Kraft .. .. .67-68--135
Mark Calcavecchia 67-69--136
John Daly .. .. ..68-69--137
Payne Stewart .. .70-68--138
Fred Funk .. .. ..70-72--142
Donnie Hammond .. 71-72--143
Complete scores, 10C