POTOMAC -- By the time Tom Kite reached the eighth tee at Avenel yesterday, his one-shot lead over Grant Waite going into the final round of the $1.3 million Kemper Open had turned into a one-shot deficit.
As he strolled down the fairway after hitting his drive, Kite spotted one of his best friends, Caves Valley pro Dennis Satyshur. He walked over to Satyshur wearing a playful grin.
"This isn't exactly the script that you would have written," Kite said. "It's even better."
In the end, Kite couldn't quite finish the story the way he planned. Missed birdie putts throughout a final-round of 1-over-par 72 left him one shot behind Waite.
A player who long had made a healthy living with second-place checks before becoming one of the tour's most consistent winners was not happy with his position last night.
"I'd rather be sitting here having won the golf tournament," said Kite, who had his best finish since he returned from a five-week layoff for two herniated discs. "I expected to win the golf tournament.
"It's not that Grant went out and shot 65 [he had 70] and ran away from the field. He played a solid round. If I had done it myself, it would have been different."
It was little consolation to Kite that the $140,400 he earned put him back at the top of the tour money list. With $658,964 this year -- giving him close to a tour-record $8.3 million for his career -- Kite is $32,026 ahead of Bernhard Langer for No. 1 in the standings.
Nor did it give Kite an extra boost of confidence going into his U.S. Open defense next month at Baltusrol in Springfield, N.J. "I'm not right on it yet," he said. "I hit the ball fairly well, but it's not the way I was hitting on the West Coast earlier this year."
New Zealanders' day
The victory by Waite here was one of three by New Zealanders around the world yesterday. Bob Charles, certainly the most famous player the country ever produced, won the Bell Atlantic Seniors Championship in Malvern, Pa. Greg Turner, who grew up playing against Waite, won the Italian Open.
"We're becoming a real word force," said Waite, who became the first player from New Zealand to win a regular PGA Tour event since Charles won the Greater Greensboro Open in 1974.