POTOMAC -- Mark Brooks came into this year's Kemper Open as The Other Guy in his threesome, obscured by the imposing shadows cast by John Daly and Phil Mickelson.
After leaving Daly and Mickelson in the dust with an opening-round 65 Thursday, Brooks appeared ready to do the same to the rest of the field yesterday by doubling his three-shot lead on two different occasions.
But Brooks ran into problems on the back nine at Avenel. By the time he was finished, he had seen a possible record-setting round turn into merely a respectable one. His seemingly insurmountable lead had become significantly less comfortable.
Brooks had four bogeys over the final eight holes, finishing with a 68 for a 9-under-par 133 total and a two-stroke lead over Bobby Wadkins, who shot 67. Mark O'Meara was at 137, and four golfers reached the halfway point at 138, including Mickelson, who made a hole-in-one.
After getting to 6-under for the day, 12-under for the tournament, through 10 holes, Brooks played the rest of the round in 3-over par. Instead of having the biggest lead in a PGA Tour event in nearly four years, he just equaled the largest 36-hole lead since the tournament moved to Avenel in 1987.
While Brooks' lead at the halfway point tied the tournament record set last year by subsequent champion Grant Waite, it wasn't nearly as large as it might have been. His four bogeys on the last eight holes included a missed 3-foot putt for par at 18.
"I'm not happy at all," said Brooks, 33. "I'm a bit of perfectionist, so I'm not pleased. I had some great breaks on the front nine and I didn't take advantage [of the big lead]. It was just some poor mental errors. The key tomorrow is hitting the right clubs."
Said Wadkins, "I heard Mark got to 11 or 12 and at that point, I can't go out and stomp on his ball. But he did have a chance to come back to us and he did."
After making four birdies and then an eagle at No. 6 to get to 12-under and move six shots ahead of O'Meara, Brooks started to play like someone ranked 59th on the money list. He bogeyed both 11 and 12 as a result of selecting the wrong clubs. He then followed his only back-nine birdie, at 16, by hitting the wrong club again and watching his tee shot on the par-3 17th drop into the water.
Though he made a tough 15-footer for bogey, Brooks saw his lead shrink some more when his short putt at 18 lipped out.
Brooks, who got a little testy after his opening round, when a reporter asked if he felt like "chopped liver" compared to Daly and Mickelson, was not in the best of moods yesterday after his poor play on the back nine.
"Normally, you get to go to the [practice] range and you don't have to explain it to everybody," said Brooks.
That's where Wadkins usually goes after playing. Since undergoing neck surgery two years ago, the younger and less famous brother of Lanny Wadkins has seen his own respectable career go rapidly downhill. After losing his tour card at the end of the 1992 season, Wadkins has needed sponsors' exemptions to play in regular events.
With more than $2 million earned over a 20-year career, Wadkins has made more money than any player in tour history without winning. He has lost twice in sudden-death playoffs, and has finished second three other times.
"It's in my mind every week I play," said Wadkins, 42. "I've had my chances to win and some guys have played better. I've had chances to win and didn't play well. We're only halfway there, but I'm trying."
So is Brooks. Trying to hold on, to his emotions, his lead, and, for awhile yesterday, what appeared to be his tournament.
NOTES: John Daly shot 71 for a 144 total, nine shots back. Mickelson's hole-in-one came on the 165-yard 11th. Marco Dawson also made a hole-in-one on the 235-yard third hole.
Kelly Gibson shot 7-under par 64, one shot off the course record.
The cut was made at 3-over 145, which is where former University of Maryland coach Fred Funk finished after even-par 71. Among those missing the cut was Tom Kite, the tour's and tournament's all-time money leader. Frederick native Donnie Hammond also missed the cut.
The leader . . .
Mark Brooks 65-68133
. . . and selected followers
Bobby Wadkins 68-67135
Mark O'Meara 69-68137
Robert Gamez 72-66138
Wayne Levi 68-70138
D.A. Weibring 70-68138
Rob Boldt 70-68138
Payne Stewart 73-68141
John Daly 73-71144
Fred Funk 74-71145
Lanny Wadkins 71-74145
$ Complete scores: 10C