Leader Love makes a splash with record-tying 63

POTOMAC — POTOMAC -- Davis Love III likes hunting, fishing, North Carolina basketball, the Atlanta Braves and stock car racing.

Now something else can be added to his list. He likes the Tournament Players Club at Avenel course.


Love seized the Kemper Open lead yesterday with an 8-under-par 63, tying the course and tournament record held by Ted Schulz (1991) and David Toms (1992). His 131 for 36 holes broke the tournament record of 132 established by Chris Perry in 1987.

Second with a 133 was Scott Hoch, followed by Robert Gamez, Tom Kite, Wayne Grady and Phil Blackmar at 135. Vijay Singh, the first round co-leader with Gamez at 65, was at 136 after a 71.


"I putted extremely well," Love said. "I had a monster of 50 feet and a lot of 15- to 20-footers. This is a course where you can get going good or get going bad."

His start was less than good, but he still prospered. Love bogeyed his second and third holes, but then ripped off three birdies and an eagle on the next four.

The North Carolina alumnus started the day 4-under and finished 11-under. He fashioned his score despite hitting two balls into the water.

"I've hit two balls into the water before," Love, 31, said, "but I've never done it and scored like this. When I hit a ball in the water on the second hole, I said, 'There you go -- you didn't concentrate.' "

The best score of Love's pro career was a 60 at the 1994 Hawaiian Open. He wound up second.

"I had that one good day," he said. "The rest of the time I was in the 70s."

Love came into the Kemper with the goal of focusing on his shot-making rather than his score.

"I played about as good as I can play, except for two or three swings," he said. "Give me a 6-iron and an 8-iron over again and I'd have really scored." He was referring to the water shots.


Hoch, 39, wryly attributed his 65 to changing his contact lenses yesterday morning.

"Everything sure looked good today," Hoch said, smiling. "I shot a 65, so switching didn't hurt, did it?"

The Kemper Open is simply not the Kemper Open without Kite's name on the leader board.

In 13 previous Kempers, Kite has finished in the top five four times and the top 10 six times. He was second twice and won in

1987, the first year the tournament was staged

the Tournament Players Club at Avenel. He is the Kemper's all-time leading money winner with $425,904.


"I've always played well here," Kite said. "That breeds confidence."

It showed the past two days. The 45-year-old Texan followed his opening 67 with a 68 yesterday for a 7-under par 135.

"It's fun to play like this," Kite said. "These were good, solid rounds. I had a few good tournaments early in the year, but this definitely hasn't been my best year. This is about as good as I've played."

For a man with 19 PGA Tour victories and who is the all-time money-leader with $9,261,125, this clearly has been a subpar year.

He is No. 96 on the money list with $101,706. Since a tie for sixth in January, Kite's best is a tie for 23rd in the Colonial National in Fort Worth two weeks ago.

He thought his game was showing signs of life early last month in the Bell South Classic in Atlanta. He opened with a 66, then dropped to a 77, but finished 68-72.


"I thought I was breaking out there, because there were a lot of plus signs," Kite said. "The trick is to stay positive when people around you want to dwell on the negative. It's tough to maintain a good mental approach out here."

Kite's problem this year hasn't been lack of birdies, but that birdies have been offset by bogeys. In last week's Memorial Tournament in Dublin, Ohio, Kite had 21 birdies, but was only 5-under par.

"There are a lot of tournaments I've played well in over the years, that I haven't played well in this year," Kite said. "Here, so far, I've played well. So I think it's that my game has improved. I just had to eliminate the bogeys."

Kite received help from Ben Crenshaw on his putting before the Memorial. They flew together from Fort Worth to Dublin and wound up on the putting green for 40 minutes before the tournament.

"He had me put my hands further forward," said Kite, who hasn't won since 1993. "Finally, he said, 'Looks good.' Coming from someone like that, it does things for the confidence."

As a leader, Grady is in an unfamiliar position. He has only one top 10 finish since 1992 and hasn't won since capturing the PGA Championship in 1990, the second of his two Tour victories. His best finish this year is a tie for 35th, and he has missed four cuts.


"I've played well lately, but this is the first time I've gotten anything out of it," Grady said. "It feels good to see my name on the leader board for the first time in about five years."

Gamez, the first round co-leader with Singh, was pleased with his 70, even though it paled beside his opening 65.

"I was all over the course," Gamez said. "I played poorly, but I'm still under par. That's how strong my game is right now. It's encouraging to get away with a round like that."


The leader . . . Davis Love III 68-63131 . . . and selected followers Scott Hoch 68-65133 Robert Gamez 65-70135 Tom Kite 67-68135 Wayne Grady 66-69135 Phil Blackmar 67-68135 Vijay Singh 65-71136 Mark O'Meara 66-70136 Greg Norman 72-66138 Donnie Hammond 69-72141 Fred Funk 73-71144