POTOMAC -- The eagles landed yesterday in the second round of the Kemper Open, two dozen of them all over the TPC at Avenel. They included three holes-in-one and were part of a record-setting, red-number day on which Fred Funk stretched his opening round lead from one shot to three.
Funk had none of the eagles, and was only a witness to Justin Leonard's hole-in-one. But the former University of Maryland golf coach had five birdies in a 5-under par round of 66 that gave him a 36-hole tournament record of 12-under 130.
With it, Funk leads three players, Australians Craig Parry and Stuart Appleby as well as Chris DiMarco by three shots. Rookie Brad Elder, who along with Appleby matched the course-record of 8-under par 63, is four shots behind.
"It's unusual to see all the holes-in-one," said Funk. "Usually if you have one in a tournament, it's a lot. But to have three, and [Thursday's] double-eagle [by Woody Austin], it's the kind of course that sets up for dramatics."
The three holes-in-one -- by Leonard and Brian Kamm at the 202-yard 17th and by Mike Weir at the 165-yard 11th -- were one short of a PGA Tour record, set in the 1989 U.S. Open at Oak Hill. Appleby's 29 was also a competitive back-nine record at Avenel.
"It wasn't very tough because there wasn't any wind," said Appleby, 27, who had one of the eagles. "If you haven't any wind, you can hit the same shots over and over again. The course was very easy."
Three days removed from corrective laser surgery on his eyes and two years removed from the last of his four PGA Tour victories, Funk has hit the same kind of shots during the first two rounds. A player who has struggled with his putting the past two years has figured out the fast greens.
Starting out on the 10th tee yesterday, Funk made a 5-footer on the par-4 12th to go to 8-under and a 20-footer on the par-4 15th to tie Parry for the lead at 9-under. Funk then took the lead with another 20-footer on the par-5 second hole. He made a 25-footer on the par-3 third hole and a 12-footer on the par-4 seventh.
"I was conscious of staying patient, but I wanted to separate myself from the field a little bit," said Funk, 41. "Even though it's only Friday, I don't think you can ever have enough birdies in the bank. I like to make a lot of deposits early and keep them going because you never know."
It marks the first time in four years that Funk has made the cut at what amounts to his hometown tournament, and the first time he has ever been in contention at the Kemper Open. With cheers of "Go Terps" following him around the course, Funk has a chance to make this a happy homecoming.
It has allowed Funk to make jokes at his own expense.
"Usually I get a pretty good following that starts out, and by the fourth or fifth hole, everybody leaves because I'm already 3-over," said Funk, who has finished no higher than a tie for 27th here. "They go watch somebody else."
The crowds have been with Funk since the beginning of the tournament, at first mostly to watch Leonard. The tournament's defending champion could even be closer, considering that his 4-under 67 yesterday included three-putting from 5 feet for double-bogey on the par-4 10th hole and failing to get up-and-down on the par-4 at the fourth hole later on.
But a 2-foot birdie on his final hole left Leonard five shots behind, the same position he was to start the last round a year ago when he beat Mark Wiebe by a shot. In fact, Leonard also won last summer's British Open and this year's Tournament Players Championship by coming back from the same deficit.
Asked if he has found his comfort zone, Leonard smiled.
"I felt like I came back from a tough start," said the 25-year-old Texan. "I caught a couple of funny breaks on the front side. Hopefully, I got it out of me. I need to play pretty good the next two days, watching the way Freddie is playing."
The hole-in-one by Leonard was his fourth in competition, his second on the PGA Tour. It came after Kamm had aced the same hole and before Weir made his. After the ball dropped in the cup, Leonard raised his arms and then bowed deeply to the crowd.
"My caddie said, 'Just get it in the air,' " said Leonard. "It came off solid and it went in."
Funk and Scott Simpson, the other member of the threesome, high-fived Leonard. Simpson threw down his club in mock disgust after his ball landed 25 feet away. Funk offered his to Leonard to hit in his place, then hit his tee shot 15 feet away.
"It was electric out there with so many people," said Funk. "It was phenomenal. I was telling Justin, 'This is kind of weird, but when you hit that, I thought it was in the hole.' I didn't even see the ball yet. It just sounded so crisp. I knew it was on-line. Then when I looked up and saw where it was going to land, I said, 'That's probably going in.' "
Another eagle had landed, one of two dozen that swarmed the TPC at Avenel for the second round of the Kemper Open.
Pub Date: 6/06/98