POTOMAC -- Tommy Tolles would have liked to have been able to attribute yesterday's round of 5-under 66 to his change in golf clubs, and Armour Golf certainly would have appreciated the plug. But like any good carpenter, Tolles wasn't about to blame his tools. Instead, he credited his manager, Lyn Roach of Weston, Va., for clearing the "little demons" from his head and putting him back on course.
"I've been playing kind of scared golf lately," said Tolles, who turned in the best score on a windy day at Avenel. "After a sitdown lunch with [Roach], we discussed certain things that we're going to do for the rest of the year and a course of action here and there. I think just getting that stuff off my chest gave me enough relief for the short term and I went out and just played golf this week."
Tolles got off to a good start, sinking a 25-footer for birdie on the par-4 second hole. After giving a stroke back by rushing and missing a tap-in for par on No. 4, he hit two approach shots stiff and made back-to-back birdies on Nos. 7 and 8.
The resident of Flat Rock, N.C. found a pine tree with his tee shot on No. 15, but kept his composure and his momentum by holing out from 70 feet to save par. "Last year, I had so much fun just being in this position, a chance to win, a chance to finish well, a chance to play in front of a large crowd," said Tolles, who finished third at last year's Masters and in the top 10 at the U.S. Open and The Players Championship, but has missed the cut in his last five tournaments.
"It's hard to put those things behind you, or at least it is right now for me. So, I'll be a little nervous tomorrow."
While a handful of players battled back into contention yesterday, a number played themselves out of the tournament.
Included in that group were former tournament champions Justin Leonard (1997) and Lee Janzen (1995), who were paired together for yesterday's third round.
Leonard, who began last year's final round of the Kemper trailing Mark Weibe by five strokes, double-bogeyed the first hole and went on to shoot a 5-over 76. He begins today's round trailing leader Fred Funk by 10 shots.
Janzen, who grew up in Westminster and learned the game on the course at Western Maryland College, fell apart on the back nine after making a quadruple-bogey on No. 12, a 472-yard par-4. The 1993 U.S. Open winner shot 41 on the back and his round of 79 put him at 2 over after three rounds.
Brad Elder, who put himself in the hunt with Friday's course-record tying round of 63, needed 15 more strokes to complete yesterday's round. Elder, who had a bogey-free second round, recorded three bogeys and a double-bogey on the front to give him 41 at the turn.
O'Meara defends old-timers
Masters champion Mark O'Meara, considered one of the "older" players on the tour at 41, defended his age group after yesterday's even-par round of 71.
"The young guys tell me I'm over the hill but I like that," O'Meara said. "The golf ball that's on the ground has no idea what age the guy is that's hitting that sucker. If the golf ball doesn't know how old you are, there's no reason why players in their early 40s or late 30s shouldn't play well because both positive and negative experiences help to make you a better player in the future."
After witnessing 24 eagles in Friday's round, the gallery was treated to only one yesterday, that coming off the club of Kelly Gibson on the 520-yard, par-5 sixth hole. Hal Sutton may not win the tournament, but the Shreveport, La., native put himself in the running for the "Mr. Consistency Award" after firing a third straight round of 69. The only player left to challenge Sutton for the distinction is Joey Sindelar (71-71-71-213).
Pub Date: 6/07/98