In figuring the likely winners and losers in the Kemper Open, the major unknown is the mental condition of the players. Coming to the demanding Congressional course after the ordeals of the Colonial and Memorial tournaments -- both on hard courses -- even the best are likely to be feeling a bit drained.
Also to be considered is the lull before the U.S. Open, two weeks ahead at Baltusrol in Springfield, N.J. Some players will be using the Kemper to begin the peaking process, others (of the Open-is-just-around-tournament school) will tell themselves to forget Baltusrol, go for the [WORD ILLEGIBLE] Kemper first prize.
The final factor is the mental strain of just being in Washington. One pro I spoke with on Monday was in a rage about the $60-per-night motel bill. "And it was just a small room, nothing special. Nowhere else in the country is the price that high. This kind of ripoff gets to me."
Kemper can be won by any of about 20 players who, at the moment, are in fair command of the game. Narrowing my choices to five, I think the winner will be one of the following:
Ray floyd -- He knows Congressional and he likes the course. In the 1976 PGA, he finished a stroke behind the winner. He played well in the 1964 U.S. Open, as well. He is long off the tee, which helped him win at Doral earlier this year and is important at Congressional.He has been having a decent season.
Lee Trevino -- The big courses don't intimidate him. It just depends how hard he wants to work to keep Congressional's long par 4s from getting him down. He plays the clown at times, but at heart Trevino is a gutty, daring player who thrives on taking tournaments away from those who don't want to win them bad enough.
Jerry Pate -- A conscientious fellow who puts in his time on the practice tee, Pate is due for a win after finishing second twice this spring. He overthinks on occasions, but he understands the ways of course management.
Jim Colbert -- He was working hard on Congressional's practice tee on Monday, batting them out one after the other. He is a veteran, a technician, and he stays calm when he has a run of bad holes. Colbert is not an attacker, and on attack-proof Congressional, steadiness is the approach.
George burns -- Now that he has won a tournament -- the Crosby -- Burns is capable of good scoring without fearing the "one bad round" syndrome. He had developed the confidence to control a bad round before it becomes devastating. He is off to a strong season, having earned more than $100,000 by early April.
The kemper field is also strong with winsome losers. The six likeliest to finish second or lower are:
Tom Watson -- The word on the tour is that although Watson is regularly winning, he is scoring a lot better than he is playing. He is in a streak of pulling off some amazing up-and-down -- missing the greens but chipping close and one-putting.
But streaks end, particularly this kind, and the thinking now is that Watson, after losing last week in Memorial and Colonial the week before, is in for a dry spell. Without doubt, also, his mind is on the Open. Despite his record as a money-winner -- first for the past three years -- Watson has won only one major championship in the United States, which ties him with Lou Graham and Orville Moody.
Gary Player -- Ask him and he'll tell you about all the foreign tournaments he's won and how that makes him the greatest golfer of all time and how Jack Nicklaus hasn't won the South African Open 11 times and how it's tougher to be an international champ, and on and on, depending on how much of Player's ego you can take.
Arnold Palmer -- Tom Watson said yesterday that Arnie is going to win again. A few years ago, Palmer was toying with the idea of running for political office in Pennsylvania, so Maybe kindly Tom had that in mind. As a loyal Republican -- Palmer recently joined in the attack against the Federal Trade Commission -- his chances of political victory are much better than his chances on the tour.
Arnie ought to concentrate on winning a few senior events, now that Sam Snead is slowing up at age 68.
Tom Weiskopf -- He's won the Kemper three times, but Congresional isn't Quail Hollow. Like Player, Tom believes he is underrated. Indeed, Weiskopf is a former South African PGA champ. Should he and Gary be paired together, they will have plenty to talk about.
J. C. Snead -- He is a solid player but he is over-golfed. It's difficult to play week after week and not get blurry in the head. In 1979, Snead palyed 31 tournaments, which is a heavy schedule. A good rest from the tour is what he needs.
Larry Nelson -- Someone ought to give a federal grant to Chi Chi Rodriquez and Lee Trevino to induce them to teach this bland fellow how to loosen up a bit before golf's television rating go even lower. Let it be hoped that lifeless Larry had his big year in 1979. Let him take his winning ways to backgammon, where a yawn is an exciting moment.