And they want to tame Congressional. They want to increase par and reshape two memorable holes, so the home-run hitters of golf won't sulk away from the Kemper Open with their egos shattered. After John Mahaffey floated off the 18th green in victory yesterday, all that seemed ludicrous.

If golf were boxing, it would be like tying a Sugar Ray Leonard's right hand behind his back so a Larry Homes would have an even better chance to batter him senseless. If golf were football, it would be like outlawing the trap block.

The best courses demand the purest shots, not spray and pray. Golf is supposed to reward pateince and pluck as much as power. Which is why, in an excellent Kemper field, one of the shortest hitters was able to better par over one of the longest courses.

John Mahaffey will not be longest off the tee unless he hits from the ladies' markers. He is arguably one of golf's masters at the moment. But he has absolutely no chance to win the Masters, where par is advertised as 72 but really is 68 for the gorillas capable of reaching the par 5, with an iron.

For the Kemper, Congressional is fair. Par is honest, with the rough reasonable and the green just short of treacherous. On every hole, there is enough room for a long hitter to flex his muscles and enough jungle to force the gorillas into jail.

Mahaffey drifted through those mean ol' holes that lots of his peers cried were unfair this week. He took a whack at the 456-yard sixth and the 460-yard 10th par 4s that Andy Bean and some others would like to see remade into par 5s.

Surprisingly, little John has the advantage on the longer, tight holes. He may be hitting a fair longer iron, but he surely will be more accurate -- and less demolished if he happens to make bogey.

If Congressional should alter six and 10, it would make them longer but actually easier for howitzers such as Bean. And six would have to be drastically reshaped so galleries could be titillated by a pro tempting fate with a long second shot over water.

Is there anything more fascinating than watching a craftsman use every tool in his bag well? Mahaffey this week played the game as well as it might be played anywhere this year, surley better than anyone has mustered at Congressional.

The rough was wicked when Ken Venturi shot 278 in the '64 Open and Dave Stockton 281 in the '76 PGA. But Mahaffey, himself a PGA winner and regular contender in the Open, beat Venturi's mark by three shots and Stockton's by an astonishing six.

"A guy shoots five under he ought to win by three or four shots," and Craig Stadler, one of the tour's belters and the last golfer with any chance to beat Mahaffey. "Sensational? Something better."

Most tournaments on Congressional-like courses are won by players not quite sure how they did it. And when they have time to reflect, it often becomes evident that someone lost first prize as much as someone else won it.

The winning stroke, more often than not, is a four-foot bender for par that somehow finds the bottom of the cup through no fault of the fellow guiding the putter. And the part-glassy, part-glee look comes from having chocked less than the others the last round.

The final round was no Sunday stroll for Mahaffey. But he almost always was in position for something nice to happen. His only lapse was on perhaps the easiest hole, the eighth. He slipped throught the evils at Nos. 6 and 10 with little trouble -- and ended his round not with a whisper but a birdie-birdie bang.

Stadler might have made Mahaffey squirm had his short birdie putt at 17 taken a quarter-turn more. They were tied at three-under but Mahaffey had a one-iron shot to the par 3 16th after Stadler walked off 17.

If Stadler's putt had fallen and Mahaffey suddenly found himself behind by a stroke, that one-iron might have seemed sledge-hammer heavy on the tee. The putt seemed as certain as anything in Washington lately, true and strong.

And short.


All week the players had growled about not being able to stop putts short of carrying their hair blowers in their bags, turning them on and leaping down and in front of the out-of-control pellet.

The putt Stadler needed most was short.

"Half of it was over the cup," he said later. It was either or. It turned out or."

And Stadler lost any chance of winning by sailing his next tee shot over too many trees and under one with a few leaves that intruded on his backswing.

Needing a drastic hook, he got one that bent and rolled just enough to force a 35-yard pitch shot from the rough. And he had to hit it with one foot in a trap. He stroked it -- and the crowed sensed a miracle, for the ball was on line with the hole.

Stadler knew better. He already had his head on his left forearm, eyes buried, realizing the shot was too hard and an eyelash to the right. What he did not realize was that Mahaffey already had won the tournament with a birdie at 17.

"I had putts at 15 and 16 I thought sure would go in," Mahaffey said near the green minutes after the victory ceremonies. "But they didn't. The one at 17 didn't look that good, but it sank. And the birdie here (at 18) came when I was just trying to three-putt."

Mahaffey is a most agreeable champion for Kemper. And only the best golfers understand the full significance of his final three rounds under 70. Congressional need not lower its standards to bring them up to his level.