The Congressional Country Club golf course brings out the best in Gil Morgan, the nonpracticing optometrist from Edmond, Okla., who shot 6-under-par 66 yesterday to pull into contention in the Kemper Open.

His three-round total of 212 trails leader Larry Mize by four strokes.

In 1983, Morgan had his car packed and ready to roll after he thought he was through playing here, but was summoned back to the course for a five-way sudden-death playoff, eventually won by Fred Couples. Three other times he has finished third or tied for third. He was the second-round leader here in the 1976 PGA Championship.

"I really don't know why I do well here," Morgan said after his round that included six birdies yesterday. "It's a good place for my game."

Morgan, 39, a winner of six tournaments and almost $2 million in 14 years on tour, is plagued by a calcium deposit in his left shoulder, which caused him to a have an "off year" of $130,000 in official earnings last season. He had an operation on the shoulder last November, but it still gives him pain. He has won $49,130 this season.

"Today it didn't bother me," Morgan said. "Sometimes it aches during the round. I can see it in my shot pattern; a lot of pulls and pull hooks."

Morgan said winning here is "not out of reach. This is a golf course where they have a tendency to back up the final day."

Doug Johnson, who grew up near Green Bay, Wis., and now lives in Ocala, Fla., is one of three left-handers on tour; he missed the cut here by one shot with 74 -- 147. Russ Cochran, the most successful lefty on tour, made the cut with a pair of 72s. The third one, Ernie Gonzalez, made it with 74 -- 145.

Johnson said he has missed the cut by one shot several times this season. "It's kind of depressing, but I'm learning every week," said Johnson, 35, who won $11,000 in 1980-81, but then lost playing privileges.

Bob Charles of New Zealand, now doing well on the Senior PGA Tour, is considered the best left-handed golfer of all time, with more than $500,000 in earnings.

Donnie Hammond, the former Frederick, Md., pro who started the day two shots off the lead, double-bogeyed the 12th hole and had three back-nine bogeys for 75 -- 214, six off Mize's pace.

On the par-3 No. 12 hole, Hammond hit his tee shot into a bunker. He failed to get out of the sand with his first try, then blasted onto the green and two-putted for 5. Bogeys followed on three of his next four holes. "That double bogey kind of shook me up," Hammond said.

He made his third birdie of the day at 17, with a 10-foot putt.

Officials said yesterday's crowd was 32,000, the biggest for a Saturday in seven Kemper Opens here. The single-day Kemper record was 34,000, on 1985's closing day.