Say goodbye to the Congressional Crunchers who turned the Kemper Open into the PGA Tour's equivalent of the Gorilla Invitational for the last six years. Now, in all likelihood, we'll say hello to the Avenel Archers as the Kemper becomes the favored turf of the pro golf world's iron masters.

Greg Norman, Craig Stadler, Fred Couples, Bill Glasson and others like them -- long belters who loved Congressional's 7,173 yards, its blind shots and its brutal uphill long irons -- all announced themselves to the PGA world at Kemper. Norman went on to win a British Open and a money title; Stadler won a Masters and Couples a Tournament Players Championship.

The new 6,864-yard stadium course at Avenel hardly could be more different in its obvious demands and, presumably, will produce a contrary kind of champion. Before today's first round begins at 7 a.m., with $700,000 at stake, a prototype Avenel player already has stepped to the fore.

Yes, the same Larry Mize who won Tuesday's shootout with 5-under-par 31 came back and shot a bogeyless 65 for the day's low 18-hole round in yesterday's rain-shortened pro-am. The recently crowned Masters champion, who was runner-up the last two years at Congressional after last-day retreats -- albeit he took Norman six extra holes in 1986 -- has suddenly made himself a pretournament favorite.

"I like the golf course, especially the 10th, 11th and 12th holes down in the valley by the {Rocky Run} creek. That's a pretty spot on {any} golf course. They've got a good track here," said Mize, who is third on the 1987 tour money list with $363,045. "It's in really good shape for as young as it is. It isn't demanding off the tee, but you've got to hit good iron shots."

That search for the purely struck mid-to-short iron shot may well be the refrain here all week. Although quality big hitters such as Norman, Raymond Floyd, Couples and Mark Calcavecchia always have what boxers call "a slugger's chance," this is a golf course apparently created with a specific sort of player in mind.

"More and more of these stadium courses seem to help one kind of player," Floyd said yesterday with a sly grin. What sort would that be? "Maybe a player like Deane Beman used to be," said Floyd, only half joking.

Prognostications may be shattered by Sunday, but there's little doubt that Avenel has generated a pretournament consensus. Look out for the players who hit lots of fairways and greens in regulation and who have the sort of putting skills that could produce a four-round total of 270 or lower.

And who would those gentlemen be? Mize, Lanny Wadkins and Curtis Strange fit the profile best. Mize is No. 3 on the tour in driving accuracy, No. 4 in putting and a solid 40th in greens in regulation. Wadkins, who has won $336,293 this year, is the No. 1 putter on the tour and is accurate off the tee (No. 22) and onto the greens (No. 27). Strange is a model of consistency -- 10th in driving accuracy, 18th in greens in regulation and 15th in putting.

John Mahaffey, the 1980 Kemper champion, is brilliantly accurate -- one of what Lee Trevino calls "the 30-30 boys" because he fires his irons as precisely as a 30-30 rifle. But he's 136th in putting and has won only three times in the last six years. However, what if somebody lent him a hot putter? In other years, Trevino himself would have been a factor here; but he's only won $1,164 this season. Well, let us dream.

Vardon Trophy winner Scott Hoch, who led entering the fourth round of the Memorial tournament last week, leaps out as an Avenel type, as does Bruce Lietzke (if he could ever make a putt.) Among less-known players, David Frost, Ken Brown, Jay Haas, T.C. Chen, Scott Simpson and John Cook might find a comfy check-cashing home here.

The top 1987 woney-winner in the field, Payne Stewart ($378,157), can scorch any layout with his remarkable all-around game, which seldom seems perfectly suited to any particular course yet serves him well everywhere. "I think," said Stewart, "you're going to see a lot of low scores because we're going to be hitting short irons in and the greens are relatively flat."

The chance for low scores is obvious. Mize has eagled the par-5 sixth hole (479 yards) both days he's played it and had a mere three-foot putt after a 6-iron second shot yesterday. If Mize gets home with a 6-iron, what will Norman use? A wedge?

Great tournaments on great courses tend to be settled on Sunday. However, at week-to-week tour stops -- especially on courses where the pros say "you can shoot zero" -- the first round can be inordinately important. Shoot a nondescript 72 at the U.S. Open and you can catch up. Do it here and you could be eight shots behind.

So watch out as a dozen of the biggest names in the tournament, and 19 of the season's 29 top money-winners are entered, tee off in blocks in the area of 8:00-8:30 this morning, and again in the afternoon on Friday.

"This golf course is gonna be all right," said Gil Morgan, who, like Mize, is an irons wizard who never quite got over the hump to a victory at Congressional. "I'm not crazy about that long par-3 No. 3. It played 250. They could have done something nice with it at 185 yards."

At 185 yards, Arnold Palmer made back-to-back holes-in-one there last September in a seniors event and got himself a nice stone plaque on the spot. "There, you see," said Morgan.

Palmer gave Avenel a cannon shot of a christening in its inaugural event last fall. Now, the real big boys get their chance. No more magnificent clubhouse. No more retelling of Ken Venturi tales from the '64 U.S. Open. And no more complaining about what a cruel taskmaster Congressional could be.

The time has come for Avenel to start making its own history and its own name. Here's to pot bunkers and viewing mounds, par-4s you can drive and gremlins in Rocky Run. Especially, it's time for golf's archers to unsheath their arrows and start sending crisp iron shots at Ed Sneed's bull's-eyes. For stadium golf in Washington, the future finally is now.