Who was leading the Kemper Open? Figure it out for yourself. Seventy-eight players had tee times of 6:45 a.m. yesterday to complete rained-out first rounds, 12,000 cars were jammed on a muddy course, and there were still 50 players with incomplete second rounds when play concluded at 8:27 p.m.
If that doesn't tell you anything, at least you know how long it took to come up with a leader after 36 holes -- almost -- on the Tournament Players Club at Avenel in Potomac. That leader was Chris Perry, the 25-year-old son of former major league pitcher Jim Perry, as he made five birdies and one eagle offsetting two bogeys to match his Thursday round of 66 for a total of 10-under-par 132.
That gave Perry the advantage over Howard Twitty, whose early evening 67 put him at 133. Rookie Keith Clearwater, who played 31 holes because of Thursday's rainout, finished a first round of 3-under-par 68 and then shot a 66 to go 8 under for the tournament at 134.
That Perry maintained a lead was to his credit in light of his circuitous round, a flirtation with trouble after an unheard-of 3:45 p.m. tee time that brought him to the 18th green with just a glimmer of sun left. But that he made the tee time at all was the most surprising thing, because massive traffic snarls on the narrow lanes of Montgomery County's Potomac area caused waits of up to two hours to reach Avenel.
Perry was told by tournament officials to leave his hotel at 1 p.m., but he got a courtesy car driver who knew a back route and delivered him within 15 minutes. The long wait in the clubhouse didn't harm him, for he birdied the 393-yard par-4 first hole, and was not shaken by bogeys on the eighth and ninth holes.
"I didn't get too high if I birdied and I didn't get too low if I bogeyed," he said.
The 50 who did not finish the second round will resume play today at 8:45 a.m. One who could make a difference in the standings is Tom Kite, whose first-round 64 tied him for the lead with Greg Norman, and who was just a stroke back, at 9 under par, with three to play when action halted yesterday. Also at 9 under, with just one to play, was Scott Hoch.
Norman, the 1984 and 1986 champion at Congressional, slid down the leader board with four bogeys on the front nine and was 5 under par with just the 18th remaining to complete his second round. Others left on the course who could affect things this morning were Larry Mize, 8 under with three to play, and Denis Watson, 8 under with two to play. Sandy Lyle was 7 under with one to play.
One of the few who actually finished within striking distance of Perry was George Burns, who played 32 holes and posted 69-67. Tied at 137 were Scott Simpson, Jay Haas, Doug Tewell and Danny Hepler.
"It was a tough walk," said Burns, who birdied eight of his 32 holes.
Clearwater was among those who teed off at the coffee hour, after staying up late the night before to watch the pro basketball playoff, then waking up at 5 a.m. That left just four hours sleep, and his 31 holes were shaky, with two eagles, one for each round, and two pars out of water by the time he finished at 4:15 p.m. "I'm extremely tired," he said. "You want to lay down and never get up."
Clearwater, the leading contender for rookie of the year with a victory at Colonial in Fort Worth three weeks ago and earnings of $174,185, briefly led after a closing flurry of birdies. But as he went to the clubhouse, Perry and Twitty, each 5 under after getting in 18 holes Thursday, were about to tee off.
Twitty, who took almost two hours in traffic to get from his hotel to the course, had another wait. It took him most of his front nine, teeing off on the 10th hole, to get his round going. He birdied the 10th, but gave it back with a three-putt from 50 feet on the 18th.
But he amassed five birdies on the second nine, chipping in from 25 feet on the par-3 third, and holing out another wedge from 25 feet on the par-4 fifth. On the par-5 sixth, he slid accidentally in a creek, wetting his shoes, but his 3-iron was dry and he two-putted from 20 feet for birdie. A final birdie came on his 17th hole, with a 6-iron to 10 feet on the par-4 eighth.
"No complaints," he said. "I've played patiently and I'm close to the lead, so I'm pleased with that."
Perry began quicker, with a birdie putt of 15 feet on the 393-yard first, and had another on the par-4 fifth with a 12-footer. Perry eagled the generous 479-yard par-5 sixth to go 9 under par, and added a birdie on the par-4 seventh.
On No. 6, the wind was blowing left to right, and his 3-iron shot hung in the breeze right above the pin. It dropped 20 feet above the hole and rolled within 10 inches for a gimme eagle putt. On the 461-yard seventh, Perry hit a 4-iron to 10 feet. "All of a sudden I'm 5 under and I'm on a roll," he said.
But Perry handed two strokes back with bogeys the next two holes as he put his drives into bunkers.
"Okay, now I've got to gather my thoughts," he said.
He proceeded to birdie the 10th with a wedge to 15 feet, however, then got another at the par-3 11th, a 136-yard stroll. His 8-iron there was almost a hole-in-one, but lipped out and went just a foot past. He shot par the rest of the way.
It was an accomplishment for a player whose last achievement of note was to win the 1984 collegiate player of the year award out of Ohio State. He has yet to break the top 10 this season, but has been in the money in nine of 15 tournaments to earn $48,958. He has never led a tournament after 36 holes.
"When we get to the last five or six holes, I guess that's when you start to feel the pressure, if I get that far," he said.
Equally as jammed up as the field was the traffic. This week's rains did more than just confuse the schedule, which should be straightened out by this afternoon if all goes as planned. It caused impenetrable traffic snarls that reached from Potomac's River Road to the Beltway. Spectators attempting to reach Avenel discovered that acres of parking lots were unusable because of mud, and the wait in gridlocks was as long as two to three hours from downtown Washington as all traffic was routed through a narrow one-lane funnel on River Road.
Tournament general chairman Ben Brundred said rerouting of traffic and reopening of parking lots today should alleviate the problems. But, "I won't say there will be no problems because every day I say tomorrow will be easier, and it isn't."