A frigid December and a cool spring have delayed the greening of Avenel for this week's Kemper Open.

Some areas on the course -- fairways, certain tees and around some greens -- are planted in zoysia grass, which thrives on the hot and humid conditions of Washington summers. But, despite reports of global warming, heat hasn't yet penetrated the soil of Avenel and the zoysia is thin in places, especially around greens. The greens themselves are generally considered good and the fairways, though spotty in places, are mowed and playable.

"Some people say, 'Oh, something's wrong, it's not green,' " said Avenel greens superintendent Tom Haske.

"The zoysia is not up to speed yet. It's simply not warm enough. This morning was 50 degrees. We'll be lucky to break 70 today.

"Zoysia is a warm-season grass and as you know it's been pretty cool. The grass has been slow. We're dealing with a warm-season grass in a transition area.

"But with several days of warm weather, the grass will dramatically change," Haske said.

But probably not in time for Thursday's start of the $1 million Kemper.

Nods of Approval

"There are a couple of rough spots," said PGA Tour golfer Brian Claar, who played in yesterday's pro-am. "But the greens are as good as I've seen them."

"If it's a little bare, it's a lot better than having tall rough around the ball," said Philadelphia pro Ben Sauls. "You can put the club on the ball."

"I think it was a wise move to go with zoysia," said Haske, who noted that the grass requires less watering and pesticides than some other strains. "But in this area, there isn't a perfect grass."

On southern golf courses, Bermuda is the primary grass. In northern regions, bent grass is usually planted. In Washington's in-between climate, cool-weather grass often gets burned out by summer heat. So Avenel went with zoysia, which remains dormant and a brownish color longer into spring; but when green and lush it is considered an excellent fairway playing surface. Avenel's greens are bent grass, and some of its tees bent and some zoysia. The fairways and green aprons are primarily zoysia.

"They might look off-color right now, but they are superior playing conditions," Haske said. "There aren't very many bad lies out there. You might find a few thin areas around the greens, but even where it's thin it's playable."

Donnie Hammond, the tour pro who hails from Frederick, said sparse grass surrounding some greens would not be a problem. "We can hit them from everywhere, even from a bare lie with a sand wedge. That's why we have our names on our bags -- we're good."

"The greens are excellent," said Middle Atlantic PGA pro John McNaney. "The fairways are spotty, {hole No.} 12 is not so hot. But I don't want to put this course down. I'm thrilled to be here."

"I don't think it'll be a problem for anybody," Sauls added. "With the zoysia, every time I was in the fairway the ball was sitting perfect."

"In general, the course is maturing every year," Haske said.

"We still think it's {zoysia} the right grass for the golf course," said Jim Seeley, general manager and director of golf at Avenel.

Count Atlanta Winner In

Wayne Levi, who waited out a six-hour rain delay and beat impending darkness to win Sunday's Atlanta Classic and $180,000, is playing here. Keith Clearwater, who tied for second for $74,667, joined the field yesterday, along with Tom Pernice. Ray Barr and Bill Britton withdrew.

Levi, Clearwater, Larry Mize and Nick Price probably would have been held over for a sudden-death playoff yesterday in Georgia had Levi not hit a great 103-yard approach and sunk the ensuing 3 1/2-foot putt as darkness enveloped Atlanta Country Club.

Clampett Team Tops

Pro Bobby Clampett teamed with amateurs Ron Rosner, Keith Like, Tom Chapman and Mike Jacobson to win the rainy Kemper Open Stableford Pro-Am with 97.

Pro Bob Eastwood teamed with Ralph Guglielmi, Fred Paxton, Douglas Schleifer and Eric Vincent for second with 93.

Pro Tom Eubank, John Harris, Bruce Foster, Dick Sewell and Anthony Murray were third with 92; they won a match of cards over pro Jeff Wilson, Frank Gilmore, Blaise Cooke, Robert Saum and William Franey, who also shot 92.