Health Insurance Langham Leads Kemper


Franklin Langham, making just his seventh start of the season, tied personal and course records Thursday in taking the first-round lead in the Kemper Insurance Open in Potomac, Md.
Langham fired a bogey-free 8-under-par 63 on the TPC at Avenel to top Bob Estes by two strokes. Chris DiMarco, the lone player in this weeks field ranked inside the top 20, is two back, tied with Brian Gay and the '3 W's' ' Willie Wood, Jay Williamson and Brian Watts.
'I didn't know it was a course record until I was done,' Langham said. 'My ball-striking was great today, my putting was good, my mind was good, you know, it was just an all-around good day. Those are the days you hope to have.'
Elbow surgery cut short Langhams 2001 campaign, and delayed his start to 02. He didnt make his first appearance until the Genuity Championship in March, and then took another three weeks off to further rehab.
'There were times I was scared,' Langham said of his injury. 'I never got to the point where I said I'm not playing again, but I was definitely scared. It hurt so bad from the stuff I did, like, `How am I ever going to grip a club again?' But I was real determined to do it.'
Langham finished last year 141st on the money list, but earned enough money in his first five events this season to garner exempt status for the remainder of the year.
The 34-year-old Augusta, Ga., native's 63 was his low round of the year by four shots, and tied his career best, established in the second round of the 2000 Genuity. His previous 63 led to a runner-up finish at Doral. Hes been a bridesmaid four times in his six years on tour, including a tie for second at this event two years ago.
He does have a bit of history on his side, however, as each of the past three Kemper winners have been maiden tour champions.
Opening on the back nine Thursday, Langham was 1-under through his first six holes before shooting up the leaderboard with five consecutive birdies beginning at the par-4 16th. Leading the field by one at 6-under, Langham stretched his advantage with back-to-back birdies on seven and eight. He's one of nine players to shoot 63 since the event moved to the Avenel venue in 1987.
This is the fifth time Langham has held at least a share of the 18-hole lead in a PGA Tour event. And hes found in the past that round two isnt quite as kind.
When leading after Thursday, Langham has never shot better than 73 on Friday. In fact, hes not only failed to convert 18-hole leads into victories, hes yet to ride his quick start to a top-10 finish.
Two-time Kemper champion Greg Norman is three behind Langham. Norman made this event his first tour title in 1984, and won again two years later.
'It would mean a lot to me right now,' Norman said of winning a third Kemper title, and his first on tour since 1997. 'It would be the reinforcement of the belief in myself that I can do it.
'If I didn't think I could put myself in a position to win, I wouldn't be here, trust me. I've got too many other things I love to do in life to come out here and feel like I'm just walking around the golf course.'
Phil Taturangi also shot 67, though in less than customary fashion. He recorded one eagle, eight birdies, four bogeys and a double bogey.
Full-field scores from the Kemper Insurance Open