- The Washington Times - Saturday, June 11, 2005

Tom Kite, who used a one-time exemption to return to the PGA Tour this season, took advantage of solid putting and steady play to vault into contention for the first time all year in yesterday’s second round of the Booz Allen Classic.

Kite, 55, who won this tournament in its first year at the TPC at Avenel in 1987, shot 69 yesterday to begin the weekend four strokes behind leader Robert Allenby at Congressional Country Club in Bethesda.

Kite, who had made the cut in three of his 10 PGA Tour events, used an exemption for being among the top 50 career money winners to qualify on tour. He has also played six events on the Champions Tour.

Though he has struggled in many of his PGA Tour events — his 68-69 marked his first back-to-back sub-70 rounds of the year — he does have five top-20 Champions finishes.

“The last month or so I’ve played better, and it’s finally starting to show with some reasonable scores,” Kite said.

Kite also extended his PGA Tour record of cuts made to 590. Veteran Jay Haas, who isn’t playing the Booz Allen, is second with 586.

With the Senior Players Championship, Senior British Open and Senior U.S. Open coming up over the next two months, Kite probably will take a hiatus from his PGA Tour comeback. For now, he’s enjoying his week at Congressional, citing the course’s lack of continuity as its only drawback.

“The one thing that’s interesting about Congressional is that when you come here, you don’t know what golf course you’re going to play,” Kite said. “It has 36 holes and we’ve played composite courses at times, we’ve played where the 17th hole is the finishing hole, where the 18th hole doesn’t exist. I think it’s about time they settle on a golf course and say, ‘This is the golf course that is Congressional,’ But any way they configure it, it’s an outstanding test.”

Elkington’s stock rises

A fixture on leader boards earlier in his career, Steve Elkington is in contention after shooting 67 to reach 7 under. The Aussie is tied for second with Matt Gogel, Adam Scott and Lee Westwood.

Elkington has 10 career victories but hasn’t won since 1999 at Doral. In the last three years, his only top-10 finish was a tie for sixth at the Players Championship in March.

“I’m like a giant mutual fund,” said Elkington, who won the 1995 PGA Championship at Riviera. “My stock was way up here, [then] went down. Maybe I’m kind of coming up a bit more now.”

Gogel slides back

First-round leader Matt Gogel, who on Thursday shot a course-record 63, got to 10 under after seven holes. However, he missed four of five fairways over one stretch and eventually fell to 7 under.

“I’m not too disappointed,” said Gogel, who shot 72. “I didn’t play well enough to be disappointed, but I’m still in the hunt. I know if I get the ball in the fairway over the weekend, I’ll be a factor.”

Stadler stumbles

Kevin Stadler’s hopes of following his father as a Booz Allen winner took a hit yesterday morning.

Stadler returned early to finish his first round and wound up in second with a 6-under 65. He started the second round on the back nine, where he shot even par before a birdie at No. 1, but he recorded three bogeys on the front to fall to 4-under.

“It basically was the exact opposite of yesterday,” said Stadler, who had missed five straight cuts before Booz Allen. “It was a long, hard day. I just started driving in the trees every hole, and it’s pretty hard to go from there.”

Stadler’s father, Craig, won the Booz Allen at Congressional in 1981 and ‘82.

Early departures

Three of the world’s top 20 players — Stewart Cink (143), Padraig Harrington (144) and Mike Weir (149) — missed the 1-under 141 cut. Club pros Dirk Schultz (148), Rick Schuller (150) and Wayne DeFrancesco (152) did, too. … Vaughn Taylor withdrew before completing the first round because of a stomach muscle injury, while J.J. Henry withdrew after shooting 75 on Thursday.

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