POTOMAC, Md. (AP) -- Justin Leonard and Steve Lowery brought momentum from the Memorial to the Kemper. Jay Williamson brought frustration -- because the Memorial didn't invite him -- and he took it out on the TPC at Avenel course.
Williamson's 29 was the lowest score ever on the back nine of the Kemper Insurance Open. He finished Thursday's first round tied with Lowery for the lead with a 7-under-par 64, one stroke ahead of Leonard, Greg Chalmers, Brett Quigley and Craig Barlow.
''It was really hard to watch the Colonial and Memorial because I felt like I was at a level where I should have been in,'' said Williamson, referring to the last two tour events. ''I think that motivated me to work on my game. Today may have been a reflection of that.''
Williamson had an eagle-birdie-birdie-birdie stretch starting on the 13th in easily his best round of the year. He matched the Kemper's nine-hole record set by Brad Bryant in 1991, although Bryant did it on the more difficult, par-36 front nine.
The round also resurrected memories of Williamson's collapse here four years ago, when the wide-eyed, second-year player took a 1-shot lead into Sunday and shot a 79. It's still the closest he has come to winning a PGA Tour event.
''I don't think I was really good enough to handle the pressure of whatever a Sunday round brings when you're in the lead,'' said Williamson, 33, who has already missed seven of 15 cuts this year in his annual struggle to stay on the tour. ''And I really believe this year, I'm looking forward to the opportunity. I think I'm more mature.
''I'm definitely a better player. My personal life is more solid. I'm married. I've got a one-year-old little girl at home that keeps me out of trouble -- or in trouble, however you want to say it.''
While Williamson's round raised a few eyebrows, Leonard and Lowery were keeping the rhythm they found last weekend. Leonard, struggling much of the year, tied for second behind Tiger Woods at the Memorial.
''I'm just glad that I feel myself coming out of it,'' Leonard said. ''And I'm glad that people that have been involved in trying to help me out are seeing that happen as well. So hopefully they won't worry about me quite as much.''
Lowery played with Woods in the final pairing when rain delayed the Memorial's final round to Monday. He tied for fifth, his best finish of the year.
''It was a big day for me,'' said Lowery, whose gallery Thursday numbered a handful of fans compared with the throng that followed him and Woods. ''I wanted to come away with a positive feeling that I had played well, and I did that. ... There were a lot of distractions Monday, but today I felt a lot freer.''
Leonard was 5-under at the turn, but missed a birdie from 5 feet at the 10th and again from 6 feet at the 15th. His only birdie on the back nine came when he missed both the fairway and the green on the par-4 16th. His tee shot was in the rough beyond a sand trap, and his approach landed in the collection area behind the green. He chipped in from 40 feet.
But Leonard's most frustrating moment came as he grounded his putter before a 2-foot putt for birdie at No. 13. He looked at the hole, then looked back at his putter and realized the ball had rolled back slightly and was resting against his club.
Leonard called a 1-stroke penalty on himself and made the putt for par, gritting his teeth as he flung his putter on his bag and called out ''5'' to the scorer.
''It's something that seems to happen to me twice a year,'' Leonard said. ''And it always seems to happen in a good round.''
Lowery's round was even more touch-and-go. At 7-under through 14 holes, he clipped a tree going for the green on his second shot at the par-5 6th. It took several minutes and about a dozen people to find his buried ball -- two other long-lost balls were found during the search.
The ball was ruled ''embedded,'' allowing Lowery a drop in the woods. He chipped to the green and saved par.
''I was lucky somebody over there found it,'' Lowery said. ''I actually had a chance to make birdie, but at the time it was looking like bogeying.''
Lowery also landed in the woods at the eighth hole and in the sand trap at the ninth. Both times he saved par.
Williamson, Chalmers, Quigley and Barlow are seeking to become the ninth first-time tour winner at the Kemper. Rich Beem, last year's first-time winner, shot a 70 on a day in which 70 of 156 golfers shot even par of better.
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