The 31st Ryder Cup, at Oak Hill Country Club in Rochester, N.Y.,
is still almost two months away, but for Lanny Wadkins, the U.S.
captain, crunch time has arrived. That's because his 12-man
team, including the two selections he must make, will be
finalized in two weeks, after the PGA Championship. Wadkins has
played in all eight Ryder Cups since 1977, winning 20 matches,
which ranks second only to Arnold Palmer's 22. Wadkins, though,
has struggled of late and will not be a playing captain in
Rochester, where he will attempt to lead the U.S. to a third
SI: Has interest in the Ryder Cup peaked?
LW: I saw an interesting quote recently from Colin Montgomerie.
He said that interest in the Cup will have peaked if the
Europeans don't win again, and soon. I agree. Obviously we don't
want to accommodate them.
SI: How will it feel not playing?
LW: It's going to be tough. I'm sure I'll have enough stomach
acid to wear the chrome off a set of irons. I can't imagine
sitting out there for a whole week and not feeling helpless.
It'll be the first situation like that for me. The good thing is
I'll be busy.
SI: Where are you with your two captain's selections?
LW: The last few weeks I've been waking up in the middle of the
night thinking about this guy and that guy and different reasons
to make a pick. I was hoping my picks would be easy. They're
not. I've got a lot of veterans who are not among the top 10,
guys like [Curtis] Strange and [Tom] Watson and [Fred] Couples
and [Paul] Azinger and [Tom] Kite. And there's Lee Janzen, who's
won a U.S. Open and The Players Championship.
SI: If the Ryder Cup came down to one man, who would you like
that man to be?
LW: Right now, on that course, Corey Pavin would probably be my
man. Corey's a hell of a competitor. He putts well. He's never
out of a hole because of his ability to get it up and down. And
he's a great pressure player.
SI: What will the U.S. uniforms look like?
LW: I needed to get nice, full shirts that everybody could
wear--I might have had Craig Stadler on the team. I'm saving the
red, white and blue outfit for the last day. We'll play in black
slacks on Friday, and Prince of Wales plaid on Saturday. Pretty
conservative, but sharp.
SI: Did you ever have a confrontation with an opponent in the
LW: Not really. The closest thing to it happened in '79 at The
Greenbrier. Larry Nelson and I were a team for the first four
matches, and three of them ended up being against Seve
[Ballesteros] and Antonio Garrido. We beat them worse each time.
Then Larry beat Seve in the individual matches, too. Anyway,
Larry and I won the third match by a landslide. I birdied the
first five holes, and after Larry eagled the 8th we were nine
under par playing best-ball. On the 14th, I had to two-putt from
about a foot and a half to close it out. Seve made me putt. All
that tells me, though, is that he doesn't want to admit defeat.
I love that he is so competitive. I would love to have Seve on
SI: How do you assess the Europeans?
LW: Bernard Gallacher [the European captain] is in a pinch,
quite honestly. Seve and Jose Maria Olazabal seem to be ailing.
Then, if Olazabal falls out of the top 10 on the points list
[he's now 10th and not playing well because of a foot injury],
and [Ian] Woosnam, [Nick] Faldo and [Sandy] Lyle aren't on it
[none are in the top 10 at the moment], Bernard's got four huge
names and just two picks. He's got to take Faldo. Who else?
Olazabal makes a great team with Seve, but Woosnam finished
second in the Open to Curtis at Oak Hill in '89.
SI: Does Oak Hill favor either team?
LW: For the first time in memory, I really feel like we should
have a home-course advantage. We're going to set up Oak Hill
like a U.S. Open or PGA, with thick rough around the greens, and
narrow fairways, which have tended to favor Americans. I see
nothing wrong with that. The Europeans have set up their courses
like they like them. There's no reason we shouldn't do the same.
SI: What is your most vivid Ryder Cup memory?
LW: I'll never forget the party after we won in 1983. We almost
destroyed a hotel room, with everybody going crazy. Jack
[Nicklaus], who was captain, made Barbara [his wife] chug the
whole top of the Ryder Cup full of champagne. She either had to
do that or drown. It was a Ryder Cup party to remember.
COLOR PHOTO: GABE PALACIO [Lanny Wadkins playing pool]