NO SOONER had Lanny Wadkins announced his captain's picks for
the U.S. Ryder Cup team than the question was first asked: How
could you leave Lee Janzen off the team? In the wake of Curtis
Strange's collapse and the U.S.'s stunning loss to Europe last
month, The Question quickly turned from query to controversy.
Something must be wrong with the selection process if a player
as hot as Janzen, a three-time winner in 1995 who ranked second
on the PGA Tour money list with more than $1.3 million, can be
passed over. Under the current system devised by the PGA of
America, Janzen missed qualifying for one of the 10 automatic
spots by finishing 15th in a two-year points race, and came up
empty again when Wadkins picked Fred Couples and Strange to fill
SI: Should the selection process be changed?
LJ: The PGA ought to just go with results in the year of the
Cup, not two years like it is now. The PGA is better off getting
the guys who are hot.
SI: Is making the '97 team that will play at Valderrama in Spain
a goal of yours?
LJ: Over the next two years it will be my main motivation.
Golfers need to find something to keep them going all the time,
and for me the Ryder Cup is it. Before this Ryder Cup I called
my mom and had her send me my Spanish dictionary from college.
I'm going to carry it every week to brush up for Spain.
SI: Why didn't you play in the Buick Open, the penultimate
tournament to earn points?
LJ: Through the British Open I had played 21 events. Because I
had played so much, I wasn't giving myself the chance to play my
best. After the British I felt I needed two weeks to rest before
the PGA. Looking back, I should have taken time off before the
SI: Did you talk to Lanny after he made his selections?
LJ: I talked to him even before the selections were announced. I
had stayed in L.A. on Sunday night after the PGA. Around
midnight I was pretty edgy, but my wife was worse. Shannon
couldn't wait until the morning, so she made me call Lanny. When
Jeff Maggert and Brad Faxon played their way onto the team with
strong PGA finishes, suddenly Lanny had five rookies. I think
that changed his mind. I asked Lanny to say yes or no, to tell
me on the spot. He said Freddie and Curtis.
SI: How much do you think your 0-2 record in the '93 Ryder Cup
hurt your chances?
LJ: I think Lanny just went on the fact that I had only played
in one Ryder Cup. When he saw how little experience he had, I
think he ruled me out. Captains tend to look for experience,
which isn't necessarily always right.
SI: Did you have a chance to watch the Ryder Cup on television?
LJ: Yes, at home. I watched all day Friday and Sunday, and on
Saturday I watched everybody tee off and then took my son to Sea
World. Watching Sunday was the most nerve-racking thing I've
ever been through. I've never felt as tense--even playing in a
tournament. I started feeling sick to my stomach when I saw we
were going to lose. That was when David Gilford made his putt on
the 18th, and then Brad Faxon missed to lose their match. That
killed it for us.
SI: Going in, did you think the U.S. would win?
LJ: If you asked me three months ago, I'd have said our chances
were real good. But going into the week, I wouldn't have felt
comfortable betting on the U.S.
SI: What were you thinking when Curtis bogeyed the last three
holes on Sunday to lose his match against Nick Faldo?
LJ: I found it amazing that one player could make or break the
whole team. You don't expect a captain's pick to make that big a
difference. If I was in the same situation, you never know. It's
easy to say par is easy from the 18th fairway, but add the
incredible pressure and Faldo breathing down your neck, and who
SI: What did you feel like when it was over?
LJ: The next day I did an outing at Baltusrol with Paul Azinger.
We were in shock. We couldn't believe that we had lost. I'm sure
those who played feel worse, but the rest of us feel almost as
bad. Guys like me and Payne Stewart and Mark O'Meara--we didn't
do anything to help by not making the team. I just wish I could
have been there. I would have done anything to help. Deep down I
feel I might have made a difference.
COLOR PHOTO: JOHN BIEVER [Lee Janzen]