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Last month Tom Kite was named captain of the U.S. team for the
1997 Ryder Cup, a choice that surprised the many who were
expecting that honor to go to Larry Nelson. Nelson, 48, is a
two-time winner of the PGA and a veteran of three Cups who will
be moving on to the Senior tour late in 1997, so timing and
credentials had made him the front-runner for the job. Now his
goal is to make the team as a player. SI caught up with Nelson
at the Bob Hope Chrysler Classic.

SI: How did you learn about Tom Kite's selection as Ryder Cup

LN: It was interesting. A week before the announcement someone
from CNN called and asked if I was going to West Palm Beach
because they had heard the captain was going to be there for a
press conference. I didn't know it was Kite, but since I hadn't
heard from the PGA, I figured that someone else had been selected.

SI: How did you feel?

LN: I was disappointed. I don't want to say that it was a done
deal, but ever since Lanny Wadkins's selection in 1993, the
people that I talked to at the PGA had indicated that in 1997 I
would be captain. Lanny and I talked about it quite a bit. I had
conversations with the people who made the selection in 1993,
and that was just the way it was--between Lanny and me for 1995,
and whoever didn't get it would go on in 1997.

SI: Kite may have gotten more attention for winning his one
major than you did for winning three. Do you think your low
profile and low-key personality made it easier for the PGA not
to choose you?

LN: I don't think that should have had any bearing on how the
decision was made. If you compare Tom's personality with mine,
there's not a whole lot of difference. As far as the one major
versus three, he's one of the leading money winners of all time
and has been a great player for a long time. I heard that one
reason they picked Tom is because I'm not in touch with the
players. It doesn't make a lot of sense. I played 21 tournaments
last year, and I'll play 22 this year. I don't know how you're
supposed to be any more in touch than to play 21 tournaments. If
that was the sole reason, then they made their decision for the
wrong reason.

SI: Did you ever lobby for the job?

LN: No, I never talked to anyone. I don't even know who was on
the selection committee. I honestly didn't think it was the kind
of honor that you had to lobby for. To me it's not a political
decision, so if it required me schmoozing up to the right
guys, then I didn't want it. I don't know whether Tom lobbied.
Maybe he did, maybe he didn't, but apparently they knew more
about him than they did about me.

SI: How soon after learning that you would not be captain did
you set the goal of making the team?

LN: It's been in the back of my mind since 1987, the last time I
played on the team. I've always wanted to get back. But yes,
since I was not selected captain, I would like to go there as a
player. There's no bitterness. There's no "I'll show them" type
of thing. It's just proving that if you can't be captain, then
the next best thing is to be a player.

SI: What have you done to get your game in shape?

LN: Last year was probably one of my worst since I came on Tour
in 1974. I only made four cuts. I started working out really
hard, building up muscles that had kind of wasted away. I never
had too much trouble with nerves, so I felt that if I could get
back the physical part of my body, the nerves would take care of
themselves. Physically, I feel as good as I did when I was 30.

SI: Was the primary motivation to have a strong finish to your
Tour career and make a run for the Cup, or to prepare for the
Senior tour?

LN: The primary thing was to finish my career on the regular
Tour. I really feel that I can win out here again, and I have
two more years to give it my best shot.

SI: If you don't make the '97 team, is it going to be a little
tougher to watch the Ryder Cup on TV?

LN: No. I've enjoyed watching the last two or three. It won't
diminish my support of the team and Tom. The only thing I regret
is that after all the conversations I've had with the PGA of
America over the last four years, I was never contacted and told
that Tom had been selected. I think I deserved that much.

SI: Did you ever consider calling them?

LN: No, and I'm not waiting for one of them to call me now. I
have not talked to Tom. I wouldn't talk to Tom about him being
selected and me not being selected. I'd just tell Tom that I'm
happy for him and offer to help in any way that I can. It'll be
tough over there [Valderamma, Spain]. They'll need all the
support they can get.