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GOLF / THOMAS BONK : It Really Wasn’t All That Strange of a Pick

No one should be surprised that Lanny Wadkins chose Curtis Strange instead of Lee Janzen for the Ryder Cup.

Yes, Janzen is the leading money winner on the PGA tour as well as its only three-time tournament winner this year, but it’s clear that Wadkins thinks Strange figures better into the Ryder Cup equation.

Strange, 40, has played in four other Ryder Cup matches and is exactly the type of veteran influence Wadkins has said since he was named captain of the U.S. team that he has been looking for.

Only Davis Love III and Corey Pavin are holdovers from the 1993 team, so Wadkins needed experience. Besides, Strange and Wadkins go way back, with Virginian Strange having followed Virginian Wadkins at Wake Forest University.

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Wadkins pointed out that Strange won the 1989 U.S. Open at Oak Hill in Rochester, N.Y., where the United States defends its Ryder Cup title Sept. 22-24. It’s the last tournament Strange won.

Strange also finished in a tie for fifth in the 1980 PGA Championship at Oak Hill.

“I just think there are horses for courses and I think Curtis Strange is going to have a great Ryder Cup for me up at Oak Hill,” Wadkins said when he used his captain’s choices on Strange and Fred Couples to complete his 12-player team.

“I needed somebody with real heart and guts and I just think that Curtis brings to the team what a Raymond Floyd or a Tom Watson would. And I needed somebody like Curtis around.”

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Wadkins called Couples “potentially the finest American player we have today when he’s healthy.”

Couples has been plagued by muscle spasms in his back, so Wadkins may have to make a move if Couples can’t play. Wadkins has an alternate in place. He won’t name the player, but chances are it’s Janzen.

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Gruesome twosome? How uncomfortable it must have been last week at the Fred Meyer Challenge when Janzen played in the same group with Jack Nicklaus one day, then quit Nicklaus’ Golden Bear management firm the next.

Janzen, who has been represented by Golden Bear since he turned pro in 1989, signed with the Orlando-based Leader Enterprises, which also represents Paul Azinger and Payne Stewart.

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Speeding tickets: Fifty-one weeks before it will be played at Valhalla in Louisville, the 78th PGA Championship sold all 30,000 tickets for the event.

The 77th PGA at Riviera fell about 4,000 short of selling 22,000 individual tickets when it ended two weeks ago. The PGA of America will not reveal exact ticket sales from Riviera.

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Nick at night: Nick Faldo figures he has hit about seven million golf balls in his career. How does he know this?

“I did some sort of weird calculation,” Faldo said.

Since he was 16, Faldo said he has hit a couple of thousand balls a day, including chipping and putting.

“If you stand on the carpet and putt, you can do a thousand in an evening when you’re watching American TV--57 channels and nothing on.”

It appears Faldo found something to do anyway. He has written a book, soon to be released, called “Faldo, A Swing for Life.”

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Short story: The shortest players on the PGA Tour are 5-foot-6 Brian Kaam and 5-7 Jeff Sluman, both from Rochester, N.Y., and Florida State.

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Sluman told John Feinstein, author of the best-selling ‘A Good Walk Spoiled,” “I eat soup off [Kaam’s] head.”

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Money men: Jim Colbert, Dave Stockton, J.C. Snead and Bob Murphy--four of the top five money winners on the Senior PGA Tour, have entered the $800,000 Ralph’s Senior Classic, Oct. 20-22 at Wilshire Country Club.

Colbert leads the money list with $996,550. He and Murphy have won three times this year.

After five years at Rancho Park, the $800,000 tournament is moving to Wilshire. The legendary course opened in 1919 and was the site of the Los Angeles Open four times, the last time in 1944.

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Golf notes:

John Harris, 43, and Tiger Woods, 19, the last two U.S. Amateur champions, have been named to the U.S. team that will play Great Britain and Ireland in the Walker Cup, Sept. 9-10, at Royal Porthcawl Golf Club in Porthcawl, Wales. . . . Marbella Golf and Country Club won the Saddleback Valley Cup charity golf tournament and donated $5,000 to the American Cancer Society. . . . Greg Norman and John Daly have agreed to play in the $900,000 Heineken Classic, now part of the European Tour, in Perth, Australia, Feb. 1-4.

The 12th Angel’s Flight Charity golf tournament will be played Sept. 18 at Lakeside Golf Club. The event benefits the programs of the Angel’s Flight shelter which cares for the homeless and for runaway children. Details: (818) 980-9191. . . . Golf for Women magazine listed Mission Hills Country Club in Rancho Mirage as No. 2 on its list of ‘women-friendly” courses. The survey is based on such items as course design and management policies. The LPGA International in Daytona Beach was ranked No. 1.


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