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A Wadkins Leads--It's Not Lanny : Younger Brother Bobby Shoots Opening 66 and Is One Stroke Ahead in the L.A. Open

February 20, 1987|SHAV GLICK | Times Staff Writer

Bobby Wadkins has won major tournaments in Japan and Europe but can't seem to win one on the PGA Tour.

He earned $226,079 last year but can't seem to escape being known as Lanny's kid brother. Lanny won $264,931 last year and has won 15 events.

For 13 years, Bobby has been nibbling around the leader board, earning a substantial share of PGA money but never winning.

Last November, he won the Dunlop Phoenix tournament, the biggest in Japan, and collected $150,000. He also won the Dunlop Phoenix in 1979 and the European Open in 1978.

Bobby shot a 32-34--66, five under par, Thursday at the Riviera Country Club to take a one-shot lead in the $600,000 Los Angeles Open. It was his eighth consecutive round in the 60s, following the last three at Hawaii and all four last week at San Diego.

"I know I can win; I've won three times overseas," Bobby Wadkins said. "I'm playing extremely well and I'm putting well. I was 14 under par in Hawaii (he tied for 13th) and last week at San Diego I was 18 under par (tied for second)."

Lanny, who won the L.A. Open in 1979 and again in 1985, shot a 73.

"I don't try to compete with Lanny," Bobby said. "We're both trying to make a living."

Bobby is 35, 20 months younger than his brother.

Larry Rinker and Jeff Lewis, two other players who have never won a tour event, were tied at 67.

Lewis, who has the shortest backswing on the tour, helped himself with a hole-in-one on the 236-yard fourth hole. He used a 4-iron for the shot and then played steady golf the rest of the way to finish in 32-35.

Rinker, middle brother of the golfing Rinker family of Stuart, Fla., shot a 34-33--67 for his share of the runner-up spot.

Duffy Waldorf, former UCLA All-American, and Ray Barr Jr., newcomers to the tour, were at 68, along with Rick Fehr, Jack Peoples and former U.S. Open champion Jerry Pate, who is making a comeback at 33. Injuries and operations have kept the smooth-swinging Pate out of action for most of the last four years.

Of the top eight, six have never won a PGA tournament.

The favorites, Corey Pavin of Oxnard and UCLA, and Seve Ballesteros of Spain, are in a group of nine at 69. Another of the nine is two-time PGA champion Dave Stockton of San Bernardino, who beat Sam Snead on the final hole to win at Riviera in 1974.

Defending champion Doug Tewell and gallery favorite Lee Trevino each shot an even par 71.

It paid to tee off early as 23 of the 36 players who bettered par over the 7,029-yard course, played in the morning, before the winds started whistling through Santa Monica canyon. It was windy early, too, but not as stiff and unrelenting as later in the day.

Bobby Wadkins and Rinker, for instance, were in the first groups off at 7 a.m.

"When I birdied the first two holes, it gave me a lift," Wadkins said. "Anytime you start off in the wind, how you play the first few holes seems to set the tempo.

"If you start off good, you get in the rhythm. If you get off to a bad start, it seems like you struggle all day."

Wadkins kept his birdie rhythm, all right. He made seven in his first 11 holes, thanks to some crisp iron shots that left him five birdie putts of 10 feet or less.

"The greens were perfect early in the morning," Wadkins said. "Later in the day, I'm sure they'll be spike-marked. I'll find out tomorrow."

Wadkins and Rinker will tee off today at 11:08.

In the midst of his birdie barrage, however, Wadkins had two bogeys. On one, the 174-yard No. 6 hole with the trap in the middle of the green, he took three putts from 50 feet.

"The 7-iron I hit there was the only bad shot I hit all day," he said. "The pin was on the right side and I misjudged the wind and put my shot on the left side."

The round was Wadkins' third 66 of the year.

There have been times when Bobby thought he'd finally broken into the winner's circle.

"Oh, I've been close, I'll tell you," he said. "At Hilton Head, in 1985, Bernhard Langer chipped in twice to tie me and then won the playoff. Lou Graham shot a 64 on the last day to catch me and he won the playoff, too. At Tucson, I three-putt the last hole to let Tom Watson win. I know what it feels like to be close."

Rinker, like Wadkins, is a nonwinner on the tour, but he's only been at it for seven years.

It was a hot putter that kept him on the leader board. Rinker's birdies included one putt of 30 feet on No. 18, two of about 20 feet and another of 15.

"Eighteen made my day," he said. "It's one of those holes you just hope to make 4 and get out of there, but my putt hit the bottom of the cup."

Rinker hit a 2-iron for his second shot, bending it around the giant eucalyptus trees that guard the approach on the right side of the green.

"The toughest matches I have all year are back home around Christmas," Rinker said. "Dad and I take on Lee and Laura. She's probably the best golfer in the family."

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