Tournament golf is an individual sport and, with the notable exception of the Ryder Cup, team events are uncommon.
It's a refreshing change, then, for the some of the world's best players to compete in a team event and they will get that opportunity starting today in the $1-million Shark Shootout at Sherwood Country Club in Thousand Oaks.
The tournament's host is Greg Norman, known as the "Great White Shark," and it matches 10 two-man teams.
Lanny Wadkins and Tom Purtzer, who won last year's tournament, are paired again. They say they enjoy the three-day format of best ball one day, alternate shot the next and the finishing scramble.
"I think you concentrate a little harder with this format," Wadkins said. "You're concentrating for two people and what you're going to do here and there."
Said Purtzer: "If you're playing good and making putts, you feel better than you normally would. Also, if you miss a couple of putts, or shots, you feel worse because it affects two people."
Wadkins, 42, a 20-year veteran of the PGA Tour, says he would like to play in more team events.
"I think our tour is lacking, if anything, in that we have too much of the same thing week in and week out," he said. "I wish we had a team event in the middle of the year, and that it counted as official money. I think a change would be nice. I think it would create more interest in our tour."
Purtzer said: "I think the fun deal about this tournament is that you have three different formats in three different days. You can really make some moves."
Wadkins corrected an assumption that players should have compatible games to be a successful team.
"Just the opposite," he said. "Tom is a lot longer off the tee than I am, so it makes it great for us, a lot more options, and I'm a relatively straight player."
Purtzer: "Lanny never misses a fairway, so it frees me up, knowing that he is going to hit in the fairway."
Wadkins: "I just let him hit first and do what he feels comfortable with--and don't worry because I'll be there. To me, it's the perfect combination.
"Davis Love III and Tom Kite are sort of the same deal, also Greg Norman and Curtis Strange."
Wadkins said that he and Purtzer blew the field away in the first 27 holes of last year's tournament with a seven-stroke lead. They eventually won by four shots, holding off Norman and Jack Nicklaus.
Wadkins and Purtzer will be challenged by Love-Kite, Norman-Strange, Mark O'Meara-John Cook, Hale Irwin-Bruce Lietzke, Fred Couples-Raymond Floyd, Payne Stewart-John Daly, Arnold Palmer-Peter Jacobsen, Nick Price-Billy Ray Brown and Chip Beck-Ben Crenshaw.
Wadkins is one of the game's most enduring and successful players. His signature style is his fast play and gambling style.
Asked to assess his career, Wadkins said:
"I would like to win more majors. (He won the PGA Championship in 1977.) If I look back, the only thing lacking in my career to make it more complete than it is would be more majors.
"I haven't won the money title, but I've been second and third, so I've been close there. I've played on seven Ryder Cup teams.
"I've won more (regular tour) tournaments than anybody playing this week except Raymond Floyd. Raymond has won 22, and I've won 21. I'm fourth on the career money-winning list, so a few more majors would be nice."
Neither Wadkins nor Purtzer have had outstanding seasons, although Wadkins won the Greater Hartford Open in July.
"We both wish we had better years," Wadkins said. "Tom had a bad back the first the part of year and I've been inconsistent. We've struggled a bit, but we're not playing that poorly (now). I'm swinging pretty good, so I'm looking forward to getting started."
Purtzer, 40, who won two tournaments in 1991 and finished fourth on the money list, said he hurt his back working out last January.
"My back was bad for four or five months," he said. "I just strained a muscle, and the dumb thing is that I kept playing. I've never been hurt before so I thought it would go away. But I kept aggravating it. And it got me into bad playing habits."
The winning team shares $250,000. . . . Partners Lanny Wadkins and Tom Purtzer celebrate their birthdays on the same day--Dec. 5.
The par-72 course measures 7,025 yards. Wadkins identified the most difficult holes as the par-five, 531-yard second hole, and the par-five, 537-yard 16th. "Those holes can really jump up and bite you," he said. . . . Billy Ray Brown replaced Steve Elkington in the field. Elkington withdrew because of a sinus condition. . . . Cook and Mark O'Meara are longtime friends. "We grew up together playing golf when were 12 and 13 years old," Cook said. "We were in the Southern California Junior Golf Assn. together, so we go way back and we're good buddies."