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September 22, 2009 7:02 AM

Lanny's back to leading with his lip


Golf Magazine features one of the best sports interviews you'll ever read when it goes shot for shot with Lanny Wadkins in its October issue.

Writer Alan Bastable stood in there strong and put a number of potentially contentious issues in front of the feisty Wadkins.
Wadkins (pictured) seldom backed off and gave as good as he got, taking on, among other things, the World Golf Hall of Fame, CBS Sports, and Tiger's lack of competition.

But rather than continue to tease you, we'd like you to check out of the Grill Room and go to this link so you can read the thing.

Yeah, yeah, we know that by directing you out of here, we are probably breaking some golden tenets of website traffic, or page views, or unique visitors or something else we don't understand. No matter, we are nothing, if not committed, to serving our clientele with the very best in sports prose.

Go on, you can leave your coat on the hanger and drink at the bar. We'll keep your tab open, and chug down a cold one until you return...

Gulp, gulp, gulp...Ahhh, Pfungstadter bier...nothing better...

You're back! Man, you folks read for speed! We'll just take it as a compliment that you hurried back.

Pretty good interview, eh?

If you didn't know much about Wadkins, 59, before reading that piece, you know now that on tour he was as fearless with a microphone in front of him as he was with a 7-iron in his hand. They used to say you couldn't hide a pin from Lanny Wadkins. They might have also said there wasn't a question he'd hide from.

Frankly, this made him a golf writer's dream, which made what happened to him at CBS Sports all the more perplexing.

Bluntly, if Wadkins had even been half -- hell, a quarter -- as candid on the air as he was in this interview, he'd still be sitting in the lead analyst chair next to Jim Nantz, and pushing Johnny Miller as sports' best analyst.

But Wadkins was released by CBS in 2007, after an unremarkable five-year run as the network's lead golf analyst. He was replaced by the suddenly chirpy Nick Faldo, who, ironically, treated the press like a crowd of lepers during his playing days. This probably only served to rub even more salt in Wadkins' wound when he was given his walking papers.

The truth is, though, Wadkins was a punch-puller in the booth, and I never got that.

Instead of the brash Wadkins that stalked a golf course and press tent like he owned it, we got a guy at CBS who might as well of have been running for mayor.
Oh, occasionally, Wadkins would blow fresh air, but most times he played both sides, and instead of protecting his most important constituency, the viewers, he too often took the side of the players, coddling and making excuses for them.

In the interview, Wadkins blames CBS for his demise, saying, "It's what some suit wanted in New York, and he got what he wanted — for better or for worse."

Maybe, Lanny, but if what that New York suit wanted was the guy who called it like he saw it before taking the analyst's chair, neither the suit nor the viewers ever got that, and that's a damn shame.

Wadkins is always welcome in the Grill Room, as long as he's in front of a microphone, not behind one.

Lip-outs...
The FedEx Cup comes to a close this weekend when the Tour Championship is played at Atlanta's East Lake Golf Club.

Not surprisingly, Tiger Woods is in the driver's seat, though four other players can claim the Cup if they win this weekend -- Steve Stricker, No. 2 in the standings, Jim Furyk (3), Zach Johnson (4) and Heath Slocum (5).
There are all kinds of other scenarios that give all 30 players a shot at the $10-million first-place bonus if none of the Big 5 win, but for that bit of rocket science, we'll send you away again to go here. ...

For all intents and purposes, the Tour Championship marks the unofficial end of the PGA golf season. But because the Tour is the gift that never quits giving, there are still five more events to be played through Nov. 15, that count on the 2009 money list.

The top-125 money-earners retain their playing privileges on tour for 2010, so guys on the fringe will be playing their butts off to keep their almighty tour card, and avoid one of our favorite tournaments in the GR, the gut-wrenching PGA Tour Qualifying Tournament, Dec. 2-7. ...

A select field of 20 women competed at venerable Torrey Pines Golf Course this past weekend in the Samsung World Championship, and Na Yeon Choi held on for the win.

The GR was intrigued by the LPGA's visit to Torrey, and believes the ladies can better highlight their dynamite talent by playing on the same respected venues as the men do.

Unfortunately, crowds were reported to be light the first two days of the event in sleepy, sunny San Diego. There was a ray of sunshine on Sunday, however, when the Union-Tribune reported that many Asian-Americans flocked to the course to root for the final group which featured South Korea's Choi and Jiyai Shin.

No shock, the players reportedly loved the place.

No final decision has been made whether the tournament will return to Torrey next year, or if Samsung will retain sponsorship.

(Richmond Times-Dispatch, photo)

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