Others will be surprised if Bobby does win again—but only because he's famous for playing in 777 PGA Tour and Buy.com tour events over 27 years without a victory. He finished second six times on the PGA Tour, including two playoff losses, and the public knew him as "the Wadkins who never wins." That was unfair, because Bobby did win. In 1978 he won the European Open at England's Walton Heath, hitting a three-iron out of a divot to three feet to beat Gil Morgan and Bernard Gallacher in a playoff. (A few years later, when the Ryder Cup was played at Walton Heath, the U.S. team was startled to find an oil painting of Bobby hanging in its team room.) Bobby also won Japan's Dun-lop Phoenix tournament twice, against strong international fields.
On his native soil, though, he seemed jinxed. "It probably started in Philadelphia in 1979," he says, "when I lost that playoff to Lou Graham." That would be the IVB- Philadelphia Classic, which Bobby had led all day on Sunday. On the 18th hole, while ahead of Graham by a stroke, Wadkins drilled his drive down the fairway and watched in disbelief as his ball ricocheted off a sprinkler head and landed behind the 150-yard bush. Other mishaps at other tournaments kept Bobby from collecting one of those big cardboard checks, but he says the no-win label didn't get him down. "I walked off the course every Sunday knowing I did my best," he says.
Most weeks your best isn't good enough in golf, and that was the case for the brothers in Naples. Bobby shot 70-70-68 and finished 12th, eight strokes behind winner Hale Irwin. Lanny shot 75-68-76 to come in 62nd. Neither looked particularly upset, however. Lanny—who became a first-time grandfather in January when 28-year-old daughter Jessica gave birth—is always eager to get back home to Dallas to watch sons Travis, 14, and Tucker, 9, play school sports. Bobby, who still lives in Richmond, is similarly obsessed with the four-sport feats of his son, Casey, 12, who plays second base on an AAU all-star team that has been to the nationals three years in a row.
Sneak up on either Wadkins, in fact, and you might catch him smiling. Lanny enjoys the camaraderie of the CBS crew—the headphone banter during commercials, the boisterous restaurant meals, even the staff meetings, which remind him of the fellowship he enjoyed on the Wake Forest and Ryder Cup teams. "It's lonely when it's you against the world," he says of tour life. "I've eaten more room service meals than the law should allow."
He also seems invigorated by the challenge of television. Hunched in front of a monitor with a silent statistician passing him notes and a gravel-voiced Barrow shouting instructions from his left earphone, Lanny has to be ready to jump in with a pithy comment at a moment's notice. "It requires intense concentration," he says. "Let up for even a second, and Lance will hand you your head on a platter."
Bobby's contentment comes from knowing he can continue to do what he likes best. Last Wednesday afternoon he was camped out on the Twin Eagles practice range, all the necessities at his feet: cell phone, bottle of Pepsi, pack of Marlboros, lighter and a pile of bright new Titleists. "I love this," he said, swinging smoothly and rifling a tight draw into the wind, "especially when I hit a little three-iron that nips the flag like that." Lietzke, watching from a safe distance—safe from flying sweat, anyway—nodded his approval. "Bobby will be a dominant force on this tour," he said. "I bet he's among the top five money winners for the next three years."
"Hey, Leaky!" Bobby yelled to Lietzke. "Go away! Lanny and I are going to get our pictures taken."
Lietzke snorted. "The photographer better have a wide lens! You and Lanny both look like you swallowed air hoses!"
Bobby grinned. He was tickled.