Wadkins, Olazabal get Hall call

Jose Maria Olazabal of Spain watches a shot during a practice round prior to the 2009 Masters Tournament.

Jose Maria Olazabal of Spain watches a shot during a practice round prior to the 2009 Masters Tournament.

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Two-time Masters champion Jose Maria Olazabal of Spain and 1977 PGA champion Lanny Wadkins have been elected to the World Golf Hall of Fame for 2009, Golfweek has learned. Olazabal was voted in on the international ballot, Wadkins on the PGA Tour ballot.

Wadkins’ election will be announced at a news conference April 23 at the Liberty of Mutual Legends of Golf in Savannah, Ga. In past years, international recipients have been announced at the British Open in July. Both will be inducted in the Hall of Fame in November in St. Augustine, Fla.

Voting results were not available. Last year, Olazabal (49 percent) and Wadkins (52 percent) got the highest amount of votes among those not elected on their respective ballots.

Olazabal, 43, this week is playing in his 22nd Masters, a tournament he won in 1994 and ’99. He has four other PGA Tour victories and 23 international wins.

Wadkins, 59, won 21 times on the PGA Tour in 1972-92. He has felt the emotional sting of not getting elected in recent years, and many top players, including Jack Nicklaus, have said his inclusion was overdue.

In recent years, Wadkins supporters have cited the fact he had more Tour wins than the Hall of Fame likes of Greg Norman, Hale Irwin, Ben Crenshaw, Tom Kite, Nick Price, Hubert Green, Curtis Strange, Larry Nelson and Payne Stewart. What’s more, he had 57 top-3 finishes, almost twice as many as Nelson.

Wadkins won the 1970 U.S. Amateur before turning pro and carving out a reputation for aggressive, fearless play. In addition to taking the PGA at Pebble Beach and the 1979 Players Championship at old Sawgrass, he succeeded on several other highly regarded courses on Tour. He won twice at Riviera and twice at the Tournament of Champions and succeeded at Firestone, Doral and Colonial.

Olazabal and Wadkins have a common denominator other than major victories and same-year induction. Both have been among the most successful players in Ryder Cup history. Olazabal is 18-8-5 in seven Ryder Cups, Wadkins 20-11-3 in eight appearances.

Both players in recent years have been hampered by injuries. Olazabal played only four Tour events last year because of rheumatism. Wadkins played only five Champions Tour events in 2008 because of back issues. He underwent double-fusion surgery on his lower back Aug. 20. That came after two back surgeries the prior year.

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