Tim Finchem: It's time to 'take a fresh look' at Hall of Fame process
PONTE VEDRA BEACH, Fla. (AP) - On a night of celebration, one of the embarrassing moments at the World Golf Hall of Fame induction ceremony was early in the program, when Hall of Fame members in attendance were recognized. The introductions didn't take very long.
There were only eight of them, all women.
``Getting players to come back has always been a bit of a challenge over the years,'' PGA Tour commissioner Tim Finchem said. ``It does raise a question in my mind about whether this is the best time of the year to do it.''
Back in 1998, the inaugural induction at the World Golf Village was held in May. The ceremony also has been in the late fall. It has been indoors and outdoors. Finchem had to be persuaded to move it to the week of The Players Championship, fearing it would detract from the tournament.
Whenever or wherever, it's not working.
Here's one suggestion. The PGA Tour should consider working with IMG (along with title sponsor PNC Bank) and move the Father-Son Challenge from Orlando to north Florida near the Hall of Fame. The tournament is for fathers who have won major championships, such a long list that the Father-Son often has an alternate list. Make the Hall of Fame induction ceremony the centerpiece of that week, and it's sure to be a big night.
Attendance isn't the only thing under review.
One element of the Hall of Fame that becomes confusing is players being inducted in the prime of their careers. The minimum age to get on the ballot is 40. Phil Mickelson was inducted when he was 41, and he has won twice more since then. Ernie Els won a fourth major after his induction.
Golf is a game to play forever, but why wasn't the age set at 50, the same age when players are eligible for the Champions Tour? Why 40?
``I don't really remember why,'' Finchem said. ``It seemed to be the thing to at that point in time for whatever we were looking at.''
He said the minimum age has been discussed in the last couple of years, and ``it's currently under discussion.''
There's also the matter of having a PGA Tour ballot for the ``World'' Golf Hall of Fame. It sends a subtle message that this really is about the PGA Tour. International players get their own ballot.
``I think it's timely to take a look at everything we're doing and take a fresh look,'' Finchem said. ``We haven't done that in several years.''
WORLD CUP: Rory McIlroy said two weeks ago he would not be playing in the World Cup of Golf this year. There is speculation that if he were to represent Ireland at the World Cup, he would be have no choice but to play under the Irish flag in the 2016 Olympics.
But the announcement over the weekend that the World Cup was going to Royal Melbourne this fall under a new format piqued his interest.
Northern Ireland, for the first time, can field its own team.
``That might change things a little bit,'' McIlroy said before leaving the TPC Sawgrass.
Graeme McDowell certainly hopes so.
``I need my partner in crime in Melbourne,'' he said. ``Regardless whether Rory wants to play or not, I want to play this year. If it works, I'd like him to be there, as well. But we'll see.''
McDowell spoke before he was aware of the change in format, and that Northern Ireland can choose to have its own team.
Padraig Harrington smiled when told that Northern Ireland could have its own team. ``It suits me,'' he said. Harrington is the highest-ranked player from Ireland.
The $8 million purse will be divided with $7 million of it for the individual competition (which also provides world ranking points) and $1 million for the team. It will be stroke play, combining the scores of the two-man teams. The field will be capped at 60 players. Countries are allowed no more than four players - provided the additional two are inside the top 15 in the world - but the two players with the highest ranking will be the team. If the cutoff were now, and everyone wanted to play, Tiger Woods and Brandt Snedeker (No. 5) would represent the United States in the team competition.
Players and countries are selected from the world ranking until the 60-man field is set. There likely will be no more than about 18 teams.
Perhaps the strangest part of this World Cup? Royal Melbourne will hold two events in successive weeks. The Australian Masters will be Nov. 14-17, followed by the World Cup of Golf on Nov. 21-24.
OPEN AND OUT: Louis Oosthuizen isn't making big plans to see Merion ahead of the U.S. Open because he's not sure he will be there. His wife, Nel-Mare, is expecting their third child on the Saturday of the tournament.
In a perfect world, she will have the baby the weekend before.
``But if it's during the U.S. Open, I won't play,'' Oosthuizen said. ``If it's Monday and she hasn't gone into labor, I probably won't go. When the doctor said the date, I looked at the calendar and said, `Wow. Well done.' But family is more important.''
His other two children were born in December and February, so the South African hasn't had to cope with babies born around the majors.
OGILVY GETS HIS MATCH: Geoff Ogilvy missed out on the Match Play Championship in Arizona when he plunged in the world ranking, a tough blow for a guy who has won the event twice and reached the championship match another time.
But he won't be shut out from his favorite format.
Ogilvy was on the charter from Sawgrass to Bulgaria to take part in the World Match Play Championship that starts this week. His agent called him a few weeks ago to make sure he had no plans to play the Byron Nelson Championship and to let him know he might get in the Match Play.
``It wasn't even on my radar,'' Ogilvy said after missing the cut at The Players Championship.
Ian Poulter is the defending champion in a 24-man field that includes Graeme McDowell and Henrik Stenson. There are eight groups of three players who play a round-robin format with the top two advancing to single elimination.
``It's a good format for me, probably - hopefully,'' said Ogilvy, who is having a year to forget. He not only failed to qualify for the Match Play in Arizona, he narrowly missed out on the Masters. He already has missed seven cuts this year. Match play is his favorite format, so maybe this can shake things up for him.
``Besides, when am I ever going to go to Bulgaria again,'' Ogilvy said. ``And it's a match play tournament. And they're getting us there easily. And I wasn't going to play Dallas, anyway. Why not at this point?''
DIVOTS: Jimmy Walker has made 22 consecutive cuts, the longest active streak on the PGA Tour and only 120 tournaments short of Tiger Woods' record. ... Sandy Dawson of Australia, former captain and now president of Royal Sydney Golf Club, has been appointed captain of The Royal and Ancient Golf Club of St. Andrews for 2013-14. He is only the second Australian appointed to the post. ... Ernie Ransom, president of Pine Valley Golf Club from 1977 through 2001, died last week at age 86. ... Phil Mickelson has confirmed that he will return to the Scottish Open at Castle Stuart, a week before the British Open. ... The European Tour returns to Denmark next year for the first time since 2003. The name of the tournament is ``Made in Denmark.''
STAT OF THE WEEK: For the second time in his career, Tiger Woods won his last tournament before the Masters and his first tournament after the Masters.
FINAL WORD: ``Nobody has ever sued the tour for being cleared of getting a drug violation.'' - Padraig Harrington on Vijay Singh's lawsuit