PGA Tour Confidential: Does Fred Couples deserve to be in Hall of Fame?
The SI Golf Group conducted a special edition of its weekly e-mail roundtable to discuss Fred Couples's induction to the World Golf Hall of Fame. Check in every week for the unfiltered opinions of our writers and editors and join the conversation in the comments section below.
Charlie Hanger, executive editor, Golf.com: Ok, Confidentialists, pop quiz: Did Fred Couples deserve to get into the Hall of Fame? Also, if you're a voter, did you give him the nod?
David Dusek, deputy editor, Golf.com: Fred Couples did NOT deserve to be voted into the World Golf Hall of Fame. That building should be reserved for the game's all-time greats, and with 15 PGA Tour wins and one major title to his credit, Couples doesn't qualify. I have to believe his popularity, successful Presidents Cup captaincies, two Players Championships wins, and eight Champions Tour wins put him over the top. Freddie never dominated the game, even during his three-win season of 1992, and while being a member of five Presidents Cup and five Ryder Cup teams is impressive, he only appeared on 51% of the Hall of Fame ballots. Mark O'Meara has two majors and 16 PGA Tour wins. What's he thinking about now?
Alan Shipnuck, senior writer, Sports Illustrated: I agree with Deuce. The vote should be on merit, not popularity. Fred deserves a place in a Hall dedicated to potential or natural talent, but not one based on achievement. I'm a voter, and he didn't get the nod from me.
Jeff Ritter, senior producer, Golf.com: O'Meara got 36 percent of the vote, so I'd say he should be thinking about his induction speech for 2015 or '16. Can't remember where I read it, but I recall a voter for the MLB Hall once saying that when he considered his ballot, he'd ask himself, "Can I tell the story of the sport without mentioning this player?" If the answer was no, that player got his vote. In the case of Freddy and golf, you can probably still tell the story, but it'd be a much less interesting tale.
Michael Bamberger, senior writer, Sports Illustrated: The vote came before his Senior British win in July. Even after that, however, I feel like he needs at least one more real -- there are three -- senior major win. I did not vote for him even though I loved the way he fished the ball out of the creek on 12 at Augusta 20 years ago.
Charlie Hanger, executive editor, Golf.com: At this point, I think the Hall will be inducting a lot of people who have marginal victory totals but have impacted the game in other ways. Fred's been one of the most marketable and popular golfers on the planet for more than 30 years, and he's also established himself as an elder statesman with his Presidents Cup captaincy. If "merit" is only a matter of wins, then he's not quite there. If "merit" can encompass a larger impact on the game, then I think he's worthy.
Jim Herre, managing editor, SI Golf Group: Fred's like the cool guy in high school -- everything comes easy. That's the way he plays golf, effortlessly. He has a big game but his swing graceful and unique, kind of like Vijay's is. Kind of like Snead's was. The one thing that didn't come easily was putting, and Couples left a lot of titles on the table because of it. I still enjoy watching him play but didn't vote for him because the numbers could have been so much better.
Ryan Reiterman, senior producer, Golf.com: Freddie is like Joe Namath -- he didn't accomplish as much as some other hall of famers, but it would be really weird to not see him enshrined.
Cameron Morfit, senior writer, Golf Magazine: Does seem like the criteria is pretty much whatever it needs to be that day. If he had the exact same record but was not an icon of cool, he isn't in.
Stephanie Wei, contributor, SI Golf+: Yes, Freddie deserved to get in. Sure, he "only" has one major, and with his talent he could have won more in general, but his impact on golf goes far beyond that. When I was a kid, Freddie was my hero, and I know many golfing children of the 90s would say the same. He made golf look cool. I'm a little biased being from Seattle, but I took my first lessons at Jefferson Park, where Freddie played growing up. I remember the pro showing me the plaques and pictures they had on a wall honoring Freddie, which was very inspiring for my 10-year-old self -- and motivated me to take up the game.
Jim Gorant, senior editor, Sports Illustrated: Not a fan. Few have done less with more talentwise.
Mike Walker, senior editor, Golf Magazine: Let's stop pretending the World Golf Hall of Fame is Cooperstown. Without a change in the unofficial criteria -- 20 wins plus 1 major, 15 wins plus 2 majors, or multiple majors -- soon we won't be able to induct anyone, as Michael Bamberger warned earlier this year. Couples is part of the story of golf over the last 25 years. He belongs in the Hall. His resume might look marginal now, but it won't during Luke Donald's Hall of Fame weekend.