PGA Tour Confidential: Hall of Fame holdup, Snedeker's PED-policing strategy and Vijay Singh's legacy
Every Sunday night, Golf.com conducts an e-mail roundtable with writers from Sports Illustrated and Golf Magazine. Check in every week for the unfiltered opinions of our writers and editors and join the conversation in the comments section below.
1. The World Golf Hall of Fame announced the cancellation of its 2014 induction ceremony, citing the need for a “comprehensive review” of its selection process. This comes on the heels of widespread criticism, most notably from Hall of Famer Raymond Floyd, who complained after the induction of a 2013 class headlined by Fred Couples and Colin Montgomerie that “the bar has been lowered” and “it’s not fair to the people who went in early.” What should the standard for enshrinement be?
Gary Van Sickle, senior writer, Sports Illustrated (@GaryVanSickle): I've been saying for a few years that the Hall of Fame induction shouldn't be an annual event. They're out of players to enshrine. Every other year, even every third year, is a better option. I like the way the ladies do it, with a set number of wins/majors. I suggest a points system factoring in wins, majors and Ryder Cup appearances. A points system would eliminate the current voting system in which we don't know who votes or how many votes the non-electees got.
Michael Bamberger, senior writer, Sports Illustrated: At a bare minimum, did the person leave a real and lasting mark on the game? I think two majors is a good benchmark rather than just one. I think the three senior majors should count for something. So should the great amateur titles. The age requirement should be pushed way, way back. Sixty, at a minimum. Fred Couples' senior career is making him a more legitimate Hall of Famer. His captaincy of Presidents Cup teams, too. It would have meant more to everybody had he first appeared on a ballot at age 60.
Joe Passov, senior editor, courses and travel, Golf Magazine (@joepassov): There shouldn't be a standard for enshrinement. That's what got the LPGA Hall of Fame into such trouble. Instead, we should establish standards for greatness that make an individual worthy of the Hall of Fame. There's a gray area here, though, as the youngish voters have a hard time making proper assessments of the old-timers who have been left out, but there aren't enough modern players who have the slam-dunk credentials that warrant near-automatic admission. Oh, and the Hall of Fame remains far too biased towards regular Tour performance. Champions Tour records should be included, where relevant, as well as other tours, and more "contributors" -- be they administrators, broadcasters, teachers, architects, etc. -- should be recognized. This is the World Golf Hall of Fame, not the PGA Tour Hall of Fame.
Alan Shipnuck, senior writer, Sports Illustrated (@AlanShipnuck): Good sense should be the standard. Or the smell test. George H.W. Bush and Ken Schofield both fail the latter. The big problem is that the Tour has turned the ceremony into a TV show that must have inductees every year, even if there aren't candidates. How about only enshrining people on odd numbered years? Simple, right?
Cameron Morfit, senior writer, Golf Magazine (@CameronMorfit): I think multiple majors would be a good place to start, but now they've gone to one (Fred) and no majors (Monty, Aoki). I'm not sure how they fix this now except to be willing to have years when no one gets in. So this is a good start. The onus should be up to the players to rise up to the HOF, not on the HOF to come down to anyone's level.
Jeff Ritter, senior producer, Golf.com (@Jeff_Ritter): Not sure a hard and fast list of career accomplishments is the way for the Hall to go. But clearly the resumes of the most recent inductees were lacking, so this was a good time to pause and re-assess. (Davis Love and Mark O'Meara must be bummed -- I think they were next to get in.) At minimum, you should need one major title to be eligible (sorry, Monty), but beyond that, it's a broader question: Is this person important when telling the story of golf? If so, you've got a Hall contender.
Josh Sens, contributing writer, Golf Magazine (@JoshSens): I'd like to say multiple majors, but this golf world has changed since Floyd's time. A global game, much deeper talent pool, much harder to win majors. One of many stats to support that: in 1971, when Floyd was in his prime, the weekend field at the U.S. Open included players from just four countries. At the 2013 U.S. Open, that number was 20. Athletes, real athletes, from all over the world play golf today. Not just a smattering of them from a few places. I agree that the 2013 class seemed watered down. Electing a major-less guy like Montgomerie was a bad move. But at this point, demanding much more than one major win might leave the Hall with no candidates at all.
2. In an interview with Golf Magazine, Brandt Snedeker said the PGA Tour should eliminate drug testing, calling it “a complete waste of time and money.” He went on to suggest that Tour players are capable of some kind of shame-based form of self-policing: “Trust me, if there’s a guy that gets caught doing anything a couple of times, whether it be bending a rule, we know about it, and we let him know about it. You don’t want to be labeled ‘that guy.’” Is Snedeker’s statement refreshingly honest or disturbingly naive or somewhere in between?
BAMBERGER: I love Brandt Snedeker as a player (fast) and a talker (fast), but here, he is woefully naive. First of all, how can golf be an Olympic sport without drug testing? Secondly, it's just illogical to think that the use of PEDs in golf is close to non-existent. They are in every other sport and in society at large. Having said that, and I am repeating here only what the academic experts are saying, the testers are way behind the users. The Tour's testing, in particular, looks pathetic upon close inspection. The commissioner's powers are far too broad and the process is far too secretive. I don't know what Vijay Singh is really looking for in his suit, but it could be a nightmare for the Tour.
SHIPNUCK: It's a joke. Vijay was so shamed by his use of a banned substance he's back out there collecting fat checks. Golf is an Olympic sport and so drug testing is a fact of life. Get over it, Brandt.
SENS: Naive. The idea perpetuates what I think of as one of golf's more irritating myths: that it is inherently a more honorable game than others, populated by players who are somehow more ethically and morally upright than others. Sure, there's an element of self-policing in golf. But what's even more prevalent is an aura self-congratulation about that self-policing. Spare me. The truth is that golf, like all other sports, has seen its share of cheaters. And shady characters. Among the many rules golf should have is a drug policy, along with people other than the players to enforce it.
PASSOV: Somewhere in between. If golf is an Olympic sport, you need the testing. And if we've learned anything in life (and sports), "Trust me" means squat. And yet, you know in your heart that Snedeker is correct. No other sport features athletes who call penalties on themselves, and the percentage of positive tests has been so ridiculously low, it's borderline silly to continue them.
MORFIT: It's not quite that simple. I've spoken to players who said they knew guys who took stuff and didn't get caught. It's repetitive-use, banging balls on the range, so there will always be repetitive-use aches and pains, and players trying to deal with them.
VAN SICKLE: This just in, Brandt: the Olympic-level drug testing hasn't even begun yet, buddy. I doubt that drugs are an issue in golf, but as just about every other sport has been proven dirty, this is a way for golf to prove that it's clean. Self-policing? Like Barry Bonds, maybe? Get serious.
RITTER: I admire his candor, but it's naive. We've been burned too many times by athletes claiming to be clean ("I've never failed a test" has become one of flimsiest defenses out there), so golf had no choice but to start a testing program. In fact, given that golf will be played in the Rio Games, golf's testing needs to be further improved to match the Olympic program. Plus, many of these PEDs don't bulk you up, but instead speed up the recovery process from injuries. You're telling me that out of the PGA Tour, the Euro Tour, the Web.com tour, the LPGA Tour, the Hooters Tour, and everything else out there, no one is experimenting with drugs to try to get an edge?
3. The PGA Tour adopted a “wraparound” schedule, so the Frys.com Open was the first Tour event of the 2013-14 season and kicked off the pursuit of the next FedEx Cup less than a month after Henrik Stenson captured the last one. What did you think of golf’s new Opening Day? Does golf, or any sport for that matter, need an offseason to build anticipation and excitement for the next season?
SENS: The Tour needs a break. We all need a break. Opening day of any sport season should have a sense of anticipation behind it. The Frys.com is an an enjoyable tournament, but it doesn't pack the oomph that a real kickoff requires.
VAN SICKLE: This is all about saving the fall events, which the PGA Tour left out to die after the post-FedEx schedule revision. The Tour didn't think it needed those events but upon further review, it does. So now they've got to count in order to attract sponsors. A break between seasons? Irrelevant. This is about having enough playing opportunities for Q-school and Web.com grads to make up for all those limited field events.
SHIPNUCK: I can't believe the new season has already started. I'm sure many fans (and players) feel the same way. A couple months off to build anticipation would be swell, but Finchem's mandate is to create playing opportunities for the Tour's middle class. Ergo, we get C-list events like the Frys.
RITTER: It's fair to say the Frys didn't have much opening-week buzz, but golf doesn't need an offseason or splashy opener to create excitement -- it just builds naturally as we slowly get closer to the Masters.
PASSOV: I get that Team Finchem has made things more attractive for the rank-and-file and for late-season sponsors with the wraparound move. The problem is -- I don't really care. I need a breather from caring about golf results. I'd honestly rather be watching football and baseball playoffs right now. The most wildly popular sports all have a legitimate off-season. Now, what was late-season fun was 2011, when everybody showed up at Disney, including Luke Donald and Webb Simpson, who were in a dogfight for the money title. At least something was on the line that the players cared about. The Frys.com event, competitive as it was, didn't feel any different this week than in its Fall Series days. Mr. Finchem, give us a break!
MORFIT: I'd like to see an offseason, and I'm thinking about these tourneys as the preseason. Although I guess they are somewhere between a preseason and real game. As far as strength of field and their ability to draw eyeballs, I don't see much difference between this and the old Fall Series. That could change in the coming weeks.
BAMBERGER: I watched the Frys and enjoyed it. I liked the course. I liked the mix of new names and old ones. I liked the laid-back coverage. But it didn't feel like the start of anything. To everything there is a season, and an offseason is part of that equation. The Tour needs some time off just as Old Tom said the Old Course needed one day off a week.
4. 50-year-old Vijay Singh made his presence felt at this week's Frys.com Open. He's been a giant, an enigma, an accused cheat … What are we to make of Singh's legacy given all that's happened this year?
RITTER: One of the saddest-looking plaques hanging in the Hall of Fame.
MORFIT: I'll always think of him as a proud man, a cantankerous man, and a proudly cantankerous man. He has an exemplary work ethic and a great backstory, but he's accessible only to a select few, starting with Jason Dufner and Tom Pernice, Jr.
SENS: As many majors as Billy Casper, Jimmy Demaret, Padraig Harrington and Nick Price. I think that even Ray Floyd would have to agree that the man deserves his place in the Hall of Fame.
BAMBERGER: Vijay is one of the most inspiring success stories in the history of golf. He can be truly brutal on caddies and reporters, and he has shown often shown a massive selfish streak. If the categories are givers and takers, he's a taker. He's also a horrible loser. Yet, there's as much greatness in him as anybody in the Els-Mickelson-Woods era. He's one of the few players you'd say would have been truly great in any era. I love watching him on the range. A meditation, of a kind. I love watching him grind out a round. I love that he's flat-out tough. So I take him as a whole, because the Tour would have been far less interesting without him.
SHIPNUCK: Great player. Misanthrope. Same as he ever was.
VAN SICKLE: Vijay is an enigma. He was all about the golf and the money. Anything else was just something in the way. His legacy is one of a player whose accomplishments will never be fully appreciated because of his scant dealings with the media. That was his choice.
PASSOV: I always enjoyed when Vijay was in contention, because he was different and compelling. His elegant swing belied his unlikely golf upbringing in Fiji, and his gruff demeanor to the public and to the media was mitigated in part from Tour chatter that he was helpful to other players. Unparalleled work ethic, incredible results past the age of 40, terrific record in the Majors -- yet dogged by his old (and now new) cheating suspicions. His travails with the putter and his feuds with Tiger and Phil are legacies unto themselves. With the specter of his lawsuit against the PGA Tour still looming, I'll call him golf's greatest outcast.
5. Lexi Thompson won by four strokes at the LPGA Malaysia. Lydia Ko is petitioning the LPGA to waive its age limit so that she can turn pro. Solheim Cup star Charley Hull will rely on sponsors’ exemptions to fill out her 2014 tour schedule. Which one of these teenagers will have the best career: Lexi, Lydia or Charley?
PASSOV: I love Charley's moxie -- but she hasn't proved herself on the biggest individual stroke-play stages yet. Given her length off the tee, if Lexi can get her putter to work the way it did this week, she'd be my pick. That said, I'm in the Ko Kamp. Her unusual maturity, incredible short game and steely focus under pressure are going to serve her well for a long time.
RITTER: With all that power and athleticism, Lexi has the most upside, but all three could turn out to be world-beaters.
VAN SICKLE: Lydia Ko's exploits at such a young age have been impressive, so I'll go with Ko. Lexi has the power to dominate her tour, but not the short game to go with it. We haven't seen enough of Hull in America to even make a good determination. I look forward to watching all three of them.
BAMBERGER: Of those three, whomever likes golf, and competition, the most.
SENS: Predicting the distant future for teen golf stars is like forecasting Scottish weather four months out. But because she's accomplished more at a younger age than the others, I'd say Ko.
SHIPNUCK: Lexi is an awesome physical talent, but she has battled Wie-itis on the greens. Like everyone, I fell in love with Hull at the Solheim Cup, but she has to prove herself a bit more before I'm a true believer. Ko has a knack for scoring, and winning, that you can't teach. I think she's gonna own women's golf, but I hope the other two keep developing and they form a very intriguing Big Three.
MORFIT: Lydia Ko is clearly the class of this group. Maybe those other two will learn how to win. Ko already knows. When predicting the big winners just look for the ones who are already winning. It's that easy. Exhibit A: Tiger.
The PGA Tour Confidential debate continues Monday on our new weekly show hosted by Jessica Marksbury. Tweet her your questions @Jess_Marksbury.