Every week of the 2011 PGA Tour season, the editorial staff of the SI Golf Group will conduct an e-mail roundtable. Check in on Mondays for the unfiltered opinions of our writers and editors and join the conversation in the comments section below.
COUPLES AND THE HALL OF FAME
Damon Hack, senior writer, Sports Illustrated: Welcome back to Hogan's Alley, which this week nearly became the Couples Corner. We are pleased to be joined by Tom Patri, one of Golf Magazine's Top 100 teachers and someone who has known Fred Couples since they competed in the 1980 NCAA Championships at Ohio State.
Fred has teased us a few times recently — at Riviera and Augusta National in particular — and he is the unquestioned big dog of the Champions Tour. At 51, his star power remains undimmed. Is he already a Hall of Famer, with 15 wins, including the Masters and two Players Championships, or does he need a final flourish?
Morfit: I think he's done enough, and the fact that he's done it for so long helps, too. You could also argue that there are lesser players than Fred already in the Hall.
Alan Shipnuck, senior writer, Sports Illustrated: Every Hall of Fame has guys who aren't quite worthy. They shouldn't be the standard. Being a nice guy and charismatic are also not relevant.
Jim Gorant, senior editor, Sports Illustrated: Strictly on golf, he probably shouldn't be, but the guy is beloved by golf writers, so he's a lock.
Stephanie Wei, contributor, SI Golf+: Freddie's an automatic HOFer. It's amazing how talented and cool that guy is without putting in any effort. Or hardly any.
Shipnuck: He's not a Hall of Famer, except in the category of unfulfilled potential. Everyone loves Fred, and he's had a very good career, but I don't think he's Hall worthy.
Tom Patri, Golf Magazine Top 100 Teacher: Unfulfilled potential! Spoken like a true 15-handicapper. Armchair athletes have no clue how good Fred's kind of good is.
Shipnuck: And Fred has no idea how hard it is to write 2,000 words in 12 hours for millions of readers.
Jim Herre, managing editor, SI Golf Group : And we armchair athletes do the voting.
Patri: That's why players should vote players in — because they know who has the stuff.
Gorant: It's not about who has the stuff. It's about who has the results.
Gary Van Sickle, senior writer, Sports Illustrated: I'd agree that Fred probably comes up short for the Hall on his golf. I wouldn't count on him to get in by the writers, because I'm not so sure the percentage of voters who are writers is that huge. Given that the Tour has made the Hall induction into an annual ceremony and TV show, they are going to need inductees every year. Fred will get in because the number of remaining legit Hall candidates has seriously dwindled. That's why Davis Love and Mark O'Meara and probably Colin Montgomerie will all get in eventually, too.
Morfit: He could have won a lot more than he did, but you could say that about any bold-name Tour pro, including Jack.
Gorant: The point is, Jack did win more. A lot more. So have many of the others in the Hall. This guy could have been one of the all-time greats.
Herre: Cam, I don't doubt that Couples will get in, and probably soon. But he's the very model of the type of golfer you described in your recent Dustin Johnson column. Big talent, doesn't take responsibility.
Mike Walker, senior editor, Golf Magazine: Could you tell the story of professional golf in the last 25 years without talking about Fred Couples? No. That's why he belongs in the Hall of Fame despite a borderline resume.
Hack: That's a great point. Can you write the history of the game without him? Probably not.
Mark Godich, senior editor, Sports Illustrated: I don't know about that.
Van Sickle: I'm with Godich. Could you write the history without Fred? Probably. Could you write it without his ex-roommate, Jim Nantz? Probably not. The numbers don't lie. Fred's victories don't stack up favorably against very many of the current HOF residents.
Michael Bamberger, senior writer, Sports Illustrated: Doug Ford had to wait 40 years with much better credentials. Few golfers have been more fun to watch than Fred, but I don't see him as a Hall of Famer, not yet.
Farrell Evans, writer-reporter, Sports Illustrated: Freddie's career is comparable to those of Payne Stewart (8 wins, 3 majors), Hubert Green (17 wins, 2 majors), Lanny Wadkins (21 wins, 1 major) and Larry Nelson (7 wins, 3 majors). All those guys are in the Hall of Fame. So why not Couples?
Herre: I agree that Fred's a marginal HOFer and one of the great underachievers. Before the back went out, he was constantly in contention but couldn't close. As Michael Bamberger pointed out today on Golf.com, Couples needs to take some senior tour scalps to get over the top.
Van Sickle: I disagree with Mr. Herre that anything Fred does in senior golf would get him over the top. Nothing that happens there changes whether he's in the HOF or not.
Morfit: What do you get for getting into the Hall of Fame, anyway? A T-shirt? I'd rather get into Augusta every year, and Fred has that.
Hack: Fred also would have won a lot more with a good back. Sandy Koufax made the Hall of Fame despite retiring at 30 because of arthritis. I wonder if injury should be factored into Fred's career, too.
Bamberger: Sandy Koufax completely dominated his era, brief though it was. Al Geiberger and Ken Venturi and Tony Lema were great talents who fate treated unkindly. Hall of Fame voting is based on what you did, not what you might have done.