Ian Woosnam Is More Hall-of-Fame Worthy Than Mark O'Meara, Plus Tiger's Comeback in the Van Cynical Mailbag

Tuesday October 21st, 2014
Ian Woosnam makes the winning putt Sunday at the 1991 Masters.
John Iacono/SI

“What does Ian Woosnam have to do to get in the World Golf Hall of Fame?”

This question, and it’s a good one, was sent to me via Twitter by Jeff Bowles. I was surprised again that Woosnam wasn’t among the class of 2015 inductees. His numbers are better than others.

Don’t worry, Woosnam will get into the Hall. At this rate, everyone is going to get into the Hall. There have been 73 inductees since 2000, a number that may be bigger than you think when you remember that there were no inductees in 2010 or 2014.

Think about that number. Seventy-three golfers in 15 years. That’s a lot for an individual sport.

The PGA Tour has, rightfully so, tried to make the induction ceremony into a big deal. It’s doing that by trying to make it into a television show. The problem is, you can’t have a glorious induction show without inductees. So the Hall has been sweeping way too many individuals in way too quickly out of necessity.

I believe that’s why the HOF took the vote away from journalists, a group it couldn’t control, and gave it to a selection committee comprised mostly of celebrity golfers such as Arnold Palmer, Nancy Lopez, Gary Player and Annika Sorenstam, and has a sub-committee of assorted HOF members, Tour officials and a few curious at-large voters.

I’m fine with not having a vote anymore. I didn’t like the lack of clarity and I still don’t like it. The tour wouldn’t list the voters and wouldn’t give out the full list of who got votes. And there was a veterans’ committee that had the power to induct a player even in a year when he didn’t get enough votes from the voting body (Hubert Green, case in point).

So they can put anybody they want into the Hall now. I’m not that interested.

That said, let’s get back to Woosnam. He didn’t get in this year but Mark O’Meara did. A comparison of their careers might be enlightening.

Majors: O’Meara won two in 1998, a Masters on a dramatic 72nd-hole putt and a British Open in a playoff with Brian Watts. Woosnam won one, the 1991 Masters.

That should be an edge for O’Meara except the British Open was the only major that Woosnam played in until 1989. He’d won 11 times on the European Tour in the ’80s but the Masters, U.S. Open and PGA were effectively closed to most non-PGA Tour members then. Woosnam played in only 77 majors versus O’Meara’s 103. That’s 26 more majors, almost nine years worth, that Woosie wasn’t considered eligible for.

Woosnam had six top-five finishes in majors, O’Meara had seven. O’Meara won the only two majors he seriously contended for. Give a young Woosnam 26 more majors to play, I like his chances of winning one. But the score is O’Meara 2, Woosnam 1. So O’Meara has the apparent edge.

Career wins: When players compete around the world, it’s difficult to compare titles -- what’s legit, what isn’t. By my count, Woosnam won 29 European tour events, 2 PGA Tour events and eight other assorted titles in Africa and Asia. That’s 39 for a total.

O’Meara won 16 times on his home tour, the PGA Tour; 4 European tour events; 2 Japanese tour events and the Australian Masters. I come up with 23 for his total.

If you want to nitpick further, Woosnam’s wins on his home tour included some of the best events -- the Volvo PGA, twice; the Scottish Open, three times; the Irish Open, twice; and the World Match Play Championship, three times. Before his big year in ’98 when he won two majors, the last two tournaments he ever won, O’Meara was known as the King of the B’s. It was a slightly unfair nickname that was based on the fact that his other 14 Tour wins came in events that usually had weaker fields -- the Greater Milwaukee Open; the Pebble Beach National Pro-Am, four times; Hawaiian Open; H.E.B. Texas Open; and Greater Greensboro Classic.

O’Meara’s best non-major win was probably the 1995 Honda Classic, where he edged Nick Faldo by one stroke.

This category is a total mismatch on numbers and in quality. Woosnam gets the edge.

Ryder Cup: Woosnam had better longevity. He played on eight Ryder Cup teams for Europe and later captained the winning side. O’Meara played in five and was one of the Americans in 1997 who complained that the Ryder Cup players should get paid for competing. Another edge for Woosnam.

Senior golf: Are you kidding? That doesn’t count.

Back to the original question from Mr. Bowles: What does Woosnam have to do?

Probably just wait another year. If it was up to me, I’d take his record over O’Meara’s.

Elsewhere in the Van Cynical Mailbag…

Van Cynical, Prognosis for Tiger’s comeback?
--Dave Conlon via Twitter

Retief Goosen has come back and has played some decent golf lately after having surgery similar to Tiger’s a year and a half ago. It’s not like Tiger has forgotten how to hit an iron, DefCon. He was, at one point, easily the greatest shotmaker of his generation. He was also the best putter. He’s closing in on 40 and I wrote repeatedly back in 2009 that his comeback would only go as far as his putter takes him. That’s still true. I’m sure he’ll continue to be a great iron player, he just needs to find a swing with the driver where he can get the ball in play and not have the club be a liability. The only way he doesn’t return and win more tournaments is if his body doesn’t hold up. That’s the X factor.

Vans, Which tourney between now and the end of the year are you most looking forward to?
--The Bogey Train via Twitter

The most watched tourney is going to be the Hero World Challenge at Isleworth the first weekend of December. It’s not a tourney, more like a small golf outing, and is of no real importance, but Tiger Woods is the host and he’s planning on playing. Which will make it big news. The world will be breathlessly waiting to see the state of Tiger’s game. I guess I’ll have to tune in, too.

Van Cynical, Does the European tour produce more players who win as opposed to rack up top-10 and top-20 finishes? If so, why?
--Lionel Mandrake via Twitter

I don’t think there are any magically revealing stats for that, LiMan. There was a feeling in the ’80s and ’90s, though, that the Euros were indeed tougher and more used to winning because their tour wasn’t as deep in talent. The theory was, it was easier to win so they got more practice at it and since the money was a lot less in Europe, there was more incentive to win. You couldn’t coast to a $1 million year by racking up top 10s, as you could on the more-lucrative PGA Tour. I don’t think any of that holds true anymore. This year’s Ryder Cup matchup, in fact, showed that seven Euro players won in 2014 while six Americans had. That’s about even. Europe’s top players are more used to winning than America’s best, however. See Rory, Kaymer, Stenson and Rose versus Furyk, Watson, Fowler and Kuchar.

Sickle, Which current Tour player would be the best stand-up comedian and what would be his shtick?
--Brian Bailey via Twitter

Paul Goydos has evolved from the regular tour to the senior circuit. He had the deadpan delivery down. He could do standup and, in fact, more or less did when he was the after-dinner speaker at the U.S. Senior Amateur Championship at Newport Beach last month. He’d be in the get-no-respect mold of Rodney Dangerfield. Remember when Bob Costas asked him at The Players how he slept the previous night? “On my side,” Goydos said.

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