Thursday, September 20, 2012

Why Fred Couples is a Hall of Famer

 If you've ever watched Fred Couples swing a golf club or just walk down a fairway, you probably smiled when you heard the news that he will be inducted into the World Golf Hall of Fame next May.
   Couples has that effect on people.
   He has that hard to define but impossible to deny quality that makes him the coolest guy in any room. It's the look. It's the swing. It's the smile.
   It's almost accidentally natural. 
   Couples is 52 years old now, two decades past his PGA Tour prime, and he'd still be on the tee with Tiger Woods, Rory McIlroy and Phil Mickelson if someone put together golf's favorite foursome.
   That's why he's going into the Hall of Fame and I'm all right with that.
   It's not the Hall of Achievement. 
   If that's all it was, Couples' 15 PGA Tour wins, which included one Masters and two Players Championships, may not rise to the level of acceptance. It was a very good career and for a time he was the best player in the world. 
   "I don't consider myself to be a great player but I'm a good player," Couples said Wednesday when the announcement was made.
   He left us feeling he should have won more and Couples probably feels some of that himself. But he had back that went out more than the mailman and it changed his career. Since turning 50, Couples hasn't finished outside the top 15 at the Masters, which speaks to his talent, his longevity and, if you were at Augusta or watching on television, his enduring popularity.
  Couples is like no one else, another reason he's beloved.
   His induction surprised many, who considered him a borderline Hall of Famer. It was a surprise that he went in before Davis Love III, who has 20 wins and a resume that at least matches Couples' otherwise. 
   Ken Venturi, whose playing and broadcasting careers taken together should be enough to earn him a spot, is still not in (he tied Love for second with 38 percent of the votes) and MacDonald Smith, who won 24 times in the early days of professional golf, may never get in.
   Couples was the only player elected in this year's balloting and he received only 51 percent of the vote, below the 65 percent threshold generally required for induction. But the bylaws state that if no one receives 65 percent of the vote, the highest vote getter goes in. Welcome, Freddie.
   As a matter of full disclosure, I voted for Love and Venturi this year.
   Halls of Fame are peculiar things. There's a clinical side to who gets in based solely on numbers. But sports aren't just about numbers.
   They're about feelings and personalities, too.
   Nothing against Mark O'Meara, who won two majors, 16 PGA Tour events and a U.S. Amateur, but he didn't reach beyond the scorecard the way Couples did and still does. O'Meara was a professional golfer. Couples was that and more.
   There's a worthy argument to be made about basing Hall of Fame induction solely on achievement but it denies an essential part of why we watch and why we care.
   Fred Couples proves it.


Anonymous said...

Fred Couples belongs in on merit.

Basically, if you don't want to put Fred Couples in the Hall of Fame you are willing to wait five or ten years between placing a PGA Tour player in. Look at the current crop of players, and hardly any of them will get to 15 tour wins. Bubba's 33 and he only has four.

Besides Love (who isn't in yet because he's not yet 50 and there really is no rush)and O'Meara no other players had accomplished more then Couples.

O'Meara, Love and Pavin should all be voted in before the next sure fire hall of famer gets in four years from now when Tiger turns 40.