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Tour Confidential: Is the World Golf Hall of Fame selection process flawed?

October 14, 2018

Check in every Sunday night for the unfiltered opinions of our writers and editors as they discuss the hottest topics in the sport, and join the conversation by tweeting us @golf_com. Tonight we discuss the HOF selection process, Tiger vs. Phil losing steam, and how the PGA Championship will be viewed in the future. 

1. The World Golf Hall of Fame this week announced the latest class of inductees: two-time U.S. Open winner Retief Goosen, three-time major champion Jan Stephenson, former Augusta National chairman Billy Payne, teaching great Peggy Kirk Bell and motivational speaker/trick-shot artist Dennis Walters. All these candidates have undoubtedly achieved significant accomplishments in the game but are they all HOF worthy?

Michael Bamberger, senior writer: Yes. Billy Payne, no matter how you grade him for style, did more for golf, broadly, than just about any person alive today. That is, he used the badge of Augusta National and the Masters in new and effective ways. As for the others, yes, yes, yes and yes. What I like best about this class is it shows there are many paths to having a true impact on the game.

Josh Sens, writer (@JoshSens): Michael puts it well. It shows the many paths. It also reminds that the criteria had to evolve to accommodate the new era. It happens to all Halls. The Rock & Roll Hall of Fame just anointed LL Cool J.

Dylan Dethier, associate editor (@dylan_dethier): Criteria for inclusion at the Hall seems tough to totally hone in on, so I’ve got a hard time deeming any of these inductees ‘unfit.’ I’d especially encourage you to read about Dennis Walters, who was paralyzed in an accident as an aspiring young pro but ended up leaving far more of an impact teaching, speaking and exhibiting trick shots from a wheelchair than he would have as a player.

Sean Zak, assistant editor (@sean_zak): Is there anyone who is actually going to deem someone unworthy of the HOF? It’s a great group.

Joe Passov, travel editor (@joepassov): My past beef with the World Golf Hall of Fame was that it focused too much on PGA Tour performances. Golf is much more than that, from architects to teachers to broadcasters. This is a nice group of completely deserving folks–though I’d be happy to entertain a Goosen debate.

2. Who’s not in the Hall that belongs there? Brandel Chamblee, for one, has lobbied for the inclusion of Tony Lema (12 Tour wins, including one major title, before he was killed in a plane crash at 34); Tom Weiskopf (16 Tour wins, including one major, plus revered course designer); and Macdonald Smith (his 24 wins, but no majors, is tops among eligible players not already in the HOF). Any snubs come to mind?

Bamberger: Weiskopf belongs because Fred (Couples) is in, on playing alone. Add to that his career in design and his commentary and his fame — he has impact! — I’d say he belongs. Mac’d Smith, for sure.

Sens: Given that Colin Montgomerie got in without a major and before he’d won a senior major, Weiskopf seems like a must.

Dethier: Butch Harmon has had a teaching career of some note — he coached Tiger from ‘93-‘04 and you may remember a certain amount of success during that period…

Zak: The way the HOF is determined (requiring 12 votes of 16), there is plenty of potential for snubs. Weiskopf and Harmon both make great sense. It’s particularly difficult to measure impact, especially when people have ongoing careers. As long as those two above are not life-long snubs, then it’ll be fine.

Passov: I’ve been making the case for Tom Weiskopf for many years. In fact, it startles many knowledgeable golf fans when you tell them that Weiskopf is not in the Hall. A few years ago, I asked him whether he’s more bothered by not being in the Hall of Fame or not winning the Masters. He said “Give me the Masters over the Hall of Fame. But what I really wanted to win was the U.S. Open.” He was briefly the best in the world, and he certainly deserves his place for all of the reasons Michael articulated.

Tom Weiskopf is among the notables many wish would be inducted to the World Golf Hall of Fame.

3. The much-buzzed-about Tiger-Phil $10 million match lost some of its luster after fans learned they would have to pay for the honor of watching the telecast. Then Tiger and Phil fizzled in the Ryder Cup. And now comes word that the event will not be open to the public. If this event were a stock, would you be buying or selling it right now?

Bamberger: I wouldn’t sell now as you can’t get anything for it. But it looks like what it is, a cash-grab, meaningless TV entertainment, hurting nobody but also not really doing anything for anybody. Without any real spectators, in significant numbers, the atmosphere might be just . . . dead.

Sens: What struck me from the start as a cynical nothing burger of a cash grab just keeps getting emptier. PPV only? No fans? I’m hard pressed to think of a more contrived and less interesting event.

Dethier: This stock is so low at the moment that I’m happy to buy some! I share the aforementioned gripes on the product in question, but let’s not forget: this is Tiger-Phil! Mic’d up and playing Shadow Creek! The two most notable players of their generation are going head-to-head, and even the contrived parts (bring on the cringeworthy trash talk!) should at least be entertaining. C’mon, cynics. Pop on the telly for some post-Thanksgiving fun on the links.

Zak: I’d be buying it for sure. While I’m not expecting the numbers to do amazingly well, it’s still more golf than we’re used to on Black Friday, not to mention the righty GOAT versus the lefty GOAT. I think it will be packaged appropriately and will actually be compelling on the back nine. Leave it up to Phil and Tiger, two of the most exciting dudes the game has ever seen.

Passov: It’s so easy to be cynical about this endeavor at this point, but post-Thanksgiving, I think the novelty will appeal, especially if the slate of college football games is meaningless. Now that the stock price has hit bottom, I think it’s a good buy.

4. Marc Leishman, who cruised to his fourth PGA Tour victory Sunday at the CIMB Classic in Malaysia, is often cited among the players who seem to be on the cusp of winning a major title. Which majorless player is most likely to nab one in 2019?

Bamberger: Marc Leishman, Daniel Berger, Pat Perez, Brandt Snedeker would all be likely candidates. Of that group, I’d take Leishman.

Sens: Xander Schauffele and Tommy Fleetwood

Dethier: Fleetwood for sure. But have we given up on Rickie Fowler? He’s still quite good.

Zak: Hideki Matsuyama. Tame that putter a touch and the chances will continue piling up.

Passov: All terrific choices. Fleetwood seems to harness magic on big stages, but he hasn’t converted that to enough Ws just yet. Rickie seems to be on the Sergio train, as in, when is this — if ever — going to happen? Sergio got through at last, and Rickie will too. But Jon Rahm keeps maturing and he’s still very young. I see him next.

5. Beginning in 2020, the PGA Championship will be aired not by Turner Sports but by ESPN. Any advice for the folks in Bristol about how to spice up the PGA telecast?

Bamberger: I think they’re going to get their advice from the new leaders at the PGA of America, starting with Seth Waugh. In general, TV golf does not tell us enough about who the players are. They don’t tell us enough about the struggle that is professional golf. They don’t tell us enough about the exact skills necessary to play the shots they play. They don’t tell us enough about the people behind the golfers.

Sens: Golf broadcasts have become remarkably whizz bang in their high tech tracing and stat tracking. Features that immerse you in action. More of that, please. At the same time I think coverage could be improved by losing more its stuff politeness. More frankness of the kind Johnny Miller introduced at the peak of his broadcasting career. Both Johnny and Brandel are polarizing. But they’re also interesting.

Dethier: All of the above, plus take a cue from an unlikely golf broadcast source: FOX! The cinematic wide-angle shots in this year’s US Open did a cool job of showcasing Shinnecock. Golf broadcasts should stress the visuals.

Zak: The trouble with focusing on telling the players stories is…well…we’d be retelling them constantly. Imagine Joe Buck retelling the Aaron Rodgers Isn’t Tight with His Family Anymore trope six times a year. That’s where cliche’d storylines come into play a la “Justin and Jordan are such good friends!” For me, far and away, the greatest thing a broadcast can do is get closer to the player and his caddie (sorry, Patrick Reed). The more player-caddie conversations we can get on the broadcast, the better you can truly tell the story of what is happening on the golf course.

Passov: Charge more for advertisers and show fewer commercials.

6. Our own Travelin’ Joe Passov has identified 11 things you absolutely must do before, during and after you play a bucket-list course. In all your visits to bucket-list tracks, what moment — on the course or off — do you most wish you could have back?

Bamberger: First time playing in at St. Andrews, late in the day, people hanging on the fence, not of course for the duffers abroad on the links but to take in the whole scene. The air, the light, the turf, the ghosts, the public nature of it all. Golf.

Sens: The first bucket list course course I played was The Country Club in Brookline and I got on by sneaking through a hole in the fence of the muni next door. I only played one hole because I was a kid scared of getting caught. I should have played a few more, and then gone in to the clubhouse and ordered something on the Underhill’s account.

Dethier: Much to the chagrin of every other person in the media center, I won the Masters media lottery this year and got to play Augusta National the day after the tournament ended. My first year on the beat and already walking hallowed ground?! Too good to be true.

We were playing from the members tees, which meant each of the par 5s was easily reachable — if I could just find the fairway. Visions of eagles danced in my head just before I snap-hooked it into the woods on 2. No better at 8, where I hit a big block into the right trees. It only got worse when I found Rae’s Creek at 13. No. 15 was my last shot, and I finally found the fairway — but it was the 17th fairway. Another layup.

In the process I robbed myself of some of the great risk-reward shots in golf. Travelin’ Joe might suggest I dial it back a bit and hit a fairway next time. Only problem is there’s not a great chance I’ll be back again soon…

Zak: The summer, two-person scramble between myself, my brother, my dad and my grandpa. Grandpa Zak taught me the game, gave me free range balls, even stole a set of clubs for me. He had finally driven two hours north to play my home course for the first time. Couldn’t tell you what we shot that day but we were smiling the whole way.

Passov: Regrets? I’ve had my share. Not taking a single photo during my first round at Cypress as a 20-year-old might be one. The one I’d like to have back, however, is playing Pebble Beach with my dad. I’d like to relive that one over and over and over.