Did HOF fix its 'unwieldy' process with new criteria?

By Rex HoggardMarch 26, 2014, 5:03 pm

For a game that lives and dies with its numbers – be they on scorecards, points lists or world rankings – this one doesn’t add up.

The new selection process for the World Golf Hall of Fame, Hall chief operating officer Jack Peter explained on Sunday at Bay Hill, was the byproduct of a system that had become too “unwieldy.”

“We looked at this deep and we looked at this wide and we looked at this from a variety of different angles,” Peter explained. “And we came to the conclusion that as the landscape of media coverage continues to evolve and change around the world, we felt that the current voting body of almost 300 people was beginning to get a bit unwieldy.”

As a result, a system that had included some 300 voices, many of whom were media types but also included members of the Hall of Fame and various golf administrators, has been whittled to a commission of 16.

Full disclosure, while we lament the loss of the golf writer’s voice in the selection process, this is not personal. Your scribe has never had a Hall of Fame vote, only an interest in the institution and the incongruities in Peter’s explanation.

The new 16-member commission – which includes Arnold Palmer, Gary Player, Annika Sorenstam and Nancy Lopez, as well as three golf writers – is the Hall’s answer to that “unwieldy” balloting process.

Lost in this explanation, however, are the facts.

While golf’s Hall seems to struggle with the simple math of an up-or-down vote from 300 selectors, the Baseball Hall of Fame – arguably the benchmark for all sport’s Halls – seamlessly manages nearly twice as many votes.

For the 2014 Hall of Fame class bound for enshrinement, 571 votes were cast and Greg Maddux, Tom Glavine and Frank Thomas were granted entry into Cooperstown, N.Y. It’s difficult to argue with those results or the math.

“There would be people who argue that the baseball writers aren’t as inclusive as they should be, like radio and TV announcers are not included. But within the confines of the writers we are very inclusive,” said Joe Posnanski, a columnist for NBCSports.com and a baseball Hall of Fame voting member.

The vote for the annual Heisman Trophy is even more “unwieldy.” In 2013, 928 ballots were cast, including 870 from members of the media, to select Florida State’s Jameis Winston. Heisman officials even added a fan vote to the balloting in 1999.

Pro Football’s Hall of Fame in Canton, Ohio, may be the closest model to golf’s new selection process, but it is still more inclusive than what the folks in St. Augustine, Fla., concocted.

For enshrinement into the football Hall, nominees are chosen by a 46-person selection committee comprised of 33 media members and 13 at-large delegates, a group made up mostly of current of Hall of Fame members.

Among the other sweeping changes made to golf’s induction process, the minimum requirements for male players to receive consideration for induction were increased to 15 international victories or two majors or Players Championships.

Davis Love III, a likely candidate for induction when the new commission meets later this year, is as good a reason as any to make the process more inclusive, not less so.

“The LPGA Hall of Fame was so strict. How do you know 20 years from now it might be hard to win 30 tournaments, so putting a number on it is kind of restrictive,” Love said. “That’s why it might be good for 400 people to vote on it because they kind of know who is eligible for the Hall of Fame without putting certain numbers on it.”

Nor does it seem likely the new system, as some have suggested, will help alleviate the politics from the selection process. With such a small sample – an inductee needs 75 percent, or 12 of 16, of the commission’s vote – the likelihood of a “personal” conflict is magnified.

“Those veteran’s committees (for baseball’s Hall of Fame) were about the same size and they turned out to be extremely political,” Posnanski said. “Small panels have tendency to be like that.”

Officials also hope the new system will inspire current Hall of Famers to become more involved in the selection process and by default the induction ceremony, which hasn’t exactly been a must-see event in recent years. Yet the new selection system, which includes just four members of the Hall, limits their voices just as much it does the media.

In a letter sent this week to the 300 or so former voters, Peter explained the new process and thanked everyone for their “support, passion and dedication over the years.”

“Your involvement has been extremely valuable and I sincerely appreciate the time each of you have given to this great institution,” he wrote.

While the letter was well intended, it came off sounding like a pink slip and a numbers game that just doesn’t add up.

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Fleetwood flawless en route to Abu Dhabi lead

By Will GrayJanuary 18, 2018, 2:06 pm

New year, same results for Tommy Fleetwood.

The reigning Race to Dubai champ picked up where he left off in the opening round of the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship, carding a bogey-free 66 during which the Englishman found all 18 greens in regulation. At 6 under, he shares the lead with Japan's Hideto Tanihara and sits one shot clear of five other players.

"Very stress-free. Played really well from start to finish," Fleetwood said. "Felt like I did what you need to do around this golf course, which is drive it well, hit your irons solid. You can't really be too greedy a lot of the time, and then sort of my pace putting was really good. So basically just did what you need to do to get a good score around this golf course, and I got one."

Full-field scores from the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship

Fleetwood shined in a marquee grouping that included world No. 1 Dustin Johnson and Rory McIlroy, as he birdied three holes on each nine. This is his first worldwide start since a T-3 finish at the Hero World Challenge.

It was at this event a year ago that Fleetwood sparked a career campaign, edging Johnson and Pablo Larrazabal for the win. He added another win at the French Open in the summer to go along with a pair of runner-up results and a T-4 finish at the U.S. Open, all of which helped him capture the European Tour's season-long title.

Fleetwood's sudden success in Abu Dhabi serves as a microcosm for his career resurgence. Prior to last year's victory, he had missed the cut in four of his five other trips to this event.

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Sergio starts season with 66 in Singapore

By Associated PressJanuary 18, 2018, 12:56 pm

SINGAPORE – Sergio Garcia opened his season with a 5-under 66 and a share of the clubhouse lead on Thursday in the first round of the weather-interrupted Singapore Open.

Playing his first tournament of the year, the Masters champion rebounded after making an early bogey to collect four birdies and an eagle at the Sentosa Golf Club.

He was later joined by American qualifier Kurt Kitayama in the clubhouse lead. Still on the course, Tirawat Kaewsiribandit was at 6 under through 16 holes when play was suspended for the day because of the threat of lightning.

Louis Oosthuizen, the 2010 Open champion, was at 5 under through 16 holes when he also had to stop his round because of the weather.

Of the players who did finish their opening rounds, only three were within two strokes of Garcia and Kitayama. One of them was Casey O'Toole, who aced the par-3 second with a 7-iron.

The 38-year-old Garcia dropped his only shot of the day on the par-4 15th, his sixth hole after teeing off on the back nine, when he missed the fairway and was unable to make par. But he made amends when he birdied the par-3 17th and then eagled the par-5 18th to go out in 33.

''I was 1 over after (the) seventh but it didn't feel like I was playing badly,'' said Garcia, who made birdies on each of the two par 5s and one of the par 3s on the second nine. ''But then I hit two greats in a row for holes 17 and 18. I got a birdie-eagle there, so that settled me a little bit and I could play solid in the back nine and it was a great round.''

Garcia made the shortlist for the Laureus Sports Awards in the Breakthrough of the Year category after claiming his first major at Augusta National last year and is hoping for more success this season.

He credits the Singapore Open as having played a part in toughening him up for his Masters win because he opted to start his 2017 campaign in the stifling humidity of Southeast Asia to prepare himself for the bigger tournaments ahead.

Although he finished tied for 11th in Singapore, Garcia won the Dubai Desert Classic the next week and was in peak form when he won the Masters two months later.

Kitayama only secured his place in the $1 million event on Monday by finishing at the top of the qualifying competition, but he made a strong start with birdies on three of his first five holes. The 25-year-old Thai was 6 under through 13 holes but spoiled his otherwise flawless round with a bogey on his last.

''I started with a birdie and I just let it roll from there. I had some good tee shots, which I think, is the biggest thing for this course,'' Kitayama said. ''I'm a little tired, but I'm hanging in there. Whenever I have time off, I'll try not to think too much about golf.''

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13-year-old beats DJ in closest-to-the-pin contest

By Ryan LavnerJanuary 18, 2018, 12:26 pm

Dustin Johnson didn’t just get beat by Tommy Fleetwood and Rory McIlroy on Day 1 of the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship.

Even a 13-year-old got the best of the world No. 1.

Oscar Murphy teed off on the 177-yard 15th hole as part of the tournament’s Beat the Pro challenge during the opening round. The Northern Irishman, one of the HSBC’s Future Falcons, carved a 3-wood toward a back-right pin, about 25 feet away, closer than both Johnson and Fleetwood.

“An unbelievable shot,” Fleetwood said afterward, “and me and Rory both said, ‘We don’t have that in our locker.’”

Johnson still made par on the hole, but he mixed four birdies with four bogeys Thursday for an even-par 72 that left him six shots back of Fleetwood and Hideto Tanihara after the opening round.

Johnson, who tied for second here a year ago, is coming off a dominant performance at the Sentry Tournament of Champions, where he won by eight shots to strengthen his lead atop the world rankings. 

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McIlroy 'really pleased' with opening 69 in Abu Dhabi

By Ryan LavnerJanuary 18, 2018, 12:10 pm

It was an auspicious 2018 debut for Rory McIlroy.

Playing alongside world No. 1 Dustin Johnson for his first round since October, McIlroy missed only one green and shot a bogey-free 69 at the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship. McIlroy is three shots back of reigning Race to Dubai champion Tommy Fleetwood, who played in the same group as McIlroy and Johnson, and Hideto Tanihara.

Starting on the back nine at Abu Dhabi Golf Club, McIlroy began with 11 consecutive pars before birdies on Nos. 3, 7 and 8.

Full-field scores from the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship

“I was excited to get going,” he told reporters afterward. “The last couple of months have been really nice in terms of being able to concentrate on things I needed to work on in my game and health-wise. I feel like I’m the most prepared for a season that I’ve ever been, but it was nice to get back out there.”

Fleetwood, the defending champion, raced out to another lead while McIlroy and Johnson, who shot 72, just tried to keep pace.

“Tommy played very well and I was just trying to hang onto his coattails for most of the round, so really pleased – bogey-free 69, I can’t really complain,” McIlroy said.

This was his first competitive round in more than three months, since a tie for 63rd at the Dunhill Links. He is outside the top 10 in the world ranking for the first time since 2014.