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Should Couples be in the Hall of Fame?

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Fred Couples' recent victory in the Senior Open Championship was a reminder of his talent, but is he Hall of Fame worthy? Couples has been on the ballot since 2005 and last year garnered 38 percent of the vote, with 65 percent needed for outright inclusion. Our writers weigh in.

BY RANDALL MELL

Fred Couples has enjoyed a wonderful career, but it falls short of being Hall of Fame caliber.

Somebody hand me a helmet and a shield, because Couples is so beloved that his legion of followers will have their ire up over that assessment. Given how dynamic Couples is as a personality, how much fun he is to watch, I may have to slap myself, but . . .

Hall of Fame scrutiny is necessarily harsh, brutally probing.

While Couples has been good for the sport, there’s an undeniable sense that he underachieved on the game’s grandest stages. That’s tough to say, but it has to be said in scrutinizing his career for the Hall of Fame.

Major championships are the primary measure of golf greatness. Couples won a single major, the 1992 Masters. Through his prime, there was a strong sense he was too talented to win just a single major.

That shouldn’t ultimately define Couples’ career, he achieved so much with his 15 PGA Tour titles, his No. 1 world ranking, his contributions to the Ryder Cup and Presidents Cup. Very few pros wouldn’t trade their careers for his, but Hall of Famers wouldn’t be among them, shouldn’t be among them. The Hall of Fame should be reserved for the spectacular, the very best of the best who went above and beyond.

Yes, there are players with fewer than two majors in the Hall of Fame, but those decisions are still debated. This isn’t to say failing to win more than a single major should prevent Hall of Fame membership. There’s always the bigger picture, with larger historic contributions favorably tipping the scale. Ken Venturi is a case in point. As an amateur and a pro, he was a part of so much history, even in his major losses. And as a broadcaster for 35 years, Venturi significantly shaped how more than one generation of golf fans came to understand the game and its characters.

Couples needs that extra bit of something larger to push him over the top. With his Senior British Open title Sunday, he earned a spot in the British Open next year. If he somehow makes history winning that one, well, it’s a spectacular exclamation point to his career. Now that would take him over the top of the Hall of Fame wall.


BY REX HOGGARD

Give Fred Couples a locker in St. Augustine, Fla., complete with an unused cell phone and an X-ray of his oft-ailing back but not because of what he did last week at Turnberry.

No, Couples’ spot in the World Golf Hall of Fame should have been locked up long ago, his Senior British Open moment was just a bonus. The problem for some HOF voters, however, is that Boom Boom’s numbers don’t add up.

These dogmatic voters will tell you that Couples’ 15 PGA Tour titles, one major (1992 Masters) and two Players victories fall short of what is considered a traditional Hall of Fame resume.

The problem with that kind of strict adherence to an unwritten code is that it ignores everything else a player did for the game.

In Couples’ case that’s a 2-0 record as the U.S. Presidents Cup captain, complete with a third go looming in 2013, 16 weeks as the world’s top-ranked player and a level of popularity that few have enjoyed.

Much like Colin Montgomerie, whose impact on golf in Europe could never be overstated, Couples is caught in the Hall number crunch. Hall of Fame careers, however, do not always go by the numbers.


BY JASON SOBEL

I was honored to become a World Golf Hall of Fame voter for the first time this year. It’s a responsibility that I take very seriously, which is only one reason that when the ballots were released, I quickly scanned the electronic form for Fred Couples’ name and clicked the appropriate box right away.

There’s always been a stigma surrounding Boom Boom as one of the game’s ultimate underachievers, a man with a million-dollar swing who never got enough out of it. That’s absurd. In fact, I look at him in much the opposite way: Here’s a guy who dealt with major injury issues to his back throughout his entire career and was still able to claim 15 titles, including a Masters and two Players Championships.

Throw in the extraneous, non-statistic-driven miscellany – he’s captained two Presidents Cup teams and will preside over at least one more; he’s nearly dominated the Champions Tour ever since becoming eligible; he’s been an icon and fan favorite for more than two decades – and it’s obvious to me that Couples is well deserving. And yes, the miscellany should matter when factoring a player for the Hall of Fame.

Even those who look only at the stats, though, should have trouble denying Freddie. Once upon a time, golfers needed, oh, about 20 career victories and a few major championships to be considered for the HOF. That time is no longer. In recent years, it’s become more difficult to win on the game’s most elite level. Those numbers should be scaled back to account for the increased difficulty, with 15 wins and one major being a more reasonable barometer.

Couples owns those credentials, plus every intangible in the book. Put him in the Hall already. I know I did.


By JAY COFFIN

Fred Couples is the coolest cat in golf, has been for 30 years. But he's not a Hall of Famer.

This is a sheer numbers game. Boom Boom has 15 career PGA Tour victories, one major championship (1992 Masters) and two Players Championships, which will be considered more than they should.

Once we start considering players who have only won 15 times we're in jeopardy of watering down the Hall. Corey Pavin has 15 victories and a major, Mark O'Meara has 16 victories and two majors. Neither are in the Hall of Fame and are likely to stay that way. Jim Furyk has 16 PGA Tour victories and one major championship and is not considered to be a Hall of Fame candidate, which is why his U.S. Open hiccup last month at The Olympic Club stung a little more.

Couples' good buddy Davis Love III has 20 PGA Tour victories, one major and a two Players Championships, which is by most accounts a better career than Couples. His name doesn't roll off the tongue when talking about those who deserve entrance into the Hall. Lanny Wadkins won 21 times on the PGA Tour and collected one major, yet waited more than a decade to earn the nod.

I realize that numbers don't tell the entire story. Couples has been nothing but a success as a Presidents Cup captain and was the No. 1-ranked player in the world during the Greg Norman, Nick Price, Nick Faldo, Greg Norman era. Those all account for something. But it's still not enough.

Couples will get into the Hall of Fame because he'll earn enough cool points to give him the honor. His career on the golf course alone should not be enough to get him there.