Re-Working the Rules of the Hall of Fame

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There are few better sports discussions between friends than one which involves the Hall of Fame ' particularly when the debate takes place after closing time.
 
This past week, the World Golf Hall of Fame released its PGA TOUR ballot for 2007. There were 20 candidates from which to choose, including lone newcomer David Toms.
 
David Toms
David Toms is up for Hall of Fame election for the first time.
The criteria for being on this list: minimum of 40 years old; PGA TOUR member for 10 years; 10 PGA TOUR wins or two wins in the majors or PLAYERS Championship.
 
A few of these criterions need adjustment.
 
First of all, while retirement doesnt factor into golf the same way that it does in other sports, the Champions Tour should be a barometer for minimum age requirement to qualify for the Hall of Fame.
 
Forty is way too young an age to make someone eligible, particularly with how well this age group has performed on TOUR the past decade. Fifty would make much more sense.
 
Being a TOUR member for 10 years is fine; but is winning 10 times on TOUR or winning a couple of majors worth consideration?
 
At first, I thought not. But then I did some research and found that only 97 players (according to The Sports Network) have won at least 10 career PGA TOUR events. Not a huge number when you consider the thousands and thousands of players who have competed on TOUR over the years.
 
My initial thinking was that a player should have to win at least 15 or maybe even 20 events to make the ballot ' but then it was pointed out to me, in one of those friendly discussions, that there is a huge difference between eligibility and initiation.
 
I, a fairly open-minded individual, have now altered my opinion. And I have also changed my way of thinking about a player only having to win two majors to be eligible (I initially thought that number was a little low as well).
 
Only 74 men have won multiple major championships, compared to 117 who have won just one (according to wikipedia.org).
 
Winning two might not be worth getting you into the Hall, but its worth consideration.
 
Its good that golf has some sort of criteria in regards to accomplishment. In other sports, like baseball or football, eligibility is based solely on service and period of retirement.
 
That leads to Walt Weiss and Gary DiSarcina being on the latest MLB ballot, which is like having Woody Austin and Neal Lancaster on the TOUR version.
 
Aside from the age minimum, there are two other things I would change in regards to the PGA TOURs Hall of Fame requirements.
 
One, the fact that winning a PLAYERS Championship carries the same weight as winning a major championship. I realize that this is the PGA TOUR ballot and theyll do just about anything to place their darling tournament on equal ground with the four majors.
 
But, enough already. Its a wonderful event. The fifth best tournament an individual can win. But its not a major. It's ... not ... a ... major.
 
The other thing is the fact that someone seemingly must be elected each year.
 
According to the rules, In the event that no candidate receives 65%, the nominee receiving the most votes with at least 50% is elected.
 
Say what?
 
This is how Vijay Singh got elected a couple of years ago, which was ridiculous on two fronts. In the first place, Singh, whether or not he passes the jerk test, is Hall of Fame worthy and should have easily made it ' based on the criteria. Granted, he should be well past his prime and at least 50 years old before he gets in, but thats not the rule.
 
But if he didnt receive the necessary 65 percent for admittance, then he shouldnt be admitted.
 
From 1996-2000, you needed 75 percent of the returned ballots to make it in. From 2001-2003, you needed at least 65 percent. Since 2004, you can get in with just 50 percent if nobody else gets more than you.
 
Being a legend has never been easier.
 
Halls of Fame should be difficult to get into. You cant anoint ultimate greatness on an athlete just because you want to throw a ceremony and make a few bucks. Thats absurd.
 
The election of Singh raises another concern in relation to Hall of Fame voting: Should there be voters or should there be an unbiased points system?
 
The LPGA uses a points system based on accomplishment. You have to reach a certain point total (27) ' based on major wins (2 points), regular tournament victories (1), scoring titles (1), and Player of the Year awards (1) ' to be elected into the Hall. You also must have made at least 10 starts in each of 10 years on tour.
 
Before 1999, LPGA players had to win 30 tournaments, including two majors; 35 tournaments with one major; or 40 events and no majors to automatically qualify.
 
Obviously, the LPGA has eased its policy, but its still tougher for an LPGA player to get into the Hall than it is for a PGA TOUR player.
 
If you applied the current LPGA points system to the PGA TOUR, several of the men who are already in would be out, and all but one of those on the current ballot wouldnt be eligible.
 
That lone person would be Henry Picard. Picard, who received 53 percent of the vote in 2006, while Larry Nelson got 65 percent, would have a total of at least 28 points, based on his 26 TOUR wins and two majors.
 
Macdonald Smith would have 24; Curtis Strange, who got 50 percent of the vote last year, would have 23 points. So, too, would Craig Wood (37%) and Lanny Wadkins (34%).
 
Davis Love III would have 20 points. Fred Couples and Mark OMeara would have 19 (if you apply the PGA Player of the Year, which dates back longer, as well as the PGA TOUR Player of the Year).
 
Singh would have 36 points (and counting), but many of his fellow recent inductees would come up short. Greg Norman would have 26; Nick Price 25; Tom Kite 23; Ben Crenshaw 21; Payne Stewart 14; Larry Nelson 13.
 
Of todays crop of players who will one day be eligible under the PGA TOUR rules, only Tiger Woods and Phil Mickelson currently have enough points using the LPGA system to gain admittance. Mickelson would have 30 points. Tiger 81 (Is there a Super Hall of Fame?).
 
Of course, guys like Ernie Els and Retief Goosen can get in through either the PGA TOUR or International balloting.
 
A points system certainly takes out bias, but it doesnt account for human reasoning. Sports are more than just an accruement of numbers, and you need individual judgment from those associated with the game.
 
Norman might have come up one point short on the LPGA system, but anyone who covered or followed golf throughout the '80s and '90s knows that he deserves to be in the Hall of Fame.
 
Plus, Norman would probably go Bruce Banner on everyone if he endured one more near-miss.
 
The PGA TOUR Voting Body is comprised of golf journalists, historians and golf dignitaries.
 
I do not get a vote. But if I did, this is how I would cast my ballot.
 
Email your thoughts to Mercer Baggs
 
Related Links:
  • Baggs Check: Casting My 2007 Hall of Fame Ballot