Should Couples be in the Hall of Fame?

By Randall MellJuly 31, 2012, 3:40 pm

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.

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Watch: Wagner saves season with walk-off eagle dunk

By Golf Channel DigitalAugust 18, 2018, 2:45 am

Johnson Wagner kept his FedExCup Playoff hopes alive on Friday at the Wyndham Championship ... and he did it in dramatic fashion.

Needing a birdie on his final hole of the day to make the cut on the number, Johnson used a 9-iron from 153 yards out to dunk his approach for eagle to get inside the cut line.

Johnson's eagle at the last gave him a 66 for the day and earned him two more rounds to try and get inside the FedExCup top 125 for next week's start of the postseason, The Northern Trust.

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S.H. Park, Salas co-lead rain-soaked Indy Women

By Associated PressAugust 18, 2018, 1:42 am

INDIANAPOLIS - Sung Hyun Park relied on the same, steady style that has helped make her one of the LPGA's top players. When her putts kept rolling in Friday, she was virtually unbeatable.

Park shot a 9-under 63 for a share of the lead with Lizette Salas during the suspended second round of the Indy Women in Tech Championship.

''The best round of the year,'' the South Korean player said through an interpreter. ''My putting overall was what really helped.''

Salas, the first-round leader after a 62, had a 69 to match Park at 13 under at Brickyard Crossing. Danielle Kang and Nasa Hataoka were two shots back.

''It was going to be hard to top that 62 yesterday but I stayed patient,'' Salas said. ''This was a completely different golf course, so I had to change my mentality a little bit and I had to forget about the 62 in a way and just go back to what I was doing.''

Park has two majors and four overall LPGA victories the last two years, winning the U.S. Women's Open and CP Women's Open last year and the Volunteers of America LPGA Texas Classic and KPMG Women's PGA Championship this season.

Nothing rattled Park on a sticky, overcast day.

''I worked on my short game the most, especially measuring the distances,'' Park said. ''It paid off.''

After more rain drenched the already saturated layout around the Indianapolis Motor Speedway, Park completed the round by putting out in a downpour that forced the afternoon groups to contend with a delay of nearly four hours.


Full-field scores from Indy Women in Tech Championship


In between the showers, the world's fourth-ranked player performed like a two-time major champion.

She birdied three of the first five holes to reach 7 under, started the back nine with three straight birdies then took the lead with her ninth and final birdie of the day on the par-4 17th.

Salas took a different tack one day after tying Mike McCullough's course-record 62.

Rather than take advantage of the course's soft greens, the 29-year-old American needed patience Friday. She opened with 12 consecutive pars then made three straight birdies on Nos. 4-6. After her first bogey of the tournament, on the par-4 eighth, Salas closed out the round with another birdie to tie Park.

Salas hasn't won since the 2014 Kingsmill Championship, but she's developed a real affinity for the Indy course where she's had five consecutive sub-par rounds dating to last year's fifth-place finish.

Kang, who kept Salas composed during a 77-minute rain delay Thursday, had a 68 to get to 11 under.

''I've been giving myself a lot of birdie chances,'' Kang said. ''That was my goal this week. I just have been feeling like I was in a little bit of a funk, so I told my caddie we were just going to pick a number, play my game, forget all the swing thoughts, forget everything and just kind of play it by feel.''

Kang hasn't recorded a bogey over the first 36 holes and is in contention for her first tour victory last year's KPMG Women's PGA Championship.

Hataoka shot 69.

Angel Yin, the 19-year-old Californian who was tied for second with Hataoka after the first round, was 10 under with eight holes left. Yin was tied for fifth with Thidapa Suwannapura of Thailand and Amy Yang of South Korea, who also had eight holes to go.

Defending champion Lexi Thompson started on the back nine and birdied the par-3 12th and the par-4 16th. She was 6 under with 10 holes remaining in the second round.

And the course could change dramatically as it dries out.

Saturday's forecast calls for partly cloudy conditions with highs in the low 80s and Sunday is supposed to be mostly sunny with highs in the mid-80s.

Park promises to be ready for whatever weather arrives.

''I'm going to do really well,'' she said. ''I feel really good about my game, especially my short game. And it's just about the weather now, so hopefully the weather is good.''

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Snapshot of 2018 U.S. Amateur semifinalists

By Ryan LavnerAugust 18, 2018, 1:39 am

PEBBLE BEACH, Calif. – A U.S. Amateur Championship that began with 7,463 entries has been whittled down to just four players.

Saturday morning’s semifinals not only will determine the two finalists for the most prestigious title in amateur golf, but also the players who will receive a likely invitation to the 2019 Masters and U.S. Open – the greatest consolation prize in all of sports.

It's Devon Bling vs. Isaiah Salinda. 

And Cole Hammer vs. Viktor Hovland. 

Here’s a snapshot of those left competing at Pebble Beach:



DEVON BLING

In Bling’s player profile, he wrote that his mother, Sara, always wanted to see him compete in USGA championships.

Unfortunately, she never got the opportunity – she passed away in 2013, to a mysterious ailment, when Devon was only 13.

“It took us totally by surprise,” he said Friday night. “In an instant, she was there and totally healthy, and the next day she was gone.”

The sense of loss was massive – Sara was always there, shuttling Devon to tournaments, walking with his group, supporting him.

“Losing her was extremely difficult for my family,” he said. “I know she’s still in my heart and looking down on me, and I’m just hoping to make her proud.”

Bling, now a sophomore at UCLA, has blossomed into a solid player who had yet to take his star turn. That’s beginning to change here at Pebble Beach, where his brother and father are whooping for his many great shots.

They had plenty of reason to cheer Friday, after Bling flipped a late deficit and beat Davis Riley, 1 up, to advance to the semifinals.

Bling led at only one point all match – when it mattered most, after the 18th hole.

He took an aggressive line on the par-5 finishing hole, taking driver left of the tree in the middle of the fairway, while Riley, playing conservatively after twice putting driver into the water during practice rounds, flared his long iron into the greenside bunker. Bling rifled his approach into the greenside bunker and splashed out to 3 ½ feet for the decisive birdie.

“I couldn’t be happier,” he said.



VIKTOR HOVLAND

Most golf fans’ only introduction to Hovland came last month. Playing on a sponsor exemption at the European Open, the Oklahoma State junior double-pumped during his backswing, regrouped and then drilled his tee shots.

It was a swing drill that had crept into his full swing.

“That helped for a little while,” Hovland said. “I found the center of the clubface and found the shot that I could hit on almost every hole.”

Aggressive, straight tee balls have been the key to his success this week at Pebble Beach. He’s been able to set the tone and continue to apply pressure on his opponents by consistently finding the fairway.   

Paired with a scorching-hot putter, Hovland sure doesn’t have the look of a player who counts only one tournament title outside of his native Norway.

He's been manhandling his opponents at the U.S. Amateur.

After trouncing Austin Squires, 7 and 6, on Friday – matching the largest margin of victory in a U.S. Amateur quarterfinal – Hovland has now led after 45 of 57 holes.

He led throughout a Round of 16 thumping of Kristoffer Reitan.

He led throughout a quarterfinal dismantling of Squires, too.

In his last two matches, he’s a combined 9 under par and has won 16 of his last 23 holes.

“I think I’ve definitely had the game to win more, but I’ve made a few bad decisions here and there and it adds up to you start being too far behind,” said Hovland, who won a college event last season at the Floridian. “My putter also hasn’t been good enough. My ball-striking hasn’t been super flashy, but it’s been consistent. It’s hard to win tournaments if you’re not putting well.”

He's swinging freely and making plenty of putts so far.



COLE HAMMER

The hottest player in amateur golf ran his match-play record this year to 17-1 after a 3-and-2 victory over Alex Fitzpatrick.

Playing the younger brother of 2013 U.S. Amateur champion Matt Fitzpatrick, Hammer went 3 under for his first five holes Friday and never gave his opponent a chance. He kept the ball in play, putted for birdie on nearly every hole and scrambled on the rare occasion he was out of position. In a near-impossible spot short and left of the ninth green, he played a soft pitch that landed on the crest of the hill and funneled into the cup for an unlikely birdie.

“It was one of those one-in-a-million shots that just happened to go in,” he said.

They all seem to be dropping recently.

The incoming freshman at Texas won the Azalea Invitational at the start of the year, teamed with Garrett Barber to take the U.S. Amateur Four-Ball, reached the semifinals of the U.S. Junior, went wire to wire at the Western Amateur and now has reached the semifinals of the U.S. Amateur.

“I’ve played a ton of match play this year and come back from deficits,” he said, “and that speaks to the confidence I have and knowing I can get it done.”



ISAIAH SALINDA

After narrowly escaping in his Round of 16 match, Salinda once again dodged a worthy opponent on Friday afternoon.  

Salinda built a 4-up lead through five holes but was only one hole clear as he headed to the back nine. On six separate occasions, Gordon hit the lip of the cup on a putt or chip, allowing Salinda to stay in front down the stretch.

On 16, the Stanford senior finally put Gordon away: From 150 yards, he hit a controlled 9-iron that landed in the perfect spot, spun left and came within an inch of dropping for eagle. The conceded birdie gave him a 2-up cushion that he used to eventually win, 2 and 1.

“He’s a really good player,” Salinda said, “and I expected him to fight back.”

Salinda, who recently won the Pacific Coast Amateur, is playing in his first USGA event. Six times he’s been the first or second alternate out of a U.S. Junior or U.S. Amateur qualifier in Northern California. The trick this time was to head to Cincinnati, Ohio, where he qualified after playing the Trans-Miss Amateur.

Salinda won’t need to worry about qualifying next year – he’s already exempt into next year’s event.

He could earn a spot in even bigger events – the 2019 Masters and U.S. Open – with another win Saturday.

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Garcia among bubble boys keeping playoff hopes alive

By Randall MellAugust 18, 2018, 12:34 am

Sergio Garcia gave himself a chance to keep his perfect FedExCup Playoffs record going with his rally Friday at the Wyndham Championship.

D.A. Points moved into position to make a historic leap into the postseason.

And Johnson Wagner dunked his last shot of the day from long range to keep his hopes of making the playoffs alive.

But the day didn’t end nearly as well for Tyrone Van Aswegen’s FedExCup hopes.

Van Aswegen didn’t do himself any favors trying to hold on to the 125th spot on the FedExCup points list. He missed the cut by a shot.

Only the top 125 advance to The Northern Trust and next week’s start to the playoffs.

Van Aswegen wasn’t alone among “bubble boys” missing the cut. No. 122 Jhonattan Vegas, No. 123 Seamus Power, No. 124 Martin Piller, No. 126 Chad Campbell and No. 127 Robert Garrigus all failed to make the weekend.

Garcia is among 13 players who have advanced to the FedExCup Playoffs every year since they began in 2007, but his run was in jeopardy of ending starting the week. He’s 131st on the FedExCup points list

With a 65 Friday following his opening round 66, Garcia is in more than a great position to advance. He’s in position to win the Wyndham. He is tied for fourth, five shots off the lead. The day ended with Garcia projected to move up to 118th on the FedExCup points list.


Wyndham Championship: Full-field scores | Full coverage

Current FedExCup points list


“I'm just going to try to keep building on the things that I did well these first two days,” Garcia said. “Whatever happens, happens. Like I said at the beginning of the week, if I have a great weekend, then it will be great. If I don't have a great weekend, it will still be great because

I'll get to rest.”

Points started the week 214th on the FedExCup points list. With back-to-back 64s, he trails only Brandt Snedeker going into the weekend. He can crack the top 125, but only with a win. Nobody has ever started the Wyndham Championship that far back in points and qualified for the playoffs. Davis Love III was 186th when he won and advanced in 2015.

Wagner, 136th on the FedExCup points list, went to spectacular lengths Friday to keep his playoff hopes alive. He was outside the cut line until holing his 153-yard approach at the last.

Bill Haas, who is among those 13 players to have qualified for the playoffs every year, started the week 150th in points. He can keep his perfect playoff record going with a big weekend. He shot 68 Friday to make the cut. He’s tied for 52nd in the tournament.