Most golf fans would agree that Fred Couples deserves to be in the World Golf Hall of Fame. However, the recent announcement that Couples will be a member of the 2013 induction class raises questions about what parts of his resume qualify him for that honor.
Couples has had a successful PGA Tour career by any measure. He has captured 15 career Tour wins overall, including two Players Championships (1984 and 1996) and a major win at the 1992 Masters. He also has two additional European Tour victories, both in 1995 (Dubai Desert Classic and the Johnny Walker Classic). Finally, Couples has 30 additional wins spanning his successes as an amateur and in team events.
Despite his numerous successes, Couples' career resume may appear light in comparison to other past inductees. After all, he only has one major victory. But is that critique fair?
Most Hall of Fame discussions in any sport spark debate and controversy. Questions of who deserve to be inducted are based on memories of past greats and past accomplishments. Comparisons are made, players are measured against history, but ultimately sportswriters and critics have the final say on who get the votes and who do not. But what are those votes based on?
Should inductees be decided by the number of major championships they win? Couples only has one, placing him in company with names like Zach Johnson, Jim Furyk, Webb Simpson, Graeme McDowell and numerous other current and past players. Most would agree those names are not locks for induction. Why, then, should Couples be a lock?
His two Players Championship victories are also impressive, especially since those tournament fields included the best golfers in the world. But what about the present-day World Golf Championship events and the FedEx Cup Playoffs? The hottest players in the world participate in these events, neither of which were around when Couples was in his prime. Bill Haas won the 2011 FedEx Cup -- and $10 million -- by beating the highest-ranked golfers in the world. Is he now eligible for a Hall of Fame nod later in his career?
Subjectivity appears to rule the day in professional golf, especially with the advent of high-profile non-major events in recent years like the FedEx Cup and WGC. An argument could be made that as the best players in the world play in these events more often, major championships begin to lose some of their weight in Hall of Fame consideration. After all, if a player like Sergio Garcia can win the Players Championship and 22 other events in his career, who is to say he doesn't deserve a place in the Hall?
Professional golf needs to establish a threshold for greatness. The phrase "Hall of the Very Good" should never be placed in close proximity to the World Golf Hall of Fame, but subjective voting may be lowering the bar for future inductees.