Recently the World Golf Hall of Fame inducted two extremely controversial members to the ranks: Freddie Couples and Colin Montgomerie. Both were controversial because neither had an overly impressive body of work for their careers. Both were especially light when it came to major wins. Freddie won a single Masters and Colin could only count a handful of near misses.
Freddie's career was marred by a bad back, so in reality we will never know his true potential. Without a doubt he was an incredibly popular golfer amongst most of the fans because of his easy going nature and the fact that he was one cool dude. He was for a brief period the world's number one golfer, yet he only amassed seventeen career wins including the one aforementioned major. Freddie won a number of "unofficial" events during what was called at the time golf's "silly" season, but they are not truly wins against full fields. I think inducting Freddie was more a ballot of how well liked he was amongst the golf press and his playing competitors, rather than on his merits. I say Freddie does not belong.
Colin Montgomerie is quite another case in my opinion. I have already said in one of my earlier articles that Colin without question gets the best player never to have won a major in their career. Lee Westwood may challenge him, but he still has a ways to go. Colin does not have the major heartbreak record of Greg Norman but he does have his share of near misses. The most recent one at Winged Foot in 2006 when in the middle of the eighteenth fairway he hit a seven iron fat and lost the tournament to Geoff Olgilvy. He has lost two playoffs: once to Ernie Els (with Loren Roberts) at Oakmont in 1994 and also the PGA Championship in 1995 to Steve Elkington. He has either a second place or tied for second place at every major except the Masters where his best finish was a tie for eighth in 1998. Although this being said his major record was not overly impressive as he only had ten top-ten finishes in his entire major career.
Colin's career hinges on two different metrics. The first being his unbelievable record of seven consecutive European Order of Merit titles. Yes you read that right, seven consecutive titles, so from 1993 to 1999 he was the leading money winner every year. Then in 2005 for good measure he won the Order of Merit again. I very much doubt that any player will ever have the dominance in Europe to do that again. Eight total Order of Merit titles and forty professional wins. One could argue that Europe was not that strong at the time, but one still has to marvel at the ability to win tournaments and play at that high of a level for that long. In my view it is pretty incredible.
The second metric one must consider with Monty, is his dominance in the Ryder Cup. His overall record of 20-9-7 is impressive by itself but the fact that he never lost a singles match is what truly impresses me. Consider he has played in eight Ryder Cup sides and not one really bad round that caused him to lose a match in any of those events. Then to top it all off in the 2010 Ryder Cup Monty captained a winning Ryder Cup team at Celtic Manor. Nick Faldo amassed more career points than Montgomerie did, but it is my opinion that Monty was the best Ryder Cup player ever. The Ryder Cup was Montgomerie's major win.
I give Montgomerie the nod because although he never won a major his career was still extremely good because of his play in Europe and the Ryder Cup. Freddie has had some success captaining President's Cup teams recently but that does not make up for the lower career wins total and average Ryder Cup record. Freddie's career was really a flash, 1991 and 1992, other than those years he was not really much of a factor. He has has a very good Senior Tour career, but that is not what he is being measured on to get into the hall of fame.
Both golfers a certainly a serious part of golf's past. Couples was so good in 1991 and 1992 that one could easily argue if he had a better back he might have had a much better career. Monty was vilified a bit when he would come to the US to play and that may have prevented him from playing his best as three of the four majors are staged over here. Given that both are now voted in there is little I can do to change this, but I think it should give us pause to wonder what is the criteria required for golfer to get into the Hall of Fame. Recently Raymond Floyd in an interview questioned this, and I think he has a point. Still it is my opinion that Couples should not be in and Monty should.
Photo credits: © Associated Press.