Updated: September 29, 2011, 10:29 AM ET

World Golf Hall process is flawed

Harig By Bob Harig
Archive

It is time to blow up golf's Hall of Fame.

Not the physical structure in St. Augustine, Fla., a must-see for any golf fan. The World Golf Hall of Fame does an excellent job of presenting the game's history, as well as artifacts and mementos from the inductees. You could spend hours there, and still feel a need to come back for more.

No, this is about how Hall members get there. With ballots due next week, here are three major flaws with the World Golf Hall process.

1. Eligibility. Phil Mickelson went on the ballot this year, and by any measure, he is a Hall of Famer. He has 39 PGA Tour victories, including four major championships. That puts him among the top 10 in victories all time and just 18 players have won more than four majors. He got a vote here because he is eligible.

But he shouldn't be eligible. Not yet. Having 10 victories and being past the age of 40 gets you on the ballot. Mickelson is 41 and still competing, just as Ernie Els -- who went into the Hall this year -- is still competing.

Other sports require five years from retirement before a player goes on the ballot, but because golf is a sport in which players rarely "retire'' why not set the ballot age at 50? By that point, any Hall credentials are typically on the résumé. And it would be a good boost for the Champions Tour, to have its newest members get Hall of Fame recognition.

2. International ballot. Why is there one? This is a "world" Hall of Fame, so why the distinction between Americans and those who are international players? Retief Goosen, who has played on the PGA Tour for years, is on a separate ballot from Mickelson. There should be no such distinction.

And then there is the LPGA Tour. Again, this is a world Hall, but the LPGA Tour has separate qualification criteria for inclusion. It is based on a points system that takes any perceived biases out of the system. You win enough tournaments, or majors, or player of the year honors, or low scoring titles, and you're in. But it's time to re-examine and include all of women's golf in the process.

3. The voters. Who are they? The Hall says some 300 people are sent ballots. Some get the PGA Tour ballot only, some the international ballot only, some both. There is no official breakdown. Hall members get a vote, as do various media members and golf officials. Who knows how much effort any of them make to educate themselves on the players.

Case in point: there seems to be a clear bias toward current players. It makes sense. Those are the guys we see or have seen. But it helps explain why a player such as Macdonald Smith has never made it into the Hall. He won 24 times on the PGA Tour, including four Western Opens during an era when that was every bit as big as the British Open and the U.S. Open. Smith played most of his career prior to the birth of the Masters, a tournament he played just once (tied for seventh) in 1934. Smith did have 17 top-10s in the majors, including a playoff lost to his brother, Alex, at the 1910 U.S. Open.

Another example is Sandy Lyle. Because he is not from America, does he get slighted? Lyle won the British Open, Masters and became the first international player to capture the Players Championship. He was a big part of Europe's rise in golf, along with Seve Ballesteros, Nick Faldo and Bernhard Langer. Guess who is the only one not in? The solution: narrow down the voters, and identify them.

The voting closes on Oct. 7, with the newest members of the Hall to be inducted on May 7, 2012, during the week of the Players Championship.

For the record, the voting tally here went like this: PGA Tour (allowed to vote for four) -- Mickelson, Smith, Davis Love, Tony Lema. International (allowed three) -- Lyle, Peter Alliss, Norman Von Nida.

Cristie Kerr's Injury

We'll never know what might have happened had Cristie Kerr been able to play her Sunday singles match in the Solheim Cup against England's Karen Stupples. A wrist injury was bothering Kerr her so much that she withdrew, thus conceding a full point to the European side -- a rather crucial one when you consider the United States lost 15-13.

Had Kerr been able to play and won, the outcome would have been 14-14 and the U.S. would have retained the Cup.

And had Ryder Cup rules been in place, the match would have been deemed a tie, which very well could have impacted another match on the course which for all intents and purposes was not played out after it was clear the Europeans had clinched.

Some called for the spirit of sportsmanship to prevail, for the Europeans to only take a half point for the Kerr match, but rules are rules and the Americans long ago lost their right to claim such righteousness. All you need to remember is the 2000 Solheim Cup when Annika Sorenstam was forced to replay a holed chip shot because she had played out of turn. (On the second try, Sorenstam did not hole the shot again.) That's not very sporting, either.

So the question is: Which team event has the better way of handling an injured player?

At the Solheim Cup, an injured player can only be replaced before the competition begins. If a player can't go, she loses the match.

At the Ryder Cup, an injured player also can only be replaced before the competition begins. If a player can't go, the match is halved -- and each captain has a player in an "envelope" in case this scenario arises.

The envelope dates to 1979, when continental Europe was added to the Ryder Cup and the Sunday singles went to all 12 players. There needed to be a plan in case someone became injured or ill. (During the first two days of competition, four players from each side sit out each session.) It has been used three times, the latest in 1993 when Scotland's Sam Torrance's left foot became infected, meaning he could not play beyond Friday.

Figuring someone was going to have to sit, U.S. captain Tom Watson was approached by Lanny Wadkins, who volunteered because he was an at-large pick. He argued that the guys who made the team on points should play. Watson used it to inspire the rest of the team by saying "Win this for Lanny." The Americans won 15-13.

Some believe the envelope is cruel. It forces a captain to choose what he deems to be his weakest link. The Solheim allows for no supposed gamesmanship; a captain couldn't sit an otherwise healthy player and gain a half point for it. And then there is the idea of having an alternate on site for each side, just in case.

Just wondering …

… if Davis Love means it when he says he'll consider playing for the U.S. Ryder Cup team next year if he make the top eight in points. Love, of course, is the U.S. captain. Arnold Palmer was the last U.S. playing captain in 1963, and the Ryder Cup was a different animal back then.

But Love did not close the door on the possibility during a news conference on Monday to mark one year away from the matches at Medinah Country Club.

"I'm definitely trying," Love said. "I tried to make Freddie's [Couples] Presidents Cup team and he never called me. I didn't get enough points, so I hope I can do better next year.

"I had a couple of good tournaments this year and that got people talking, but I need to obviously play a little bit better and be a little more consistent. Certainly I'm out every week trying to compete and play well, and trying to get in the winner's circle. I would like nothing better than to be in the mix," he said.

"But the No. 1 goal is to win the Cup back, and if I was one of the best five players on our tour this coming year, then yeah, I'd like to play. Otherwise I'm going to get 12 really good ones and let them go do it."

Love is currently 12th in the standings, which counted only major championships in 2011. Love, 47, had two top-10s this year, including a tie for ninth at the British Open.

Bob Harig covers golf for ESPN.com. He can be reached at BobHarig@gmail.com.

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