Jeff Rude’s “Hate To Be Rude” column appears on Golfweek.com on Wednesday.
OK, question-and-answer time, class:
Q: It was announced today that Fred Couples will be inducted into the World Golf Hall of Fame. Do you think he should be in the hall?
A: Maybe, but not before Davis Love III. Each has won one major championship and two Players, but Love has five more PGA Tour victories than Couples (20 to 15) and 13 more runner-up finishes (30 to 17). Love also has had more top 10s, top 25s and cuts made.
The key here is the five victories. That’s a big difference. Hell, it’s Tom Lehman’s career haul. It’s troubling any time victories are cheapened or discounted.
Q: Does Couples’ addition dumb down the Hall of Fame?
A: No offense to Fred, whom I like, but someone getting in with 15 victories and one major does lower the previous unwritten benchmark, yes. Couples, though, does get extra points for having been a television and gate attraction for years.
Expect more lowering of standards, particularly after Tiger Woods gets in after turning 40 in four years. At the moment, there aren’t many players with a pile of victories who will turn 40 any time soon.
Sadly, if we keep this up, pretty soon Craig Stadler with 13 wins and a major will represent the new bar.
This is not, and never should be, the Hall of Very Good.
Q: Now that Couples has been voted in, is that good news for others with similiar records?
A: Most definitely. Great news, actually. Some others should put champagne on ice.
Love is a lock in a year coming soon. Mark O’Meara’s case for the hall becomes stronger because he has more major victories than Couples (2-1), more Tour titles (16-15) and more runners-up (22-17). Same goes for Jim Furyk, wth 16 victories (and probably counting), a major and 24 seconds.
And then there’s overachiever Corey Pavin. Like Couples, he has 15 Tour victories, a major and 17 seconds. So how can he be left out? If Paul Runyan wasn’t, Pavin is probably the most accomplished player in golf history based on from where he had to play his bunted tee ball.
The travesty is that even though his record mirrors Couples’, Pavin wasn’t even on this year’s ballot. He fell off because he got too few votes during his first couple of years of eligibility.
Pavin certainly needs to be put back on the ballot and, considering today’s development, put into the hall.
Q: Isn’t this even more reason to raise the age minimum for hall eligibility from 40 to, say, 50?
A: Most definitely. Year after year, voters seem to penalize players because they are in their early 40s. How else do you explain that Furyk got only 4 percent of the vote last year? Or that Colin Montgomerie’s percentage has been so low on the International ballot since he turned 40 nine years ago? Or that Lanny Wadkins didn’t get in until age 59 despite 21 Tour victories, a major, a U.S. Amateur and a stellar Ryder Cup record?
Q: Do you think the FedEx Cup playoffs are a good thing for golf?
A: Well, yes, for the simple reason it puts the best players together for four tournaments after the PGA Championship in what used to be something of a dead zone on the schedule.
Q: But aren’t there flaws in the FedEx Cup system?
A: Yes, many. A couple of years ago, Matt Kuchar’s chances of winning the Cup depended on where in the 20s Steve Stricker finished at the Tour Championship. And last year Bill Haas didn’t know he had won the cup and $10 million bonus until just before the trophy presentation.
There’s far too much focus on hitting the computer refresh button and checking the constantly changing projections during the last round of the Tour Championship. All the confusion detracts from the golf.
Expect more of the same this week, for there are some odd possibilities. For one, No. 6 Louis Oosthuizen hasn’t won this year but could win the cup by finishing second this week at East Lake. The resetting of points before the Tour Championship has added drama but subtracted fairness.
Q: So how would you fix it?
A: Glad you asked. In my mind, it’s a no-brainer. So Tim Finchem, please listen up: Play the Tour Championship on Wednesday through Saturday and crown a tournament winner. Then let the top four in FedEx points play for the $10 million bonus on Sunday.
It’s a victory on all fronts: for the game, television viewers, TV ratings, East Lake, fairness, simplicity and more. The Sunday shootout would play out in front of our eyes and rid us of all that computer confusion. Golf is played on grass, not in cyberspace. Television and viewers would get a big bang on Saturday and Sunday.
Let’s start the plan next year.
Q: Do you agree with Greg Norman’s comments that Tiger Woods’ days at the top of golf are dwindling and that Woods is “intimidated” by Rory McIlroy?
A: No. Might have agreed with him a couple of years ago on the first point, but Woods has won three times this year and seems to be improving. Improvement merely stokes his desire. And he’s becoming more consistent, as shown by his last 10 PGA Tour starts, in which he has won twice and finished in the top 11 seven times.
As Jack Nicklaus reacted to an ESPN Radio station in Washington, “Quiet, Greg, quiet. Down boy. I think Tiger had a pretty darn good year.”
As for being intimidated by McIlroy, as good as the young Ulsterman is, that’s just funny. Woods is perhaps the meanest, toughest golfer ever. If anything intimidates him, it’s the dangling carrot of Nicklaus’ 18 major championships. Woods played poorly on the weekends at this year’s majors, and one sensible notion is that perhaps he was pressing.
Q: Do you agree with Nicklaus’ contention that Woods “has a lot of wins left in him.”
A: Yes, for the reasons stated above. But that doesn’t mean Woods will win five more majors and set the record. He turns 37 in December and needs to get busy. If he keeps improving at this year’s rate, he could do it.
Q: Do you agree with Nicklaus’ statement that other players are no longer scared of Woods?
A: Yes, but not all other players. The aura isn’t the same, partly because he hasn’t won a major in more than four years and then retreated on the weekends at this year’s majors. But he could become something of an intimidator again if he starts rattling off victories.
Q: Which team do you think will win next week’s Ryder Cup, by what score and why?
A: United States, by something like 15-13. Stronger, deeper team with more players in form.
Q: What Ryder pairing would you most like to see?
A: Bubba Watson and Dustin Johnson together. Bombs away.
In four-balls, of course.