(Note: This story appeared in the April 17, 2017 issue of Golfweek.)
Right now, is Sergio Garcia worthy of being in the World Golf Hall of Fame?
The World Golf Hall of Fame has instituted a minimum age of 50 for induction, so the 37-year-old Sergio Garcia won’t be joining anytime soon. But based solely on his career though his Masters title last week, is he worthy of enshrinement?
Since winning his first major title, the Spaniard has been the topic of speculation among many golf pundits, who have compared him to other players who have gotten the nod and some who haven’t.
Golfweek’s writers weigh in on the topic with votes going both ways. Even those who don’t think Garcia is qualified yet believe he eventually could earn his bust at the World Golf Village in northeast Florida – he just needs to keep winning.
How Players get SELECTED TO the World Golf Hall of Fame
Here’s how Golfweek’s experts voted:
Jeff Babineau: No
As of today, no. He certainly is on a great track, having added his biggest victory on Sunday. For Garcia, it was a tremendous breakthrough, and down the stretch he hit some incredible shots.
That said, he is 37 and has plenty of time to add to what he’s done. Let’s allow this cake to bake a little longer. Garcia has 10 PGA Tour victories (including a Masters and Players) and 13 European Tour victories (the Masters is counted in there, as well). He has been a strong Ryder Cup player (17-10-6), has 13 top-5s in majors and won a British Amateur.
All the pieces are beginning to assemble nicely, wouldn’t you say? But before Garcia edged Justin Rose in extra holes last week in Augusta, there wasn’t a great deal of buzz that he had put together a Hall of Fame career. You don’t get into the Hall on one good Sunday.
People may use Colin Montgomerie, who never won a major, as a yardstick. But don’t forget this about Monty: He won 31 times in Europe and claimed that tour’s Order of Merit a record eight times. Yes, Garcia gets hurt by splitting time on two tours, but his best finish on the Order of Merit was third – in 1999, his rookie season.
Garcia is a terrific player, and he may well get to the Hall. Just give it some time.
Beth Ann Nichols: No
It’s difficult to give Garcia the nod at this point, simply because there’s so much time – and potential – left in his career. Garcia has won 29 times on professional tours in 15 countries. Ten of those victories came at PGA Tour events. He meets the minimum performance requirements in both categories: 15-plus wins and the two-plus wins among the four majors and Players Championship.
Even so, it’s difficult to cement the Spaniard’s place in history knowing that at age 37, he only now might be starting to figure things out.
There are young players who race to greatness, like this year’s inductee, Lorena Ochoa, who abruptly retired at age 28 but undoubtedly reached her potential in a short period of dominance on the LPGA. If Garcia were to ride off into the sunset after marrying Angela Akins this summer, many would feel that, despite his Masters victory, there was much left for the Euro star to accomplish.
Will Garcia eventually get into the Hall of Fame? It’s highly likely. But it seems premature to call it now. He turned over a new leaf at Augusta National, and we’re all keen to see where it takes him.
Brentley Romine: Yes
Sergio Garcia’s Masters victory not only earned the Spaniard his first major title, in my mind it put any doubt to rest that Garcia is a Hall of Famer. Garcia could end his career now and have done enough to make it into the World Golf Hall of Fame.
The 37-year-old has 27 official professional victories among the PGA Tour, European Tour, Asian Tour and elsewhere. That’s more than Davis Love III, who will be inducted into the Hall of Fame this year. Love, like Garcia, has just one major victory (the 1997 PGA Championship), as do other Hall of Famers Fred Couples and Lanny Wadkins, among others. Colin Montgomerie, a 2013 Hall inductee, never won a major and has just five more Hall-recognized victories than Garcia.
Garcia also boasts four runner-up finishes in major championships and has finished T-3 or better in all four.
And that’s just individual accomplishments. Since 1999, the year he turned pro, Garcia has missed just one Ryder Cup (2010), and European Ryder Cup teams are 5-3 when Garcia competes. Garcia’s 22½ points earned in his eight Ryder Cup appearances ties him with countryman Seve Ballesteros for fourth among European players.
The only thing Garcia has to do before he enters the Hall? Turn 50.
Alistair Tait: No
I’m not ready to induct Sergio Garcia into the Golf Hall of Fame just yet. However, he eventually should take his place based on the caliber of players already inducted.
The Spaniard needs to queue up behind other major champions and prolific winners. Fuzzy Zoeller, Tom Weiskopf, Dave Stockton, Craig Stadler and Paul Azinger, for example, deserve induction before Garcia.
Other one-time major winners such as Roberto de Vicenzo, Tony Lema, and Arnaud Massy also should be considered first. Massy and de Vicenzo won Open Championships despite coming from countries – Belgium and Argentina – with no real golf tradition. There’s no telling how many majors Lema would have won had he not died in a plane crash at age 32.
There’s also a queue of current players ahead of Garcia. How about Padraig Harrington, Retief Goosen, Angel Cabrera, Zach Johnson, Martin Kaymer and Jim Furyk?
The Spaniard deserves a place amongst the greats long before Colin Montgomerie, which leads to a dilemma: If major-less Montgomerie is in, then Sergio should be, too.
Garcia’s Masters win, 12 other European Tour wins and nine other PGA Tour victories is impressive, and better than some already in the Hall.
So Garcia should get inducted, but he needs to wait his turn.
Dan Kilbridge: Yes
Sergio Garcia is a Hall-of-Famer in my book, now that he finally has a major victory on his resume to complement the 2008 Players Championship.
He meets the criteria of 15 of more international victories and two wins at any of the four majors or the Players. And he has 13 career top-5 finishes in the major championships, one more than 2013 inductee Fred Couples.
I’m of the belief that selections should be awarded on merit rather than popularity. And Ryder Cup performance should certainly be a part of the discussion. Sergio has been on five victorious European Ryder Cup teams and holds a 19-11-7 record, which is also significantly better than Couples (7-9-4). We’re not here to bash Fred Couples, however. Garcia’s resume also is similar to that of 2015 inductee Mark O’Meara, who has one more major win than Garcia but far less Ryder Cup success (4-9-1).
Sergio the man isn’t for everyone. He’s been outspoken at times, doesn’t try to hide his emotions on the course and has let his temper get the best of him at various points. That won’t help him in the selection process, but it shouldn’t hurt him, either. Looking at Garcia the player, his resume is strong enough to warrant a place in the World Golf Hall of Fame.
Kevin Casey: No
If Sergio Garcia quit professional golf tomorrow, he is not Hall of Fame worthy. Don’t get me wrong – he has done great things. Has his play reached the lofty expectations imbued on him as a 19-year-old after a runner-up showing at the 1999 PGA Championship? No, but that’s not what we’re asking.
Garcia has carved out a combined 22 wins on the PGA and European tours. Those include titles at the Masters and Players Championship. He meets the requirements for eligibility.
But at this point, Garcia’s career accomplishments ring similar to those of Fred Couples. Garcia’s combined wins beat out Couples’ 17, but the American’s 15 on the more difficult PGA Tour beat Garcia’s 10. Couples also has a Masters and two Players wins, versus Garcia’s one and one. Couples is in the World Golf Hall of Fame, but his iffy (at best) resume may have made him the Hall’s most contentious selection. (Sorry, Boom Boom.) If we can’t say definitively that Garcia’s accomplishments outweigh Couples’, how exactly could we anoint him a true Hall of Famer?
Garcia likely has many good years ahead of him, and chances are high he will have a Hall of Fame resume when it’s all said and done. Right now, though, he doesn’t make the cut.
David Dusek: No
As the cliché goes, it’s the Hall of Fame, not the Hall of Wonderful. With all due respect, as it stands now, Sergio Garcia would not get my vote.
Garcia finished the 2008 season ranked No. 2 and won the Vardon Trophy that year. He has been a stud in the Ryder Cup and has won one major championship, a Players Championship and, over an 18-year professional career, has a combined 22 wins on the PGA and European tours. But if Justin Rose had made his birdie putt on the 72nd hole at the Masters, would everyone think Garcia was just one major win away from deserving a place among the game’s immortals?
Garcia has compiled an impressive number of top-10s and top-5s, but he never has won more than three professional events in a season.
Fred Couples was enshrined with a similar resume in 2013 after winning the 1992 Masters, but that does not mean we should compound a previous mistake. And did Freddie never spark a controversy by spitting into a cup, as Garcia did in 2007? Or bellyache and whine after missing a putt that could have won him a tournament, as did Sergio at Carnoustie that same year.
I get it, Sergio is a different person now, and I have said numerous times he is one of the elite ballstrikers of his generation. But he is not an all-time great player. He has been an excellent player. To say someone is not a Hall of Famer is not an insult. People forget that.
Martin Kaufmann: No
I have a confession: I was rooting for Sergio Garcia to win the Masters last Sunday. Yes, I know – no cheering in the press box. But I didn’t want to see Garcia suffer another crushing defeat. He’s had enough of those. Like Dwight in “The Walking Dead,” he can be annoying, even unlikable. But really, hasn’t he suffered enough? Cut him some slack.
If I’m being completely honest, I’ve always had a bit of a soft spot for Garcia. I’ve always admired the crispness of his ballstriking. I cringed when New Yawkers tormented him over his grip yips in 2002. My heart sank just a little when he grazed the edge on the 72nd hole of the 2007 Open Championship. I winced at his lapses in etiquette and his unbecoming self-pity. But I always tried to keep in mind that he had grown up in public and that his signature moment, prior to the 2017 Masters, was as a teenager at Medinah. Who knows the weight of those expectations.
We Americans have known Garcia for half his life – European fans for longer – and we want to see how his story plays out. Like the New York Yankees or Dallas Cowboys, golf is more interesting when Garcia is relevant. And he hasn’t been particularly relevant for some time. Now, I suspect his career could be much like Phil Mickelson’s: A series of close calls, of agonizing losses, then suddenly the flood gates open.
If the question is, “Is Sergio a Hall of Famer now?” my answer is no. But in a few years, after he has collected more majors and other notable victories, his Hall of Fame induction will, like his birdie putt in the Masters playoff, be a slam dunk.