Hall of Fame: Looking ahead

April 23, 2009

The World Golf Hall of Fame does not have its own de facto automatic-election numbers as the National Baseball Hall of Fame once did, pre-steroids (3,000 hits, 300 wins, 500 home runs), but Lanny Wadkins' election announced Thursday and the expected inclusion of Jose Maria Olazabal provide some parameters at least.

Twenty or more victories, including at least one major (Wadkins won 21 tournaments, including the PGA Championship in 1977, and was a stellar Ryder Cup player) seem to be one measure. Another would be double-digit wins, including multiple majors (Olazabal has 23 victories internationally and six U.S. victories, including two Masters).

Looking ahead in the near term, then, here are those domestic players who potentially could (or should) warrant consideration (beyond the obvious two -- Tiger Woods and Phil Mickelson):

Mark O'Meara: A case could be made that he already should have been elected. He has 16 PGA Tour victories, including two major championships (the Masters and the British Open in 1998), a U.S. Amateur championship (in 1979), and an assortment of international victories, including the Australia Masters, the Argentine Open, the World Match Play Championship and the Dubai Desert Classic.

Davis Love III: He has the requisite 20 PGA Tour victories, including one major (the PGA Championship in 1997), and has played on six Ryder Cup teams. Still only 45, he's probably not done yet.

Jim Furyk: He's not there yet, but at 38 and ranked 14th in the world, one can expect that he will buttress his credentials in the next decade. He has 13 PGA Tour victories, including one major (the U.S. Open in 2003) and has been a formidable Ryder Cup and Presidents Cup player.

Fred Couples: On the basis of his record, he probably does not belong, but there is no denying his popularity. Couples has 15 victories, including one major (the Masters in 1992).

Justin Leonard: He is a longshot, but he's only 36, and should he keep winning tournaments at the rate of one per year for awhile (he's averaged just under one a year for the last 13 years), who knows? He has 12 career victories, including one major (the British Open in 1997) and the Players Championship, and won the U.S. Amateur in 1992.

On the international front, Ernie Els and Padraig Harrington seem certainties (each has won three major championships); Angel Cabrera deserves consideration (17 international victories and U.S. Open and Masters championships), as does Colin Montgomerie, despite never having won a major. Montgomerie has 31 European PGA Tour victories and was its Order of Merit winner seven consecutive years and its player of the year five times.

-- John Strege