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Golf News: - Posted 30th September 1998

Hall of Fame committee is not impressed

Associated Press

The results are back from the World Golf Hall of Fame's international ballot: nobody made it.

None of the 19 players received the required 75 percent of the vote. The closest was Bernhard Langer, who came up 24 votes shorts.

At age 41, Langer still has time to add to his credentials -- 51 victories, including two Masters; a member of nine straight Ryder Cup teams; at least one victory on the European tour for 16 consecutive years.

Then again, maybe the best thing Langer could do is stop playing all together, which is not to suggest he's washed up.

Golf is unlike most other sports in that its stars can compete well past their prime.

Jack Nicklaus won the Masters at 46 and nearly pulled off the unimaginable at Augusta in April at 58. Raymond Floyd won the U.S. Open at age 43 and is the only player to win a PGA Tour and Senior Tour event in the same year.

And unlike other sports shrines, players do not have to wait five years after their last competitive putt before they become eligible for the Golf Hall of Fame. It is the only hall in America that elects active players.

Nick Faldo, 41, was inducted into the Hall of Fame on the international ballot in May, having won six majors and more Ryder Cup matches than anyone. Tom Watson was inducted 10 years ago at age 38, when he already had won eight majors and 29 tour events. He since has won twice more on tour.

But for players like Langer on the international ballot, and a host of others on the PGA Tour ballot, the question becomes whether a voter is more inclined to focus on their careers, or what they have done lately.

It could be that active players are held to a higher standard than if they walked away on top or close to it.

"The psychology for voting is interesting," said Ruffin Beckwith, the executive director of World Golf Foundation, which oversees the Hall of Fame.

"Is it hard to vote for somebody who's still active? Is it hard to vote into the Hall of Fame someone who can still win a major?"

The answer probably will become clearer in two weeks when the PGA Tour ballots are counted. Among those on the list are Greg Norman, Nick Price and Mark O'Meara.

O'Meara was on the ballot for the first time last year and got 5 percent of the vote, not surprising for a career grinder with 14 tour victories. A year later, he has won as many majors as Johnny Miller, who was inducted in May.

Price was the best player in the world from 1992 to 1994, when he won 11 times on tour including two PGA Championships and a British Open. He failed to win on tour the next two years, and only recently has shown signs of getting back toward the top. He had 15 PGA Tour wins last year when he got 25 percent of the vote.

Norman is the most interesting name on the ballot.

He is the career leading money earner on the PGA Tour, with 18 victories in 14 full seasons and 56 other wins around the world. Along with two Open Championships, he has finished runner-up eight times in the majors and is the only player to lose all four majors in a playoff.

Then again, some could argue he is merely an underachiever with as many majors as Andy North.

Norman finished second in the voting last year with 63 percent. Only Lloyd Mangrum at 64 percent had more votes on a ballot in which no one was elected.

"If people thought Norman's career was over, maybe it would have been different," Beckwith said.

Three other names on the ballot are also worth noting -- Lanny Wadkins, Ben Crenshaw and Tom Kite. Wadkins and Kite are both 48 and have strikingly similar records besides being the last two U.S. Ryder Cup captains.

Wadkins won 21 times on tour including the 1977 PGA, but he hasn't won since 1992. He got 12 percent of the vote last year.

Kite has won 19 times including the 1992 U.S. Open, although he has won $4 million more than Wadkins in his career. Kite, who hasn't won since 1993, received 54 percent of votes last year.

Crenshaw, the next Ryder Cup captain, is 46 and has 19 tour victories. Both his majors came at the Masters, and he hasn't won since his emotional victory at Augusta in 1995. He finished third in voting last year at 57 percent.

Whether any of these players can make up ground is yet to be seen. If not, Seve Ballesteros will have the induction ceremony in March all to himself.