Long Shots

Hall of Fame voters always seem to repeat three big mistakes
March 13, 2006

The ballots areout for this year's World Golf Hall of Fame voting. Three things you shouldknow:

• John Daly isnewly eligible, although this isn't the Jim Beam/Marlboro Hall of Fame. Memberscan't have more ex-wives than major championship trophies.

• José MaríaOlaàbal gets a spot on the international ballot. He's sure to make the Hall atsome point, but it feels odd to induct a 40-year-old.

• When the resultsare announced this summer, a threesome who should absolutely get Hallpasses--Hubert Green, Larry Nelson and Lanny Wadkins--may get passed upagain.

Nelson's firstname might as well be Overlooked, considering how little respect he gets.Nelson won three majors--more than Hall of Famers Tommy Bolt, Ben Crenshaw, TomKite, Bernhard Langer, Gene Littler and Greg Norman, to name a few--despite notpicking up a golf club until he was 21. Unfortunately, Nelson's biggest win, atthe 1983 U.S. Open at Oakmont, occurred on a Monday, dulling the impact. Lastyear Nelson snagged 55% of the votes. (You get in with 65% or by being the topvote-getter.) Memo to voters: Get it over with and put Nelson in the Hall; thenyou can resume ignoring the guy and won't have to read these annual rants onhis behalf.

Green and Wadkinsare runners-up in being underappreciated. With no disrespect to Crenshaw andKite, Green and Wadkins were much more feared names on the leader boards oftheir era. Wadkins has 21 wins--more than Crenshaw or Kite--plus the equivalentof three majors: the 1970 U.S. Amateur, the '77 PGA and the '79 PlayersChampionship. He played in 10 team events (two Walker Cups and eight RyderCups) over 24 years. That's a hell of a long time to be at the top of anyprofession, much less golf.

Green is so toughthat he overcame a credible final-round death threat to win the '77 U.S. Openand battled back from throat cancer to play on the Champions tour. He won twomajors and missed a short putt to win a third, the '78 Masters, after firststepping away because he was distracted by a radio announcer (Jim Kelly, thefuture voice of senior golf) in the adjacent broadcast tower.

So who's going tomake the Hall this year? If Nelson comes up short, it'll probably be CurtisStrange, who got 50% of the vote last year and is still fresh in voters' mindsfrom his TV career and a dignified but losing turn as Ryder Cup captain. He'sHall-worthy with 17 victories, including back-to-back U.S. Opens, three moneytitles, a player of the year award and an NCAA championship. A Hall pass forCurtis, in fact, wouldn't be the least bit Strange. Continuing to overlookGreen, Nelson and Wadkins would be.

TRUST ME
by JAMES P. HERRE

Doral, with its diverse fans and brutal 18th, willdazzle as a World Championship.

PHOTOSAM GREENWOOD/WIREIMAGE.COMNOTWORTHY? The continually underrated Nelson has better qualifications thanseveral Hall members.

HOLE YARDS PAR R1 R2 R3 R4
OUT
HOLE YARDS PAR R1 R2 R3 R4
IN
Eagle (-2)
Birdie (-1)
Bogey (+1)
Double Bogey (+2)