by Jeff Skinner
Steve Stricker is about as nice a guy as there is on tour; really he’s about as nice a guy as you will meet anywhere. But he’s more than that. Stricker was awarded the Payne Stewart Award on Tuesday which is given to the player that shows respect for the game, is active with charities and behaves as a professional. Few players exemplify those traits like Stricker.
Stricker is the consummate professional and is very active with many charities through his foundation. Tim Rosaforte profiles Stricker in Golf Digest and tells us where Strick came from. Stricker is also a very emotional guy and tears come quickly every time he wins or talks about his family. The tears came really quick at the awards dinner as Stricker didn’t even make it to his speech. He broke down while a video played before he gave his speech. That’s one of the things that makes him the man he is.
Fred Couples got the call yesterday that he was voted into the World Golf Hall of Fame and his reaction was typical Freddy, “That’s bizarre” he told the Golf Channel. And I agree it is bizarre. Because while I love Mr. Cool as much as the next guy I don’t think his numbers are Hall of Fame quality. Freddy has 15 PGA Tour wins which include two Players Championships and the 1992 Masters. Those are impressive numbers and Freddy has had a really good PGA Tour career but the Hall of Fame should require something better than really good.
Jeff Rude, of Golf Week agrees and thinks that Freddy’s inclusion in the Hall of Fame may be the first step in the “dumbing down” of the Hall. I do acknowledge that Couples has had a significant effect on the game with his Presidents Cup captaincies and how he was a huge draw for fans. But even the ballots that got him elected scream “Are we sure about this?”
The Hall of Fame ballot is voted by golf journalists, historians and dignitaries. Election into the Hall requires 65% of the ballots returned. However, if no nominee receives 65% the nominee with the highest percentage over 50% is elected. Couples squeaked by with a meager 51% of the ballot. It seems like plenty of voters had their doubts too.
With all that said, I think Fred is a cool as cool can be (heck I even have a pair of those casual shoes) and I congratulate him on the election but I just think that the Hall of Fame needs to put more of a value upon the playing careers or maybe have a separate category for lifetime achievements or contributions to the game. Freddy would get my vote for those categories.
So Greg Norman says that Tiger Woods is intimidated by Rory McIlroy. I think the Shark has been out in the sun without his trademark hat a bit too long. Yes, Rory is playing great golf right now but Tiger isn’t too far behind and they have been grouped together the last few tournaments and we are all excited about that. But I think Norman is off base here. Jeff Babineau assesses The Rory/Tiger dynamic here.
For Tiger to be intimidated he would have to think that he will never have his game back. And two things won’t let that happen: his golf game is so close to being back right now and his ego is way too big. Tiger has been the man on tour for years and even with his downfall in his eyes he is still the man. He is just going through some changes or as he calls it a process. Nowhere in the process does it allow him to be intimidated by anyone. In his brain he is still the Tiger Woods that stomps on the necks of his opponents and stares them into submission.
To Rory’s credit he laughed off Norman’s assessment. “How can I intimidate Tiger Woods? I mean, the guy’s got 75 or 70-whatever (actually 74) PGA Tour wins, 14 majors … I mean, he’s been the biggest thing ever in our sport. How could some little 23-year-old from Northern Ireland with a few wins come up and intimidate him? It’s just not possible.”
If there’s a 23 year old anywhere in sport as poised and mature as Rory please let me know. This kid gets it. He treats the press, his competitors and the fans with respect and kindness. Take a lesson Mr. Woods.