The show must go on

Fred Couples owns one major -- the 1992 Masters. Should that be enough for a Hall of Fame invite? AP Photo/lenny Ignelzi

A visit to the World Golf Hall of Fame is certainly worth the journey, especially for those who appreciate the game's past and marvel in its history.

There is a little bit of everything at the St. Augustine, Fla., facility located less than an hour from PGA Tour headquarters, including the busts and credentials of the 141 men and women whose golf accomplishments and contributions earned them such a place.

A cynic might suggest that the word "earned'' is out of place in this discussion, and there are certainly plenty of arguments to be made as to the merits of various inductees, including the latest five who will join the club in Monday night's induction ceremony.

Among them are Fred Couples, Colin Montgomerie and Ken Venturi, all three who did impressive things but whose résumés can be picked apart, depending on where you side in the various arguments as to who is a Hall of Famer and what actually constitutes being one.

And at the present rate, the Hall is not going to have anyone left to induct, certainly when it continues to put large groups in at the same time. Either that, or the players who are giving speeches at the ceremony will have résumés so thin as to make the Hall a joke.

St. Augustine is not synonymous with the Hall of Fame located there in the same way Cooperstown is for baseball or Canton for football. Not even close.

And it makes some distinctions, as honorees didn't necessarily have to excel on the field of play to be considered "Hall of Famers." Ken Schofield, a former executive director of the European Tour, is the latest example, joining Couples, Montgomerie, Venturi and Willie Park Jr. on Monday. President George H.W. Bush is in the Hall of Fame, for example.

The merits of Couples, Montgomerie and Venturi can certainly be debated, too. Venturi, who was too ill to attend the ceremony, likely got in more on the basis of his broadcasting career than his playing exploits, his remarkable 1964 U.S. Open triumph notwithstanding.

Couples goes in with just 15 PGA Tour titles and one major championship, the 1992 Masters. He did win two Players Championships. Montgomerie won eight Order of Merits on the European Tour, was a Ryder Cup star, had 31 European Tour victories. But he never won a major, and never won in the United States.

Are these guys Hall of Famers?

Maybe. Maybe not.

But they definitely shouldn't be going in with so little support among the voters right now.

That is what makes their inclusion at this point somewhat controversial. The voting body, which consists of golf media, historians, dignitaries and past winners, is not divulged. No breakdown of votes is given, only a percentage.

Couples received just 51 percent of the vote, with Montgomerie getting only 51 percent of the vote on the international ballot. (Why there is a separate international ballot -- it is, after all, a World Hall of Fame -- is anyone's guess; it is not a PGA Tour Hall of Fame.)

Because nobody received more than 65 percent of the votes in each category, the Hall allows in anyone who gets at least 50 percent. How convenient that both Couples and Montgomerie barely reached that threshold (for baseball, a minimum of 75 percent of the vote is required). Why not wait until they get the 65 percent minimum?

The highest vote-getters after Couples were Venturi (who later was voted in by a veterans' committee), Davis Love III, Mark O'Meara, Tony Lema and Macdonald Smith.

Smith already should be in the Hall, based on his 24-victory career that played out before the Masters was born. He had 17 top-10s in majors, and three of his victories were at the Western Open, considered a major tournament prior to the Masters starting in 1934.

Smith is on the ballot every year, but who knows how engaged the voters are, if it is more of a popularity contest to them. That certainly has something to do with Couples' induction, even though he did not see an overwhelming majority.

Hall of Famer Raymond Floyd last month balked at the credentials of the players going in today.

"The bar has been lowered," Floyd, who won four majors and 22 times on the PGA Tour, told Golf Magazine. "Guys get voted into the Hall of Fame who don't belong, who lack the numbers. I'm very upset at the Hall of Fame for that. It's not fair to the people who went in early.

"Just look at the inductees over the last six, eight, 10 years. Some years, I don't even vote because the names aren't worthy of induction. One major should not get you into the Hall of Fame. Maybe one major and 40 wins ... There are guys in there that it's a joke. It takes integrity away from the term, 'Hall of Fame.' "

Of course, the Hall has an induction ceremony every year -- smartly moved to this week in conjunction with the Players Championship -- and it needs to showcase inductees for the television show that goes along with it, as well as the ticket sales and hoped-for marketing bump the festivities can offer.

After all, the Hall of Fame is open all year, and it is a business enterprise. Don't underestimate the factors that are marketing and ticket sales.

So if Couples is in, we should expect O'Meara (16 wins, two majors), Corey Pavin (16 wins, one major), Jim Furyk (16 wins, one major) and Love (20 wins, one major) to follow at some point. Seeing how this is going, they'll be spaced out year by year, to assure there is a ceremony.

Paul Azinger, with 12 wins and a major, will undoubtedly get some consideration. So will players who get to 10 wins. Almost everyone beyond that level is getting in anyway. Does that make them Hall of Famers?

Of course, when Tiger Woods turns 40 in three years -- the minimum age for induction -- he'll go in immediately, as he should, even though that age is too young. Ernie Els proved last year that there are still major championships to be won after you go into the Hall of Fame. Why not make the minimum age 50?

After that, who knows?

The problem is, the show must go on, and you have to have players to induct -- worthy or not -- to have a show.