Fred Couples, whose 1992 Masters Tournament victory was one of his 15 career U.S. titles, is the only player who will be inducted this year into the World Golf Hall of Fame.
Couples, 52, will be enshrined in the St. Augustine, Florida, hall on May 6, U.S. PGA Tour Commissioner Tim Finchem said during a news conference yesterday at the Tour Championship, the final event of the U.S. men’s golf season. The induction will be held three days before the start of the Players Championship, a tournament Couples has won twice.
With one major victory, Couples’s status as a Hall of Fame-worthy player had been debated over the years. Couples received 51 percent of the vote on the PGA Tour ballot. Under the hall’s rules, when no player reaches the required 65 percent total, one player who tops the 50 percent mark is selected.
“I guess I won a popularity vote here,” Couples, a fan favorite throughout his career, said during the news conference at Atlanta’s East Lake Golf Club. “To be in the Hall of Fame you’ve got to be a very, very good player. I don’t consider myself to be a great player, but I’m a good player. For everyone who voted, I appreciate it.”
Mark O’Meara, who has two major titles among 16 career victories, was named on 36 percent of the ballots. Last year, when Phil Mickelson was selected for induction with 72 percent of the vote, Couples was chosen on 38 percent of the ballots.
In addition to his 15 wins on the main U.S. Tour, Couples won five times in Europe and has eight titles since joining the 50-and-over Champions Tour, including the Senior British Open in July. His victory at the 1992 Masters, golf’s first of four annual major tournaments, made him the first U.S.-born player to reach No. 1 in the Official World Golf Ranking that started in 1989.
Couples, an assistant captain for this year’s U.S. Ryder Cup team, also played in five Ryder Cup tournaments, helping the American squad to victory in 1991 and 1993.
It’s the third hall of fame selection for Couples. He was inducted into the National Italian American Sports Hall of Fame in Chicago in November 2007 and was selected for the Texas Sports Hall of Fame last year.
Others on the PGA Tour ballot who fell short included Davis Love III and Ken Venturi (both 38 percent); Fuzzy Zoeller (22 percent); Dave Stockton (21 percent); and Jim Furyk (8 percent).
The PGA Tour ballot voting body consists of golf journalists, historians and golf dignitaries. Additional inductees in the international, veterans and lifetime achievement categories will be announced in the coming weeks, the hall said.