Philadelphia, PA – As we heard several times on Monday evening, the World Golf Hall of Fame is the highest honor in the game.
This year's class was headlined by Colin Montgomerie and Fred Couples. Monty elected on the International ballot and Couples tabbed on the PGA Tour ballot.
Their worthiness to enter those hallowed halls is certainly up for debate.
Montgomerie never won a major nor an event in the United States.
Couples won one major - the 1992 Masters - but has only 15 career PGA Tour wins. He didn't even garner the required number of votes to get into the Hall.
The tour has a provision that if no one gains the requisite 65 percent of the vote, then the leading vote getter would earn entry in the Hall if he collects over 50 percent of the vote. Couples squeaked in with 51 percent of the vote.
Montgomerie may have never won in the United States, but he was a dominating 20-9-7 in Ryder Cup action. That record included a 6-0-2 singles record.
The Scotsman collected 31 European Tour titles and won the tour's Order of Merit a remarkable eight times.
Though he never won a major, Montgomerie's overall credentials surely are Hall of Fame worthy.
Couples enters the Hall with one of the lowest win totals (15) of any PGA Tour player in the Hall of Fame. Was he deserving?
Maybe not at this point in his career, but he likely would have gotten in via the veterans committee had he not been voted in in the coming years.
Couples has played in five Ryder Cups and four Presidents Cups. He was an assistant captain for the 2012 U.S. Ryder Cup squad, and has led the last two U.S. Presidents Cup teams to victory. He'll lead that team for a third time later this year.
Once reason to think Couples would have eventually been elected is that he has also picked up eight Champions Tour victories, including two majors. Those majors don't have as much clout as the PGA Tour majors, but they are majors nonetheless.
Couples also teamed with Davis Love III to win four consecutive World Cup titles. Maybe that is stretching his qualifications a bit, but you get the point that there was an argument to be made that Couples deserved his election now instead of later.
Frankly, both Montgomerie and Couples should count their blessings they didn't have to wait decades to hear their name called like their fellow inductee, Ken Venturi.
Venturi's career was cut short by injury after only 14 PGA Tour wins, including the 1964 U.S. Open Championship. He went on to a distinguished career as a broadcaster and was elected via the veterans committee.
The shame of it was that the 81-year-old missed the ceremony due to poor health. His speech, which he could give next year if his health allows, would have been an all-timer.
These three inductees are each an all-timer in their own way. Monty was an all-time Ryder Cup performer. Couples was an all-time fan favorite. Venturi was an all-time broadcaster who was never afraid to show his emotion.
Those qualities might not make these men Hall of Famers, but whether you agree or not, that's what each is.
The PGA Tour does not run or oversee that four major championships. The tour runs this week's Players Championship, and maybe that is why some see it as the "fifth" major.
It is a moniker that drives some crazy. But the tournament sure has the feel of a major.
The Hall of Fame ceremony once again kicked off Players Championship week on Monday. There is extensive television coverage all week, just as there is with the four majors. Winning the tournament carries with it a five-year exemption on the PGA Tour, just like winning a major.
Unlike the U.S. Open, British Open and PGA Championship, and like the Masters, the Players Championship is played at the same venue - the Stadium Course at TPC Sawgrass - year in and year out.
It certainly has the drama of the majors as well. The island green 17th at TPC Sawgrass ranges from a pitching wedge to maybe a 7-iron for most tour pros. But with thousands of fans, and several television cameras watching your every move on the hole, the tee shot suddenly becomes the hardest shot you've hit in your life.
The player who can make it through the 17th this week with the least amount of damage to the scorecard will be the one battling for the title come Sunday.
* Derek Ernst picked up his first PGA Tour title on Sunday. He entered the Wells Fargo Championship ranked No. 1,207 in the world. After the win? He jumped to No. 123.
* Cristie Kerr earned her 16th LPGA Tour title on Sunday. It was just her second win since the 2010 season. The LPGA Tour has a points-based system for making the Hall of Fame. Kerr is two-thirds of the way to the 27 points needed to make the Hall of Fame. Each win is one point, and majors are two points (Kerr has two of these). Winning the Player of the Year award or Vare Trophy, for lowest scoring average, also are worth a point. Nine more points and Kerr will be a Hall of Famer.