About the only thing Fred Couples and Colin Montgomerie had in common was a golf swing they could trust for a lifetime.
Couples became the first American to reach No. 1 in the world and won the Masters by a blade of grass that kept his ball from trickling into Rae’s Creek. Montgomerie found fame on the European Tour, where he won the Order of Merit a record seven times in a row, though he never won a major, a glaring hole in his credentials.
Couples sauntered down the fairways, the essence of cool. Montgomerie walked with his head down, never looking like was having much fun.
They shared the stage Monday night when both were inducted into the World Golf Hall of Fame, along with three others in the Class of 2013. The others were former U.S. Open champion and broadcaster Ken Venturi, former European Tour executive director Ken Schofield and two-time British Open champion and architect Willie Park Jr.
That brings the Hall of Fame to 146 members.
”I never thought about the Hall of Fame as a kid,” Couples said. ”I never made a putt at the golf course . . . it was always to win the tournament that was on TV that week, but I never made a putt to say, `Wow, if I make this I’m in the Hall of Fame.’ No one does that. But when you get in there, obviously, I’m lucky to be in there. I barely got in here, but I’m in. And it’s quite an honor.”
The election of this year’s class was not without some debate.
Couples was elected on the PGA Tour ballot ahead of Mark O’Meara and Davis Love III, both of whom either won more tournaments or more majors. Couples received only 51 percent of the vote, a record low for the PGA Tour ballot. It takes 65 percent to get elected, though there is a loophole that if no one gets 65 percent, one player is elected provided he receives at least 50 percent.
Montgomerie won 31 times on the European Tour, the most of any British player, and he was a stalwart in the Ryder Cup. The Scot played in eight of them and never lost in singles (6-0-2) while competing on six winning teams. He also was the winning captain in Wales in 2010.
He never won on the biggest stage, however. Montgomerie lost the 1994 U.S. Open and the 1995 PGA Championship in a playoff. He was second to Ernie Els again in the 1997 U.S. Open at Congressional. And the most painful of all came in 2006 at Winged Foot, when he made double bogey from the middle of the 18th fairway and finished one shot behind Geoff Ogilvy.
”That’s the one that hurts,” Montgomerie said of Winged Foot, noting another Hall of Fame member, Phil Mickelson, also made double bogey on the 18th. ”The four or five others, really, somebody happened to beat me. The 2006 Winged Foot, I beat myself. And that’s where it hurts most. So that has taken the most to recover from.”
Montgomerie is the fourth player in the last four years to be inducted into the Hall of Fame without having won a major. The others were Jumbo Ozaki, Jock Hutchison and Christy O’Connor Sr. A fifth would be Peter Alliss, who won 23 times on the European Tour, though he was recognized more for his work with the BBC.
”I’ve enjoyed thoroughly my exploits in major championships,” Montgomerie said. ”I just haven’t been fortunate, or whatever it takes. I’ve never, ever stood up and made a winner’s speech and said I was unlucky. Never. I never will. There’s always a time where a bit of fortunate comes your way, whether it be for you or against your opponent at the time, and it just so happens that I just haven’t been so-called fortunate to walk through the door. The door has been ajar many a time. I just haven’t been able to walk through it.
”So at the same time, if you’re talking about regrets of any part of my golfing career, I have none. Absolutely none,” he said. ”I’ve done exactly what I’ve tried to do. I’ve tried 100 percent on every shot, and sometimes it works and sometimes it doesn’t.”
Montgomerie also received 51 percent of the vote on the International ballot.
Venturi was ill and could not make the trip to Florida for the induction ceremony. He was a premier amateur out of San Francisco, leading the 1956 Masters until an 80 in the final round. Venturi captured the 1964 U.S. Open at Congressional, in such stifling heat that he suffered from severe dehydration and nearly collapsed before he finished. When carpal tunnel syndrome ended his career, he moved to the broadcast booth and enjoyed 35 years of distinguished service to CBS Sports.
Venturi later became Presidents Cup captain in 2000. Jim Nantz, his partner in the CBS booth for most of those years, was to accept on his behalf. Venturi was selected through the Lifetime Achievement Category.
Schofield, also selected through Lifetime Achievement, was head of the European Tour from 1975 to 2004. He rode the presence of Europe’s ”Big Five” – Seve Ballesteros, Nick Faldo, Bernhard Langer, Sandy Lyle and Ian Woosnam – to get the tour onto a global stage. The tour went from 17 events when he started to 45 events when he retired. He also paved the way for the tour to go beyond continental Europe, and to include the continent in the Ryder Cup.
Park joins his father in the Hall of Fame, and the son probably should have been enshrined already. He won the British Open in 1887 and 1889, and then broadened his influence on golf by building clubs, golf courses and writing. His book in 1896, ”The Game of Golf,” was the first written by a golf professional. He later wrote ”The Art of Putting” that was published in 1920.
Among the golf courses he built were the Old Course at Sunningdale outside London, Maidstone on Long Island in New York and Olympia Fields outside Chicago.