Changes to Hall of Fame and a quick entry for Tiger Woods

SAN DIEGO — Tiger Woods won’t have to wait until he’s 50 to enter the World Golf Hall of Fame.

The Hall of Fame on Tuesday announced changes to the criteria and the selection process, starting with the age limit being reduced from 50 to 45. Players become eligible if they are 45 in the year of the induction ceremony.

The next induction is in 2021. Woods turns 45 in January.

“We believe these changes will enhance the Hall of Fame in many ways and bring greater attention to the most deserving players at a time in their careers when they are still competing at the highest level,” said Greg McLaughlin, the CEO of the World Golf Foundation.

Woods is a shoo-in. The criteria include 15 victories on a player’s home tour or two majors. Woods has 82 victories on the PGA Tour, along with five on the European Tour and victories on the Japan Golf Tour, Asian Tour and PGA Tour of Australasia. He also has those 15 majors.

Woods figures to have company on the ballot. Also eligible for the 2021 induction class are three-time major champion Padraig Harrington, Jim Furyk, Henrik Stenson and Lee Westwood, and LPGA major champions Liselotte Neumann, Dottie Pepper and Jane Geddes.

The Hall of Fame originally had an age limit of 40, which is why Vijay Singh, Ernie Els and Phil Mickelson were inducted years ago. It later was moved to 50. The criteria also allow for anyone three years removed from retirement, always vague for a sport in which no one ever really retires.

Also, the Veterans category has been eliminated and Lifetime Achievement is now called “contributor.”

Meanwhile, the selection process no longer includes a majority of golf administrators voting.

Ten media members and six Hall of Famers will be part of the nominating committee that narrows the list of candidates to four men, four women and two contributors. Eight media members join seven administrators and four Hall of Famers in the final selection process. No more than four can be part of any induction class, and they must get 75% of the vote.

TOKYO ROSE

Justin Rose returns to Torrey Pines at No. 8 in the world and looking in both directions.

He was No. 1 in the world at this time a year ago, and that’s where he wants to return. It’s the other direction — as far down as No. 15 in the world — that has his attention when it comes to the Olympics.

Countries are limited to two players, with as many as four only if they all are among the top 15 in the world. Rose, the leading player from Britain, is confident he’ll be in Tokyo to defend his gold medal. But it’s not a given.

Tommy Fleetwood is at No. 10. Paul Casey is No. 18. Matt Fitzpatrick is at No. 24, and a resurgent Lee Westwood moved up to No. 29 with his victory in Abu Dhabi.

“Team GB is a really strong team,” Rose said. “For me, the 15 is the key mark. Obviously, I’m trying to look at the world rankings and try to go up. I had a little slip toward the end of last year, but having been No. 1 in the world, hopefully I’m looking north, not south. But 15 is the key number. … You’d be unlucky to be in the top 15 and not go to Tokyo.”

That’s the prospect facing Americans, who currently have nine players among the top 15.

But it’s early. There are three majors, The Players Championship, two World Golf Championships and two other events that typically dish out big ranking points (Riviera and the Memorial) before the cutoff to qualify.

“It would be fantastic if we could field four guys,” Rose said.

LPGA SPONSORSHIP

Women’s golf took some steps toward greater financial opportunities in the last week with personal endorsements.

AT&T announced a deal with Maria Fassi of Mexico, who kept her LPGA Tour card after playing only half of last season because she wanted to finish school at Arkansas.

She is the first LPGA player signed by AT&T — the only other golfer it has under such a contract is Jordan Spieth, and even that was a big deal because it was the first personal endorsement for AT&T since it ended its contract with Tiger Woods a month after the scandal in his personal life.

“Sports need role models like Maria whose incredible skills on the course and character beyond it continually elevate the game of golf for women and for all athletes,” said Lori Lee, the global marketing officer for AT&T.

Meanwhile, Cisco Systems announced partnerships with six players, divided evenly among the PGA Tour and LPGA Tour. The San Jose-based company previously announced an endorsement deal with Maverick McNealy.

Cisco signed as global brand ambassadors Danielle Kang, Nelly Korda and Jessica Korda. On the PGA Tour, it signed Keith Mitchell, Viktor Hovland and Chez Reavie.

Cisco’s also has a partnership with the USGA and its championships.

AWARDS

The PGA of America for 30 years has honoured the media through its Lifetime Achievement Award in Journalism. Now it is paying tribute to the pictures. It has selected Leonard Kamsler to receive the inaugural PGA of America Lifetime Achievement Award in Photojournalism.

For 60 years, Kamsler produced photos of everyone from Ben Hogan to Arnold Palmer, Jack Nicklaus to Seve Ballesteros. He wroked primarily for Golf Magazine, and contributed to Golf Digest, Golf World and PARGolf.

Kamsler worked the Masters for 40 straight years through 2002, and left his mark as the first to set up a remote-controlled camera behind the 12th and 15th holes. He also covered the PGA Championship for nearly 20 years, along with 22 U.S. Opens and the 1963 Ryder Cup.

He will be honoured May 13 at the PGA Championship at Harding Park.

Se Ri Pak of South Korea was selected to receive the Bob Jones Award, the highest honour from the USGA, recognizing individuals who demonstrate the spirit, character and respect that made Jones a legendary figure.

Pak inspired an entire nation. She won two majors as a rookie in 1998 and went on to win 39 times and five majors. Since then, South Korea has emerged as the dominant country in women’s golf.

Pak will be honoured during the U.S. Open at Winged Foot.

DIVOTS

The Augusta National Women’s Amateur has invited 72 players from around the world, including seven of the top 10 and 13 of the top 20 from the World Amateur Golf Ranking. The tournament is held Wednesday and Thursday at Champions Retreat, with a practice round and final round at Augusta National on the Friday and Saturday before the Masters. …. Alexandra Armas was appointed CEO of the Ladies European Tour, reporting directly to the LPGA-LET joint board that is chaired by LPGA commissioner Mike Whan. Armas was executive director of the LET from 2008-2012. … Martin Trainer, the only player to play in all four PGA Tour events this year, has not made a 36-hole cut since the Texas Open a week before the Masters.

STAT OF THE WEEK

Lee Westwood’s first and 25th victory on the European Tour were 24 years apart.

FINAL WORD

“Love. That’s all I need. And that’s what I’ve got.” — Jack Nicklaus when asked what we wanted for his 80th birthday.

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