Davies still waiting for her call to the Hall

Originally Published: April 17, 2007
By Bob Harig | Special to ESPN.com

A great debate in sports often centers around who is worthy of the hall of fame. We could argue forever about the merits of baseball and football players. We can even argue about golfers. Does a 20-win career get you in? What if it includes a major championship?

The arguments go on and on and on.

But not in women's golf, specifically the LPGA Tour.

While the World Golf Hall of Fame announced this week that Curtis Strange and Hubert Green will enter the Hall this fall in St. Augustine, Fla., only Se Ri Pak from the LPGA will represent the women and no vote was necessary for her.

The South Korean two years ago met the playing requirements for entry, which stipulate you earn 27 points -- two points for winning a major championship, one for a regular victory and one for Player of the Year or low scoring average. Pak must only wait to complete the 10th event of this season -- her 10th year on tour -- to enter.

Which leads us to the plight of Laura Davies, the British golfer who for years was the face of women's golf and perhaps the only reason the Ladies European Tour still exists.

You see Davies, 43, felt the need to support her home tour. So she jetted back and forth across the Atlantic, playing the LPGA Tour but also playing in Europe, often to her detriment. Davies is sitting at 25 points, two shy of automatic Hall induction. No big deal? Wrong. She's had 25 points for nearly six years.

That is why Brittany Lincicome felt a tinge of sadness Sunday when she won the Ginn Open near Orlando. Lincicome, 21, was barely alive when Davies captured the 1987 U.S. Women's Open. But she knows how much Davies has meant to the game. The long-hitting Davies became Lincicome's idol growing up.

During the former JCPenney Classic, a mixed-team tournament of PGA Tour and LPGA pros played near Lincicome's home in Florida, Davies played for several years with John Daly. And Lincicome worked the tournament as a standard bearer in their group.

It is a story Lincicome could not wait to tell Davies the first time they were paired together as pros, which happened to be at the U.S. Women's Open in 2005. Since then, Davies calls Lincicome "Sign Girl."

So all throughout the final round of the Ginn Open, Lincicome was pulling for Davies, with whom she played in the final group. And since she was six strokes behind with 10 holes to play, Lincicome set her sights on finishing third behind either Davies or Lorena Ochoa. Little did she know both players would implode and hand her the title.

Davies' chances were ruined when she made a 7 at the par-5 17th, which included a three-putt from 3 feet.

"I was rooting for her the whole day," Lincicome said. "If anybody was going to win, I was hoping it was going to be her. She has not been at the top in a while and it was just nice to see her play well and see a smile on her face. And after that happened it was just … I was crying inside for her."

By any other measure, Davies is a Hall of Famer. Her 20 LPGA Tour victories include four major championships. Compare that to the recently elected PGA Tour players to the Hall. Strange won back-to-back U.S. Opens and a total of 17 PGA Tour titles. Green won a U.S. Open, a PGA Championship and 19 PGA Tour titles.

Davies has done more, and that doesn't include another 47 international victories and five money titles in Europe, including 2006.

"Yeah, but it's the LPGA Hall of Fame, and I haven't quite done enough," she said.

And that is the beauty of the LPGA Hall of Fame. There is no subjectivity. You're either in or you're not. And it's not as if players are failing. Annika Sorenstam, Karrie Webb and Pak are all younger than Davies and have already qualified.

It used to be far tougher. The Hall requirements used to be based solely on wins and required a minimum of 30 victories and two different major titles. When Nancy Lopez qualified in 1987, she needed 35 victories because she had just one major. If you didn't have any majors, you needed 40 wins.

Imagine baseball drawing a line saying that you needed to have at least 400 home runs or a .300 batting average to make its Hall of Fame.

With increased competition came the realization that few players would ever make the LPGA Hall under such tough conditions. So a points formula was created, one that is imminently fairer but might still exclude a very deserving player in Davies, who has 20 points for each of her victories, another four for the majors and a Player of the Year honor for the 25th point.

"I just want to win a tournament again," Davies said. "I mean I've won around the world, just not won on the LPGA. … If I had played full-time over here rather than going back and forth, I honestly think I'd have been in by now. But I made my decision back then to play more in Europe and now I'm struggling to get in. You know, it's also a good challenge. I'm for it and I think I'll do it."

The good news for Davies is that a veterans committee can choose to nominate one retired LPGA Tour player to be put before a vote of the entire LPGA membership. The catch is you must be an inactive member of the tour for at least five years.

Davies has that to fall back on. It would be better, however, if she simply won the LPGA Championship in June, taking care of the entire matter.

This is the time for the usual lull in the golf schedule, but don't tell that to a bunch of players who have had trouble getting spots in PGA Tour events. The Zurich Classic of New Orleans might not have all of the top names, but it has plenty of players who are itching to play.

One of the questions going into the new, condensed FedEx Cup schedule was the number of playing opportunities that might be missed by golf's rank and file. Most of those players will be forced to compete in the Fall Series events because they will miss so many tournaments during the regular part of the year.

Take, for example, PGA Tour rookie Jim Rutledge, who was 14th on the Nationwide Tour last year to earn his PGA Tour card. Rutledge, who is playing this week in New Orleans, has played in just seven tournaments so far. He couldn't get in the limitied field Verizon Heritage last week, nor the Masters the week prior, nor the World Golf Championship event at Doral three weeks ago, or the Arnold Palmer Invitational before that or the PODS Champioship or the Honda Classic.

Before the Houston Open (played one week prior to the Masters), Rutledge had not played since the tournament in Mexico opposite the Match Play Championship.

With an elite field at The Players Championship and a limited field at the Colonial next month, now is the time for many players to make something happen.

Bob HarigGot a question about the PGA Tour? Ask ESPN.com golf writer Bob Harig, who will answer some inquiries in his column each week.

Q: What's happened to Fredrik Jacobson? I haven't seen him in many tournaments this year and haven't heard a word about him.
Knoxville, Tenn.

A: Jacobson, who is from Sweden, suffered a wrist injury last September and did not play after the Deutsche Bank Championship. He made enough money to finish among the top 125 money winners and is fully exempt this year but did not play his first tournament until last week at the Verizon Heritage, where he missed the cut. He is entered in this week's Zurich Classic of New Orleans.

Q: What is the difference between a lateral hazard and other hazards? What other types of hazards are there? How are different hazards treated differently?
Leo Cohen
Rye Brook, N.Y.

A: Hazards are defined as any bunker or water hazard. And there is a difference between a lateral water hazard and simply a water hazard. A lateral hazard is one in which it is deemed impractical to be able to drop behind it. Hence, you are allowed to drop laterally, at the point in which the ball entered the hazard. Lateral hazards are marked with red stakes. A regular water hazard requires you to hit from the spot of your original shot, from a drop area or from a spot behind the hazard. These are marked with yellow stakes or lines.

Q: What is the policy for pros tipping their caddies? Do they tip a lower percentage with a win? What if a golfer does not make the cut? Are there any golfers well known for their high or low caddie tips?

A: The pay between players and caddies varies widely. But there are some general guidelines that are pretty common. It is typical for a player to pay his caddie a "commission" of five percent of his prize money. They typically will pay a higher commission for a top-10 finish and perhaps as high as 10 percent for a victory. There is usually an agreed-upon minimum fee each week, which covers the caddie in the case of a missed cut.

Bob Harig covers golf for the St. Petersburg Times and is a frequent contributor to ESPN.com. He can be reached at harig@sptimes.com.

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Golf Writer, ESPN.com