It's not as though one takes the membership roster of a resort/tourism-oriented World Golf Hall of Fame as the definitive verdict on the game's history, but the announcement of Colin Montgomerie's addition to the class of 2013 still comes as a shocker. Perhaps I was wrong to previously believe that a player needed to win at least two Major championships to merit membership strictly on playing record (as opposed to, say, Chi Chi Rodriguez, whose ambassadorial skills clearly carried the day); obviously the selection of Fred Couples earlier this year laid waste to that. But given that Monty's ambassadorial skills are not quite the equal of Chi Chi's (though they might challenge Charlie Sifford's...), we are left to examine a playing record which is....interesting.
Yes, Monty won eight E Tour Orders of Merit, including a remarkable seven straight from 1993-1999. This would be a highly significant accomplishment on any tour, so doing it in Europe is quite something indeed. Further, his 31 career E Tour wins ranks fourth all-time - and we really might consider it third, since Tiger Woods officially ranks ahead of him despite 13 of his official E Tour wins actually being WGC events contested in the United States. So some pretty impressive numbers there, but....
First and most obviously, Monty never won a Major. And while he lost playoffs at the 1994 U.S. Open and the 1995 PGA, and finished second on three additional occasions, the statistical reality is that his 10 career top 10s in 71 Major starts (14%) is a good, solid number - but nothing spectacular. (As a frame of reference, non-Hall-of-Famer Davis Love III has 20 top 10s in 94 Major starts - including a win - for 21% batting average).
Second - and quite damning in my view - Monty was winless on U.S. soil in 138 career PGA Tour starts. And while in our modern game the PGA Tour is not the be-all and end-all in international golf, it is worth noting that period E Tour stars like Ballesteros (9), Faldo (9), Lyle (6) and Langer (3) all managed to win in America - and modern British players like Donald, Poulter, Rose, Westwood, etc. manage to do so with regularity.
Third, while one can surely only beat the competition that's put in front of them, a quick glance inside Monty's halcyon 1993-1999 run indicates that in winning his seven straight Orders of Merit, he averaged exactly 20 official E Tour starts per season. And what of his primary competition? Jose Maria Olazabal was next with an average of 18 annual starts - but that's not including the 1995 and '96 campaigns which he missed entirely due to injury. Seve Ballesteros averaged 17.2 E Tour starts during these years, but was clearly well beyond his elite form before Monty's run even began. Ian Woosnam also averaged 17.2 starts in this period, while Bernhard Langer weighed in at 16.7. And then there was Sir Nick Faldo, who was also somewhat on the down side by the time Monty got rolling, but had already largely packed it off to America anyway, averaging only nine annual E Tour starts from 1993-1999.
So while seven consecutive Order of Merit titles is indeed impressive, Monty did manage to time them perfectly (peaking just when much of the competition was somewhat on the wane) and was aided in earning the most money simply by making the most starts.
Hall of Fame worthy? I just can't see it.
And I'll ask again: If a player like Monty is judged worthy, where the heck are Sid Brews and Norman von Nida?