ST. AUGUSTINE, Fla. – Phil Mickelson was inducted into the World Golf Hall of Fame in 2012 at the age of 41.
If the new requirements for nomination were in place then, he would have had to wait nine more years.
The Hall of Fame announced on Wednesday that the minimum age for induction has been raised from 40 to 50, with one exception – players who are five or more years removed from being active on their respective tours.
The new rule affects the status of Tiger Woods, who met the final requirement under the old system when he turned 40 years old in December. Woods, who has won 79 PGA Tour titles and 14 major championship, now can't be nominated until 2026, unless he retires from golf at least five years before that.
Lorena Ochoa, on the other hand, is eligible for nomination this year at the age of 34 under the exception to the 50-year-old requirement. She retired from the LPGA in 2010 after winning 27 tournaments.
One criticism of the Hall of Fame was the 40-year-old minimum, which elevated players such as Mickelson, Ernie Els and Vijay Singh when they were still in their early 40s. Even players who went in soon after turning 40 had reservations.
"I think it's a great honor," Mickelson said in 2012 after his election was announced. "And I think golf is unique in that the players are elongating their careers more so than any other sport. I think it should probably be looked to move back to 50 [the age minimum] because the Hall of Fame is an opportunity to reflect on your career. I'm still in the stage where I'm looking forward at my career, looking ahead to other opportunities and other tournaments."
Since being elected to the Hall, Mickelson has won two more tournaments, including the 2013 Open Championship, and finished among the top-three in five majors.
"We work very closely with our Hall of Fame Members to ensure all aspects of the Induction criteria are shrewd and judicious," said World Golf Hall of Fame Chairman Jack Peter. "As players continue to elevate their fitness levels and continue to play at a high level for a longer period of time, moving the age requirement to 50 ensures that we are able to celebrate their careers at the proper time."
The age requirement will also apply to LPGA players. Under the old nominating and election process, the Hall of Fame recognized the LPGA points system for induction, which resulted in Annika Sorenstam, Se Ri Pak and Karrie Webb being inducted in their early 30s. The World Golf Hall of Fame no longer recognizes the LPGA points system and players on that tour are reviewed by the selection commission under the same criteria as male players.
The 16-member commission will meet this fall to vote on candidates for the next Hall induction on May 9, 2017, at the Hall of Fame in St. Augustine. Candidates are nominated by a selection sub-committee and must receive 75 percent of the vote, or 12.
The Hall of Fame also announced that charter member Jack Nicklaus will join fellow members Gary Player, Nancy Lopez and Annika Sorenstam as the co-chairs of the selection commission. Nicklaus replaces Arnold Palmer, who withdrew from the commission last year.
"To now have the opportunity to join the Selection Commission, including my friends Nancy Lopez, Annika Sorenstam and Gary Player – all great players, wonderful people, and all highly respected in our game – gives me the opportunity to perhaps make someone else's career and life very special with this honor," Nicklaus said in a statement.
This article was written by Garry Smits from The Florida Times-Union and was legally licensed through the NewsCred publisher network.