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Can Tiger Woods be the New Ben Hogan?

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Now that the wait is over and Tiger Woods’ comeback to the PGA Tour is underway, I think the time has come to compare this comeback to the greatest comeback of all time: the 1950 return of Ben Hogan. In 1949, Ben Hogan was severally injured and permanently disabled when his car was hit head on by a speeding Greyhound bus. During his rehab, Hogan learned that he could still swing a golf club. He also learned that he wanted — more than anything — to return to tournament golf. And from what I understand, Tiger is the same way. He wants to win more major championships.

“I’m at 14, and the record’s 18, and of course I want to get there/ I set out to try and get to 19 … when I was 12, 13 years old. I thought that was the mark of all marks.” — Tiger Woods

So how did it go for Hogan? Well, a severely diminished Ben Hogan came back from that horrific accident to win the 1950 U.S. Open. Then he went on to win five more majors over the next four seasons. My best guess would be if Tiger needs a target, goal, objective or inspiration to exceed what Jack Nicklaus accomplished, then what Ben Hogan did would be it. I am going to take the position that Tiger doesn’t have to reinvent the comeback wheel. I believe that if Tiger does what Ben Hogan did, Tiger will get what Hogan got. Think about it. Five more majors. OK, so what did Hogan do?

“I was a much better golfer before the accident than I ever was afterward.” — Ben Hogan

First, Hogan learned that he didn’t need a new golf swing. He just started out doing what he could and just kept building on that. As I understand it, Tiger has done the same thing. Hogan’s goal was to get as good as he reasonably and safely could — not to be as good as he once was. Hopefully, Tiger can incorporate that mindset into his preparations. By parting ways with his most recent swing instructor, Tiger is telling us that he knows his golf swing better than any teacher — and that he’s finally ready to trust it. Butch Harmon, the top-rated teacher in the world, agrees that “[Tiger] knows more about the golf swing than I do.” Using modern technology, none of which was available to Hogan, Tiger will dig whatever he needs “out of the dirt.”

“The ultimate judge of your swing is the flight of the ball.” — Ben Hogan

Second, Hogan modified his practice to accommodate his broken body. He became much more focused on deliberate practice than in the past. He loved to hit balls, but now he had to be mindful of the toll for excess. He had to make each ball count for something, and he always wrote down what he was doing and how it was coming along. Tiger should take heed and, if necessary, retain a “practice manager” to maximize his practice time.

“I am trying to play myself back in shape. I just haven’t had enough competition. I’m hitting the ball as well as I ever did, but I’ve lost the knack of scoring.” — Ben Hogan

Third, Tiger has to get his game up to speed, and though I think swing instruction for him is unnecessary and potential damaging, I do think Tiger could benefit from individual expertise on an as needed basis. What really separates the players of today from those of the past is short game and wedge technique, not ball striking. More players today are capable of shooting low scores than Hogan faced.

Additionally, modern performance training and “best practices” coaching has demonstrated and proven that simulated environments that control the circumstances of the practice activity can substantially improve performance in actual competition. You must be aware that Hogan played a very limited schedule after the accident. In fact, he only played in six official events in 1953 (he won five). So where did the “competition” come from? I submit that it came from his preparation.

“Placing the ball in the right position for the next shot is 80 percent of winning golf.”  — Ben Hogan

Finally, Hogan knew he wasn’t as good as before, and he knew everyone else knew that as well. But what he knew, which no one suspected, was that he didn’t have to be as good as he once was. He just had to be good enough. The same applies to Tiger, whether he knows it or not.

“The majors were the easiest to win because nine out of 10 players choke when the prize is in sight.” — Jack Nicklaus

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Ed Myers is the author of Hogan’s Ghost, Golf’s Scoring Secret and The Scoring Machine. He was the Director of Instruction at Memphis National Golf Club, and he is currently the scoring coach for players on all professional tours. "The Ultimate Scoring and Performance Experience" an all day program featuring on course private instruction and unlimited play with "Hogan's Ghost." is now available. More than a "golf school"and more than just short game. Individualized evaluation determines where to start the experience. Learn and work according to your goals, preferences and ability. All practice is supervised and structured to ensure maximum benefit and verifiable results. Program runs Monday -Friday from April through October, 2018. See you in Memphis, Tenn. "The Distance Coaching Program" is now available to all level of golfers worldwide. Thanks to modern technology everyone, everywhere, can train like a touring professional. Learn more about Ed at edmyersgolf.com. He can be reached at edmyersgolf@gmail.com.

21 Comments

21 Comments

  1. Ben Jones

    Feb 28, 2018 at 5:53 pm

    Hit his driver like Hogan? Control his irons like Hogan? Use balata balls, blades and woods like Hogan? Nope.

  2. Dennis Silvers

    Feb 16, 2018 at 9:46 pm

    Hogan almost won his 1st tournament after coming back from his accident. Tiger just missed the cut at Riviera and will continue to flounder.

  3. CB

    Feb 14, 2018 at 1:12 am

    In a word, no. Mr Hogan wasn’t a nasty voyeuristic skirt-chasing adulterous dirt bag like Eldrick.

  4. Ben Jones

    Feb 13, 2018 at 1:22 pm

    No one will ever be Ben Hogan just like no one will ever be Jack Nicklaus. Those days are gone.

  5. integrity matters

    Feb 12, 2018 at 9:12 pm

    No. Ben Hogan had integrity. Mr. Woods is sorely lacking in that. Ben Hogan never cheated in the Masters. Mr Woods has.

  6. Steve S

    Feb 12, 2018 at 5:39 pm

    It’s amazing what has happened to reading comprehension in this country. He’s not comparing the injuries. He’s saying use Hogan as a model for a comeback. Why wouldn’t you use Hogan as an example?

  7. Jordan

    Feb 12, 2018 at 3:03 pm

    I know all the hard core hogan fans hate when tiger and Ben are mentioned in the same breath but I think this areticle is a great blueprint for tiger to follow. Not really comparable injury situation though. 1953 is the greatest display of tournament golf ever period.

  8. Jack Nash

    Feb 12, 2018 at 2:35 pm

    Hogan’s crash? He almost died. He was lucky to make it.That being said it’s kind of obvious his abilities would be seriously degraded.(permantly disabled, broken body) Woods never went thru that. His injuries were caused by golf, not a major auto accident. I really don’t see a comparison with reading the article. I see a wanted comparison. That being said I see similarities with the mind. Both strong willed people. That can make up for a lot of other discrepancies. Woods I think will just want to compete, and be healthy to start. He’s obviously aiming for the Masters, but will have to work on his 2 way miss. What I do like about Woods come back is he’s more willing to reveal himself more, which is refreshing. Still a nice read though.

  9. Sven Olsen

    Feb 12, 2018 at 1:49 pm

    The idea may be fascinating, but!!

    Ben Hogan was a one-off golfer in so many ways – Tiger, with his obvious stubborness and other positive sides, do not, I am sorry to say, reach Hogan to the knees.

  10. Mark

    Feb 12, 2018 at 12:57 pm

    Very nice read! History repeats itself and this is an interesting analogy amoung two of the greatest

  11. William Davis

    Feb 12, 2018 at 12:39 pm

    It is MR Hogan to you lot. Silly article jumping on the hysterical media band wagon. Still, good luck to Woods but I prefer TV coverage when he is absent.

    • Gerald Teigrob

      Feb 12, 2018 at 1:08 pm

      Not me, but you might do well to move the needle yourself. Tiger still moves the needle and for those of us walking wounded he is clearly more of an inspiration than you will ever be!

  12. farmer

    Feb 12, 2018 at 12:12 pm

    Hogan’s body was broken, but not his mind. Tiger’s mind spiraled out of control, then his body broke.

    • Gerald Teigrob

      Feb 12, 2018 at 1:11 pm

      And did you read the entire article? I have been where the mind spirals and I would say that you should be careful not to make light of it. Mental illness is curable but ignorance and blindness shows lack of sensitivity from others, which is really sad!

  13. Rev G

    Feb 12, 2018 at 12:03 pm

    My first impression of the article after reading the first paragraph was pretty much the same as the above post. But in reality the article isn’t really comparing the two situations or injuries – it’s saying that Woods should follow the game plan that Hogan used for his comeback if he wants to succeed. And I have to say I agree and I think all of us as we get older and more “banged up” can learn from how Hogan approached the game after his accident.

    • Ed Myers

      Feb 12, 2018 at 12:37 pm

      Thank you for your comment and for actually reading the article.

    • Gerald Teigrob

      Feb 12, 2018 at 1:18 pm

      Well said Rev G! Many of us have been through similar aspects of Tiger’s healing process. Many of us have developed bad knees from strain over the years and injuries. This article is more about what Tiger can do to follow in Ben’s footsteps. Wise words for all of us. Hogan set a model for those of us banged up amateurs would also do well to follow. And before we look at indicting Tiger we would do well to look at our own backyards to take the log out of our own eyes.

  14. Joro

    Feb 12, 2018 at 12:02 pm

    What planet does this “writer” live on to say this. Tiger was the best, but it is over and he does not have the same drive that Hogan had, no way. He has got everything in the World including many injuries and other problems, he well not win again!

  15. Jerry L Hoffman

    Feb 12, 2018 at 11:48 am

    Sorry but not even close comparison. Hogan was told he would never walk again multiple broken bones and legs crushed. Last day competition was always 36 holes not 18 making it even more remarkable. The other point rarely mentioned was Hogan’s eyesight was also effected making his depth perception compromised and major cause if his putting words.

  16. Kelly Gallagher

    Feb 12, 2018 at 11:48 am

    To compare Tigers comeback to Ben Hogan is just plain stupid. Hogan nearly died in that accident. Are you on crack or something. What a ridiculous thing to write about.

  17. Dale Winstead

    Feb 12, 2018 at 11:37 am

    Terrible comparison. Circumstances totally different. And let’s see if Tiger even wins let alone wins a major before writing clickbait articles like this.

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