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Opinion & Analysis

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 the PGA, Champions, European, Asian and Japanese tours. Now he is making available "The Distance Coaching Program" to all level of golfers worldwide. Thanks to modern technology everyone, everywhere, can train like a touring professional. He is based at Vantage Point Golf Center in Memphis, Tenn. Learn more about Ed at edmyersgolf.com. He can be reached at edmyersgolf@gmail.com.

20 Comments

20 Comments

  1. 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.

  2. 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.

  3. 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.

  4. 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.

  5. 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?

  6. 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.

  7. 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.

  8. 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.

  9. 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

  10. 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!

  11. 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!

  12. 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.

  13. 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!

  14. 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.

  15. 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.

  16. 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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Courses

Barnbougle Dunes: World Class Golf

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We arrived to Launceston Airport in Tasmania just before sunset. Located on the Northeast Coast of Australia’s island state, Tasmania, Barnbougle is almost as far from Sweden as it gets… yet it immediately felt like home when we arrived.

Launceston Airport, Tasmania. (C) Jacob Sjöman. jacob@sjomanart.com

The drive from the airport was just over an hour, taking us through deep forests and rolling hills before we arrived to Barnbougle Golf Resort, which consists of two courses — The Dunes and Lost Farm — a lodge, two restaurants, a sports bar and a spa. Unfortunately, it was pitch black outside and we couldn’t see much of the two courses on our arrival. I would like to add that both Johan and I were extremely excited about visiting this golf mecca. We later enjoyed a tasty dinner at the Barnbougle Lost Farm Restaurant before we called it a day.

The locals at Barnbougle Dunes. (C) Jacob Sjöman. jacob@sjomanart.com

The next day, we woke up early and got out to The Dunes Course as very first guests out. Well, to be quite honest, we weren’t actually the first out. There were a few locals — Wallabies, lots of them — already out on the course. The natural landscape at Barnbougle is fantastic and my cameras almost overheated with the photo opportunities. After two intense hours of recording videos and producing photos both from ground, we headed back to Lost Farm for a wonderful breakfast (and view). After our breakfast, it was time to try our luck.

“Tom’s Little Devil.” Hole No.7 at Barnbougle Dunes. (C) Jacob Sjöman. jacob@sjomanart.com

Before describing our experience playing the courses, I would like to mention about Richard Sattler, a potato farmer and owner of Barnbougle. In the early 2000’s, Richard was introduced to U.S. golfing visionary Mike Keiser, who had heard about his amazing stretch of farmland in Tasmania and came down to visit. Mike convinced Richard that Barnbougle (which at that stage was a potato farm and still grows potatoes and raises cattle today) might be perfect for creating a top quality golf course.

After an introduction to well renowned golf architect Tom Doak and the formation of a partnership with former Australian golf pro and golf architect Mike Clayton, the development of the Barnbougle Dunes Course commenced.

The walk between the 4th and 5th holes. (C) Jacob Sjöman. jacob@sjomanart.com

Featuring large bunkers dotted between fun rolling fairways shaped from the coastal dunes, Barnbougle Dunes offers the golfer some tough challenges, in particular on the first nine. This is indeed a course that will entertain all kinds of golfers.

After our round, we looked back at some fantastic highlights such as playing the iconic 7th hole, a short par-3 called ”Tom’s Little Devil,” as well as the beautiful par-4 15th. We were just two big walking smiles sitting there in the restaurant to be honest. Lets also not forget one of the biggest (and deepest) bunkers I’ve seen at the 4th hole. The name of the bunker is “Jaws.” Good times!

As a small surprise for Johan, I had arranged a meeting after our round with Richard Sattler. Richard, ever the farmer, entered the car parking just in front of the clubhouse in a white pick-up van with a big smile un his face. We talked to Richard for almost 30 minutes. He is an extremely humble man and left such a warm impression on us. Richard explained the Barnbougle story: how it all began and the property today.

To me, this is a high-end golf destination offering something very unique with two world-class courses in Barnbougle Dunes and Barnbougle Lost Farm, both ranked in the top-100 greatest golf courses by Golf Digest and Golf Magazine (U.S.). With the courses located just next to each other, it’s probably one of the best golf resorts you can find down under and a golf resort that I would like bring my hardcore golfing friends to visit. Everything here is exceptional with the resort providing spacious rooms, comfy beds, good food and spectacular views.

(C) Jacob Sjöman. jacob@sjomanart.com

Barnbougle Dunes is a real treat to play for any golfer and will leave you with a sweet golfing memory. Compared to the golf courses available on the more remote King Island, Barnbougle is accessible (given Tasmania is connected by better flight connections) and the hospitality and service at is much more refined.

The golf resort is one of the absolute best I’ve been to. I can also highly recommend playing Barnbougle Dunes; I had great fun and you can play it in many ways. Tomorrow, we will be playing and experiencing the other course at Barnbougle: Barnbougle Lost Farm, a Bill Coore/Ben Crenshaw course with 20 (!) holes.

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Podcasts

Geoff Shackelford and Louis Oosthuizen join our 19th Hole podcast

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Louis Oosthuizen and Geoff Shackelford join our 19th Hole this week. Oosthuizen talks about his prospects for the 2018 season, and Shackelford discusses Tiger’s setback at the 2018 Genesis Open. Also, host Michael Williams talks about the PGA Tour’s charitable efforts in the wake of tragic events in Parkland, Florida.

Listen to the podcast below on SoundCloud, or click here to listen on iTunes!

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Opinion & Analysis

Fantasy Preview: 2018 Honda Classic

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It’s off to Florida this week for the Honda Classic, as the lead up to the year’s first major continues. PGA National has been the permanent home of this event since 2007, and it has proved to be one of the most demanding courses on Tour since then. The golf course measures just under 7,200 yards, but it is the often blustery conditions combined with the copious amount of water hazards that make this event a challenge. There is also the added factor of “The Bear Trap,” a daunting stretch of holes (Nos. 15-17) that are arguably the most difficult run of holes we will see all year on the PGA Tour.

Ball strikers have excelled here in the past, with Adam Scott, Sergio Garcia and Rory McIlroy all boasting fine records at PGA National. The par-70 golf course contains six long Par 4’s that measure over 450 yards, and players will be hoping that the wind isn’t too strong — when it does blow here, the course can turn into a brute. Last year, Rickie Fowler posted 12-under par to win the event by four strokes over Morgan Hoffmann and Gary Woodland. It was the first time in the last five years that the winning score reached double digits.

Selected Tournament Odds (via Bet365)

  • Rickie Fowler 8/1
  • Rory McIlroy 10/1
  • Justin Thomas 11/1
  • Sergio Garcia 18/1
  • Tyrrell Hatton 28/1
  • Tommy Fleetwood 30/1
  • Gary Woodland 30/1

Previous champions Rickie Fowler and Rory McIlroy are sure to be popular picks this week, but it’s Justin Thomas (11/1, DK Price $11,300) who I feel offers slightly more value out of the front runners. Thomas has begun the year well, finishing in the top-25 in all four events he has played. The numbers show that his game is getting better all the time. His iron play has steadily improved, picking up more Strokes for Approaching the Green week by week. Last week he gained six strokes approaching the green at the Genesis Open, which was fourth in the field.

At the ball strikers’ paradise, Thomas fans will be glad to know that he ranks fourth in the field for Ball Striking over his last 12 rounds. He is also ranked fourth for Strokes Gained Approaching the Green and second in Strokes Gained Total. Comparatively, neither Fowler nor McIlroy rank inside the top-50 for ball striking and the top-40 for Strokes Gained Approaching the Green over the same period.

Thomas’ accuracy on his approaches has been sensational lately. He leads the field in Proximity to the Hole for his past 12 rounds, and on a golf course that contains many long par 4’s it should play into Justin’s hands, as he’s been on fire recently with his long irons. He is third in the field for Proximity on Approaches Between 175-200 yards, and second in the field for Approaches Over 200 yards in his last 12 rounds. Thomas has a mixed record at PGA National, with a T3 finish wedged in between two missed cuts, but I like the way his game has been steadily improving as the season has progressed. It feels like it’s time for the current PGA Champion to notch his first win of the year.

On a golf course where ball striking is so important, Chesson Hadley (55/1, DK Price $7,700) caught my eye immediately. The North Carolina native has been in inspired form so far in this wraparound season with four finishes already in the top-5. The way he is currently striking the ball, it wouldn’t be a major surprise to see him get his fifth this week. Hadley is No. 1 in the field for Strokes Gained Approaching the Green, Strokes Gained Tee-to-Green and Ball Striking, while he is No. 2 for Strokes Gained Total over his last 24 rounds.

Having taken last week off, Hadley returns to a golf course where he has finished in the Top-25 twice in his three visits. Yet there is a sense that this year he’ll be aiming even higher than that. Chesson is fifth in this field for Proximity to the Hole from 175-200 yards and fourth overall over the past 24 rounds. With that level of accuracy on such a tricky golf course, Hadley will be confident of putting himself in position to claim win No. 2.

My next pick was a slow sell, but with the number so high I couldn’t leave him out. Adam Scott (55/1, DK Price $7,700) has been struggling for some time now. He has slipped out of the World’s Top-50, changed his putter from the short putter to the long putter and back again over the winter break, and he doesn’t have a top-10 finish on the PGA Tour since the FedEx St. Jude Classic last summer. Despite all of this, I don’t feel Scott should be as high as 66/1 with some bookmakers on a golf course where he has excelled. To put it in perspective, Scott is the same price to win this week in a modest field as he is to win The Masters in April.

There are also signs that Scott blew off some of the rust last week in LA. The Australian was 12th in the field for Strokes Gained Approaching the Green, which indicates that things might slowly be coming around for a man who is known for his prodigious ball striking. Scott’s achilles heel is the flat stick, and I wouldn’t expect that to change this week. He’s been very poor on the greens for some time now, which must be incredibly frustrating for a man who gives himself so many looks at birdie. But average putters have performed well at PGA National in the past, where it seems that excellent ball striking is the key for having a good week. Scott won here in 2016, and on his two other visits to PGA National in the past five years he twice finished in the top-15. If he can continue to improve his iron play the way he has been, I feel he could forge his way into contention.

My long shot this week is Sean O’Hair (200/1, DK Price $6,800). The Texan hasn’t done much so far this year, but he is making cuts and he arrives at a course that seems to bring out the best in him. O’Hair has five top-25 finishes in his last seven appearances at PGA National, which includes a T11 at last year’s edition. At 200/1 and with a DK Price of as little as $6,800, there is little harm in taking a chance on him finding that form once more this week.

Recommended Plays

  • Justin Thomas 11/1, DK Price $11,300
  • Chesson Hadley 55/1, DK Price $7,700
  • Adam Scott 55/1, DK Price $7,700
  • Sean O’Hair 200/1, DK Price $6,800
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19th Hole

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