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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 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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Podcasts

Gear Dive: Legendary club builder Larry Bobka speaks on Tiger’s old Titleist irons

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Legendary club builder Larry Bobka joins us in the first episode of our new podcast called “Gear Dive,” hosted by Johnny Wunder, GolfWRX’s Director of Original Content. Gear Dive is a deep look into the world of golf equipment, and Wunder will be interviewing the craftsman, the reps and the players behind the tools that make up the bags of the best golfers in the world.

Bobka, our first guest, is a former Tour rep and club builder involved in some of the most important clubs of the past 25 years. From his days at Wilson Golf working with legends such as Payne Stewart, Hale Irwin and Bernhard Langer, he transitioned into the Golden Age of Titleist/Acushnet building clubs for Tiger Woods, Davis Love, David Duval and Brad Faxon. He currently runs Argolf where he builds and fits handmade putters for Tour players and amateurs alike. He’s one of the Godfather’s of modern golf equipment.

Skip to 45:30 for the discussion about Tiger’s Titleist irons.

Check out our podcast on SoundCloud below, or click here to listen on iTunes!

What do you think of the new podcast? Leave your feedback in the comments below!

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Gary Player joins our 19th Hole podcast, talks past and future of golf

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Hall-of-Famer and career Grand Slam winner Gary Player joins host Michael Williams for an exclusive one-on-one interview at the Bass Pro Shops Legends of Golf tournament and Big Cedar Lodge in Branson, Missouri. Player talks about the past and future of the game, including his take on everything from reigning in the golf ball and golf courses, to advocating for more testing for performance enhancing drugs on the Tour. Steve Friedlander of Big Cedar Lodge also appears.

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

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Opinion & Analysis

Let’s Retire Old Man Par: A Modest Proposal

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In 1729, Jonathan Swift wrote a satirical essay entitled “A modest proposal,” in which he suggested that the Irish eat their own children. As might be expected, the piece drew a great deal of discussion and controversy. He was of course not serious, but simply attempting to make a point. As you will read this piece contains “A Modest Proposal” as well, but it is not intended to be satirical. I am for the record dead serious.

The golf industry is wringing its hands, trying to find a way to bring new players into the game, while at the same time keeping those that are in the game from leaving. They have initiated any number of programs designed for this purpose. How successful have they been? I would venture that they have barely moved the needle.

Barriers to the game

What we do know is that today there are three major barriers that confront the industry. They are first, the time required to play the game; second the costs associated with playing the game; and third the difficulty of the game.

There are among those adults that start the game, three distinct different groups:

  1. Those who would like to start playing golf but for any number of reasons decided not to take up the game.
  2. Those who once played more frequently but have reduced the number of rounds that they play.
  3. Those who started to play the game but then after a short period decided to leave it.

Those who leave the game

Those in the golf industry, the hand-wringers, have developed any number of programs to bring new players to the game. I would ask the question, “What is the point, when almost an equal number of players that start playing the game each year, decide to give it up within a span of a few months.

Does it make any sense to continue to put water into a bucket when there is a hole in the bottom? Of course not, but that is effectively what is being done. The first question to be ask, why do these new players quit the playing after a short time? In my opinion, the number No. 1 reason is the method of scoring being used.

Were an exit poll to be conducted asking these people why they quit playing, I seriously doubt they would answer truthfully. Who would want to admit that they were discouraged by their inability to succeed at any endeavor? The two answers that would be given the most often would be 1) that golf is too expensive to play; or 2) that they simply didn’t have time.  In this case both answers serve to preserve the individual’s dignity. And who could blame them?

The concept of par

Why did these individuals find the game difficult? The short answer is that while golf is a hard game to learn, there  is a more compelling reason.  I would venture, that the underlying reason they quit the game is that it ceased to be fun because of how they viewed their performance. And for one central reason… the concept of par. The idea that an amateur golfer, especially a beginner, should measure their level of success against an imaginary set of numbers that represents what an expert player would score on each hole is on the surface ridiculous.

You might imagine a beginning player scoring an eight on a par-four hole after hitting six good shots and then two putting for an eight. In the context of their ability, they should be ecstatic — but of course they are not (because as their playing partner reminds them) they were four-over par on that hole. The time has come for Old Man Par to retire. And retire permanently. He is killing the game.

Perceived failure

In another scenario, the beginning player scores sixty for nine holes, which is an excellent score given the short amount of time they might have spent playing the game. And yet their nine-hole score was 24-over par. How would that make you feel? Would you be encouraged or discouraged? You might imagine yourself back in school and regardless of the amount of work that you put into a given class you always receive an “F.” At some point, would you give up?

Why should every golfer be judged by the same standard when there is such inequality in their ability? The equivalent would be placing a high school freshman in a graduate-level college course, expecting that they could perform at the same level as the other graduate students. The disparity in knowledge, based on age and experience, is precisely the reason why there are different grades in school. The same disparity exists among golfers. In this case, the difference being the ability to perform on the golf course as opposed to the classroom.

What about the second group of players that now plays less than they did in the past? Could it be that they are no longer having fun playing the game?And then there is the third group, those that consider playing the game but abandon it for another sport. Could it be that they are intimidated by the scoring system, knowing that as a beginner par is an absolute impossibility?

Old man par 

The legendary Bobby Jones was the first to coin, perhaps with the help of his friend O.B. Keillor, the phrase “Old Man Par.” Jones was, of course, the greatest amateur to have ever played the game. He won the Grand Slam in 1930, retiring then at the age of 28.

The time has come to retire “Old Man Par” and devise a new system for measuring a golfer’s progress in the game. I know that those in the USGA. would reject the concept immediately for fear of, and here is a $10 word used primarily by attorneys, “bifurcate” the game. What that word essentially means in this context in having more than one standard. The USGA is responsible for preserving the nature of the game, but at the same time it should be equally concerned with preserving the future of the game.

Personal par

What I would suggest is a system based on the principle of what might be termed “personal par.” This was essentially the system that was used to groom a young Tiger Woods. As a young child, he was not capable of reaching the longer holes in regulation, making par a virtual impossibility. Consequently, his coach wisely devised a system in which par was adjusted upward based on his ability at a given point in time. This served to keep the young child feeling good about his performance and subsequent progress.

This is the type of system that needs to be devised for the health of the game. The system would begin at a nine-hole level using a par of thirty-six as a basis. The actual numbers are not as important as the basic concept. There would be within the nine-hole and the eighteen-hole groups five different levels as follows with assigned par for each hole and eighteen holes roughly equal with the player’s ability.

As players improved, they would graduate from one level to another based on their total score. The handicap system would work in similar fashion as it does now with a single modification. The strokes give from one player to another would depend on the level in which they fall and the par assigned to that level.

The personal par handicap system would not be as exacting as it is presently used, but it would be sufficient to allow players to be reasonable competitive without any significant sacrifice. There would then be two scoring systems then, allowing players to choose which one they wanted to use. Or a recommendation might be given that until they reach a given scoring threshold that they use the personal par scoring system.

There would, of course, be the usual concern with something new being injected into the system, but the proposed change would be no greater than when the system of equitable scoring was introduced or when courses were first assigned a course rating number.

A few years ago, when life-long teacher and educator Dr. Gary Wiren was inducted into the Golf Teacher’s Hall of Fame, he wanted to pass along a single piece of advice to those teachers in the room. “Gentleman,” he started and then paused for emphasis. “We must find a way to make the game more fun for our students.”

I’m in full agreement with Dr. Wiren. The question is, “What is the best way to accomplish that goal?” I believe that that the first step in that direction is to change the scoring system so that golfers experience more satisfaction and accomplishment. That is what makes learning fun.

And so, I would have you consider “The Modest Proposal” that I have put forward. And rather than attempting to find reasons why a revised scoring system couldn’t never work, for the benefit of the game, look for the same number of reason why it could work. The time has come for Old Man Par, as we know him, to retire. He has served us well, but he has become an anarchism. He is as obsolete as the horse and buggy. Let’s hand him his gold watch and let him enjoy his golden years in peace.

And at the same time, let’s welcome the “new kid on the block” who will pave the way for the next generation of golfers pioneering a scoring system that promises to make the game more “fun.”

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