Could Ben Hogan's limited schedule spark return to competitive golf for Tiger Woods?

Could Ben Hogan's limited schedule spark return to competitive golf for Tiger Woods?
© Provided by Golfweek Tiger Woods

Of all the things Tiger Woods talked about in his first news conference this week since his car accident last February, perhaps the most interesting thing was how he understands the history of another golfer who was a car accident victim, Ben Hogan.

“To ramp up for a few events a year as I alluded to yesterday as Mr. Hogan did, he did a pretty good job of it, and there’s no reason that I can’t do that and feel ready,” Woods told the media at the Hero World Challenge that he hosts in the Bahamas. “I may not be tournament-sharp in the sense I haven’t played tournaments, but I think if you practice correctly and you do it correctly, that I’ve come off surgeries before, I’ve come off long layoffs and I’ve won or come close to winning before. So I know the recipe for it. I’ve just got to get to a point where I feel comfortable enough where I can do that again.”

The parallels between Hogan’s accident in 1949 and Woods’ accident this year are numerous, including the fact that both accidents happened in February. And through Woods’ own words this week, there is another parallel. Woods won’t be a full-time golfer again, which was true of Hogan after his accident.

Hogan’s car was hit head-on by a bus on a foggy Texas road on Feb. 2, 1949. Hogan had played four tournaments that year, including wins in the Bing Crosby Pro-Am and the Long Beach Open and a second in the Phoenix Open.

Could Ben Hogan's limited schedule spark return to competitive golf for Tiger Woods?
© Provided by Golfweek vBen Hogan

Ben Hogan smiles from his hospital bed at El Paso, Texas, on Feb. 12, 1949. Hogan was recovering from injuries suffered when his automobile collided with a bus Feb. 2. With him was his wife, Valerie. Photo by Associated Press

Hogan’s body was badly broken in the accident, including two breaks in his pelvis, a broken leg, broken ribs, a broken collarbone and more. He also fought blood clots that nearly killed him three months after the accident.

Hogan miraculously returned to competitive golf in 1950, playing nine tournaments and winning three times, including the U.S. Open. But those nine tournaments would be the most he ever played in a single year again. The 1950 U.S. Open was one of six majors Hogan won after his accident. Three of those majors came in 1953, when he won the Masters, the U.S. Open and the British Open among his eight starts.

Limited play because of injuries

But Hogan played just four tournaments in 1954 and another four in 1955. His badly damaged legs wouldn’t allow him much more at the time.

Woods has hardly been a full-time player in recent years, with back surgeries cutting down his play to just nine tournaments in the 2020 calendar year, including one unofficial start in the made-for-television The Match. He hasn’t played any official tournaments since the 2020 Masters, which was played in November.

Woods saying he will never be a top-level player again was hardly news, because he wasn’t one of the top players in the game when he had his accident. In fact for the week of Feb. 28 this year, Woods was just 53rd in the Official World Golf Ranking. The accident and the damage to his already ailing body certainly had fans understanding that Woods was never going to be peak Tiger Woods again.

But the idea of Woods being a strategic part-time player has to be fascinating to his fans and to the other players. It’s easy to build a schedule for Woods that would include the Masters, the U.S. Open and the PGA Championship, maybe three or four other events like the Farmers Insurance Open in San Diego, his own Genesis Invitational in Los Angeles, the Arnold Palmer Invitational and the Memorial.

That’s seven events among tournaments Woods has won multiple times and often on courses where he is comfortable. Toss in two more events somewhere along the line and Woods would be at the nine tournaments that Hogan played in 1950. And it’s nine more than most people thought Woods would ever play again.

Could Woods win a major or two in the coming years with such a schedule and with laser-focused practice? Perhaps. But Woods will be 46 in a few weeks, and his body has been through surgeries for his knee and his back and now the car accident. If he never wins again, in fact if he never plays again, his place in the pantheon of the game is secure.

Woods admits he’s lucky to be alive and to have his right leg after the accident. Compared to that, winning the Masters might not mean that much anymore. But who is ready to count Woods out for good? Clearly Tiger himself is still thinking about playing.


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