Golf

Think Tiger Woods’ crash and Ben Hogan’s were the same? Think again.


Speculation about Tiger Woods’ future should probably be on the quality of the rest of his life, not the quality of any golf he may play.

He’s the father of two young children and has varied business and charitable interests. Woods will enter the World Golf Hall of Fame next year and is tied with Sam Snead for the most career victories with 82 and second to Jack Nicklaus in career majors with 15.

If Woods had retired the day after winning his last tournament, the 2019 Masters, few could have blamed him.

But with his horrific accident on Tuesday, the main focus of speculation has to do with another member of the Hall of Fame and prolific PGA Tour winner who came back from a similar situation: Ben Hogan.

A car Hogan was driving on Feb. 2, 1949, was hit head-on by a bus on a foggy Texas highway. In throwing himself across his wife Valerie in the passenger seat, Hogan exposed himself to the brunt of the collision. His pelvis was broken in two places, he had fractures of his collarbone, left ankle and rib and suffered blood clots.

Hogan was in the hospital for 59 days. He began practicing in November of that year, played in the Los Angeles Open (where he lost to Sam Snead in an 18-hole playoff) but won the U.S. Open later that summer.

Hogan won six of his nine majors and 11 of his 63 PGA Tour titles after his injury.

Woods has two leg fractures, one compound, and what doctors are describing as a “shattered” ankle. Serious, but not life-threatening.

However, anyone expecting a Hogan-like comeback from Woods should keep some key differences in mind:

• Woods is nine years older than Hogan was at the time of their respective accidents (Woods is 45, Hogan was 36).

• Hogan did not have a history of previous injuries prior to the accident. Woods has had numerous back and knee surgeries – including his fifth back procedure on Dec. 23 that already was making his appearances in The Players March 11-14 and the Masters April 8-11 questionable.

• Hogan also drastically curbed his playing schedule after his accident. Over the next 10 years, he played in only 39 PGA Tour events, and never more than six starts. Hogan restricted his starts to the majors and favored tournaments such as the Colonial Invitational and events at the Greenbriar and the Riviera Country Club in Los Angeles.

Working in Woods’ favor would be advances in medicine and physical rehabilitation in the 72 years since Hogan’s accident.

“It’s going to be a lot to overcome,” said J. Turner Vosseller, of the Jacksonville Orthopedic Institute and associate team physician for the Jaguars, who estimated that a patient with Woods’ injuries would need six-to-12 weeks before putting any weight on his legs and similar time frame for rehabilitation.

“That would be the most optimistic hope,” he said. “It sounds very much like what [Washington quarterback] Alex Smith went through. But athletes like Tiger and Alex Smith can do things other people can’t do. I would never rule him out.”

Hogan did it. Woods has displayed a similar iron will on the golf course — and in coming back from injuries that minor in comparison to what he will have to go through just to walk with his kids on the beach.

Perhaps that should be his only concern.

 



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