Tiger and the Hawk


Editor's Note: With his win at The Arnold Palmer Invitatioinal, Tiger Woods tied Ben Hogan on the PGA TOUR career victory list with 64.
Ben Hogan was hardly the wunderkind that Tiger was. In fact, Hogan nearly walked away from the TOUR, down to his last $25 before turning the corner. Woods signed for millions before his first professional tournament.
Hogans father committed suicide. Tigers dad committed every ounce of his being to his sons development.
Hogan dealt with hard times not only psychologically and economically, but physically as well. He nearly died in a crash in 1949, but returned to win The U.S. Open at Merion the following year. In 1953 he recorded one of the greatest seasons in history, winning five of six starts including all three majors in which he played.
Who knows how many more wins hed have amassed had he recovered the years lost to the war and the accident?
Tiger won his first major at 21. Hogan was 34, stymied until he changed his swing, the death ball hook that became the airtight fade finally giving the Hawk a shot on which he could rely. Jack Burke, Jr. noted that Hogan was always tweaking his swing. Sound familiar?
And like Hogan, Tiger only seems to show warmth for opponents after hes demolished them - the approach clinical, at times cold and intimidating.
Legend has it that so focused was Hogan that he was unaware that playing partner Claude Harmon had aced the 12th at Augusta, that Porky Oliver had holed out for eagle on a par four at Riviera.
As for that vaunted Hogan mystique, well it was a result of more than just the wins - to all but a fortunate few Hogan could be a hard man.
On the other hand Tiger appears to be approachable and unassuming in so many commercials. Theres nothing mysterious in these times about a ubiquitous star athlete warmed up for the smooth sales pitch.
Tigers mystique lies in the fact that his exploits are simply hard to explain. Theyre otherworldly.
Tiger Woods and Ben Hogan - different paths and different people, but both attained the same rare status.
They mastered a very difficult game.

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