For his entire professional golfing career, Tiger Woods has been chasing the legendary Jack Nicklaus’s major-title record of 18. Now, he has another immortal to try to emulate — Ben Hogan.
Hogan famously returned to championship-calibre golf after being critically injured in an automobile-bus crash in 1949. Hogan’s injuries sidelined him for close to a year in the prime of his greatness. But Hogan returned to glory, winning six major championships, including the 1950 U.S. Open at Merion 16 months after his brush with death.
Now, Woods faces a similar challenge, although it presents a less likely successful result. Hogan was 36 and in peak physical form at the time of his crash, while Woods, who suffered severe leg and ankle injuries Feb. 23 after his car hit a median, crossed the other lane and left the Los Angeles road, rolling multiple times down an embankment, is 45 and inhabits a body held together thanks to multiple back and knee surgeries.
Woods, likely the most prominent individual athlete in the world, has enjoyed growing global fame since breaking into professional golf in 1996. A cave dweller in the depths of Mongolia may not know a thing about Tiger Woods, but he’d be in the minority. Have you heard of the Pope? Paul McCartney? Muhammad Ali? Albert Einstein? Same fame deal.
Woods was entertainment. People who knew or cared little about golf were likely to turn on their TVs if Woods was in contention in a major tournament. He made millions of dollars for the television networks. His popularity resulted in skyrocketing purses on the PGA Tour.
He was once the best golfer in the world. He isn’t anymore. He won’t be again.
He was once a great husband, until his aura of a role model came crashing down when he was outed as an adulterer and a philanderer in 2009. He was a doting son and apparently a great father to his two kids, Samantha and Charlie, but he nearly left them without a dad due to his recklessness.
He has dealt with at least three dangerous driving events — two crashes and a third when he was stopped by police for drugged driving — at the wheel while under the influence of post-surgery pain-killing drugs. Someone as wealthy and vulnerable behind the wheel as Tiger Woods should hire someone to transport him safely, day or night.
What Tiger Woods did Feb. 23 in L.A. was no accident. The word ‘accident’ carries with it no culpability. Woods was reportedly speeding and obviously reckless behind the wheel. He is lucky, very lucky, to be alive.
Corporate America will continue to feed him millions, and he’ll recover while bathing in sympathy and well-wishes for successful rehab. But he won’t catch Jack and he won’t equal Hogan’s accomplishment. But he’s alive and that’s good enough.
Headline at the onion.com: “Hockey Hall Of Fame Debuts Interactive Exhibit Letting Fans Play With Game-Used Teeth.”
Dwight Perry of the Seattle Times: “NFL owners are pushing to implement a 17-game schedule for this coming season. “A$ you might $u$pect, we have our rea$ons for playing $eventeen,” said one.”
Jamison Hensley of ESPN.com, after Ravens coach John Harbaugh paid the entire $2,000-plus restaurant bill during a Baltimore charity event: “Harbaugh covered the spread.”
Phil Mushnick of the New York Post: “In Charles Barkley’s latest commercial endorsement ads, he appears huge, his stomach standing guard over his toes. He’s bigger than a bread box … factory.”
Comedy writer Brad Dickson of Omaha: “Dish Network and DraftKings just struck a deal that will allow fans to place bets on sporting events from their televisions in the middle of games … OK, we’re going to need another $1.9 trillion bailout very soon.”
RJ Currie of sportsdeke.com: “NBA star Joakim Noah announced his retirement, finishing his pro career 0-for-16 in three-pointers. Big surprise: a guy named Noah preferred his points two by two.”
Headline at fark.com: “Calgary celebrates 7-3 win over Senators by firing coach.”
Another fark.com headline: “J.J. Watt has gone from being a saint in Houston to being a Cardinal in Arizona.”
Dwight Perry again: “Sure sign we’ve been in lockdown too long: The Milwaukee Bucks unveiled a ‘Hand Sanitizer Cam,’ featuring a superimposed bottle ‘squirting’ fans in the stands.”
Bucs QB Tom Brady, 43, when chubby 42-year-old CBS ‘Late Late Show’ host James Corden asked if Corden could be drafted into the NFL: “You might be able to play for the Jets.”
Nick Canepa of the San Diego Union-Tribune: “Players hate going to the NBA All-Star Game — as they should — and get upset when they’re not invited.”
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By Bruce Penton