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Tiger eyes comeback trail blazed by legendary Hogan

AUGUSTA (AFP) – As Tiger Woods prepares to make an amazing comeback from severe leg injuries suffered in a car crash 14 months ago, he has the legend of Ben Hogan to serve as inspiration.

The 15-time major winner, chasing a record-tying sixth green jacket, said he could not have attempted his astonishing comeback in the era of Hogan, who won six of his nine major titles after a 1949 automobile accident.

“The treatments have gotten so much better and I’m very thankful for that,” Woods said on Tuesday, when he confirmed he planned to tee it up in the 86th Masters.

“Because if I had to go through with my accident, given what had happened to me, during his era, I wouldn’t be playing this week, that’s for sure.”

Woods suffered major damage to his right leg in a February 2021 auto accident in Southern California, spending weeks hospitalised and months unable to walk.

“The leg was pretty messed up,” Woods said in December. “I’m happy it’s still attached.”
Woods has Hogan’s comeback to serve as an example, with 70 years of advancements to help as well.

Tiger Woods warms up on the range. PHOTO: AFP

“What he went through – obviously, he didn’t have the technology that we have now,” Woods said.

“The amount of hot tubs that he would have to take pre-round, post-round, in the middle of the night, just to be able to get up and swing a club the next day, I certainly appreciate that,” added Woods, who said his open preparation for and recovery from play is time consuming enough.

Hogan, who died in 1997 at age 84 only three months after Woods won his first major title at Augusta National, was involved in a February 1949 car crash at age 36 and made a stunning recovery.

Hogan suffered a broken left ankle, a fractured collarbone, a double-fractured pelvis and a chipped rib in when his car was struck head-on by a bus. He developed blood clots that jeopardised his life and led to life-long circulatory complications.

Doctors said Hogan might never walk again much less play golf, but he returned to start the 1950 PGA season, won his second US Open crown only five months later and captured six major titles after the accident – including the 1953 Masters and US and British Opens.

After the accident, Hogan struggled to walk courses but managed to rise to a share of fourth on the all-time major win list led by Jack Nicklaus’s 18, followed by Woods and Walter Hagen with 11.

Hogan, who won his first major at the 1947 PGA Championship at the age of 34, also joined the select few to win the career Grand Slam, capturing each of the four majors at least once, a feat only matched by Woods, Nicklaus, Gary Player and Gene Sarazen.

Woods already appreciated Hogan’s achievements when he was making his own injury fightback from spinal fusion surgery at the 2018 Masters, a year before winning the event.

“As far as greatest comebacks, I think one of the greatest comebacks in all of sport is the gentleman who won here, Hogan,” Woods said in 2018.

“He got hit by a bus and came back and won major championships.

That comment came as Woods was battling back from spinal fusion, a last-chance operation after fearing he might not be able to live a normal life due to nagging back pain.

“The pain of just sitting there and the amount of times that I’ve fallen because my leg didn’t work or I just had to lay on the ground for extended periods of times, those are some really dark, dark times,” Woods said in 2018. Woods put the contrast of the situations in perspective last December.

“When I had my back fusion, I didn’t know if I could ever be out here again,” he said. “This was a totally different deal. This was whether or not I would have a prosthetic or not, and I don’t. So I’m very lucky.”