First he drove into a fire hydrant (2009). Then he was arrested after being found asleep in his car with an almighty cocktail of painkillers in his system (2017). Last week he nearly killed himself in a crash. One wonders if Tiger Woods has ever contemplated hiring a chauffeur?
The main thing is that he didn’t kill himself, or anyone else, last week in that terrifying incident on the roads of Los Angeles. Both of those things could have very easily happened. The police were plain it was close to miraculous that he was able to be removed from his vehicle alive. Rory McIlroy was plain that thinking about golf in the context of Tiger was “not on the map” right now; the most important matter was that his two children had not lost their father. Very true. But this a column about golf, so here we go.
Of course, in the immediate aftermath of the crash, the newspapers and assorted media were not only going on about Woods and golf. They had the chance to resurrect all the lurid stories that had spilled out about his extra-marital ‘relationships’ after he had driven into that infamous fire hydrant near his Florida home over a decade ago. They grabbed that opportunity with all the alacrity of a golfer being offered a gimme In the Ryder Cup.
There was also, inevitably, reference to Ben Hogan. Tiger’s crash occurred in the last week of February 2021. In the first week of February 1949, Ben Hogan was almost killed when his Cadillac (also the make of the car in question when Tiger totalled the hydrant) was hit by a bus which was in the process of trying to overtake a truck near El Paso, Texas. Hogan’s life was likely saved because he threw his body across that of his wife in an effort to protect her from the impending impact.
Masters Mulligans – Part 1
As will be the case with Woods, the first concern of the doctors was to ensure Hogan would be able to walk properly in due course. However, the New York Times reported the next day: “The physicians expressed confidence that Hogan would be able to play golf again, but would not venture a guess as to when.” George Schneiter, the PGA tournament chairman, said: “We are praying that his injuries will not be permanent. The loss of Hogan in the tournament world could leave a gap that would be extremely difficult to fill.” That could be said about Woods today, even though everyone knows he cannot go on forever. He is 45 after all, car crash or no car crash.
Hogan was 36 at the time of his accident. In June 1950, he won the US Open, the first of six major championships he would claim after his fortunate escape. I think we can rule out a similar renaissance from Tiger. There is, though, one overlap between them. At the time of his crash, Hogan was the US Open champion. He had won it the previous summer at the Riviera Country Club in Los Angeles… the very course where Tiger had spent the weekend before his accident being tournament host at the Genesis Invitational.
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