Golf

Godfrey Robert: Be inspired by Hogan, Woods

As Woods turns 40, he should emulate what the legendary Hogan achieved after crippling accident

Tiger Woods turns 40 today.

And the golfing world is somewhat confused with the debate about him making a big comeback to the sport providing no clear verdict.

Tiger-sympathisers, like Major winners Jack Nicklaus and Nick Faldo, believe that "he'll return".

But a majority feel "it's the end of an era" with megastars Jordan Spieth, Jason Day and Rory McIlroy entrenching themselves as the new triumvirate of golfing goliaths.

However, is it wise to write off a "God-given" talent whose golfing precocity, teen magic and adult aura of invincibility gave a new dimension to the game for nearly two decades?

For Tiger (right), triumphs of four US Masters, three US Opens, three British Opens and four US PGA Championships make it 14 Majors.

The 15th has been elusive since 2008 and all talk of matching Nicklaus' record 18 Majors had been rubbished in the last year as Woods suffered a major slump.

Especially after the back surgery - for a third time - and a series of knee injuries which badly affected his game over the last two years.

Injuries aside, Woods has also had matrimonial issues that brought about the slump.

Some say his mental game - so very evident in some of his comebacks - has suffered.

That is contentious.

For how can a top-notch golfer who has had the longest reign (683 weeks) as world No. 1, suddenly find weakness of mind?

There was a time that his mere imposing presence on the tee-box was enough to intimidate rivals and see them succumb without a fight.

No doubt, Tiger has had many setbacks and a period of golf idleness.

But to call time on one of the greatest players the game has seen at a young golfing age of 40 is hazardous.

Mind you, the game has seen Major winners of over-40 and Old Tom Morris, who won four Majors being beyond 40, epitomises best the "youth in old" in the gentleman's game.

It came as refreshing refrain recently to hear Woods look on the positives - even family and children - which could see him back on the course very soon.

Just days ago, an upbeat Woods said on his website: "Where do I see myself in the next five to 10 years?"

Now languishing at a dismal 414th in world rankings, Woods added: "Mentally, people who know me know I'm like a five-year-old.

"Physically, sometimes I feel old and sometimes I feel like a teenager.

"I don't like the polar opposites of the two. I'd like to be somewhere in the middle where I feel 40.

"The thing I'm looking forward to the most about 2016 is getting back out there again. I've missed it and I would like to do it pain-free.

"I've had it in spurts the last few years and have done some pretty good things, but I'd like to have sustained health."

For sustained health and great encouragement, Woods has to take a leaf out of the legendary Ben Hogan's book on overcoming all odds.

The youngest child of Chester and Clara (Williams), his father was only a blacksmith and Texan Hogan (inset) had a very tough childhood.

Hogan was only nine when his father committed suicide by self-inflicted gunshot at the family home.

Financial difficulty beset the family, so Hogan sold newspapers after school at a train station and later became a caddie.

Hogan turned professional in January 1930, more than six months shy of his 18th birthday.

His early years as a pro were very difficult and Hogan went broke more than once.

Although it took a decade (March 1940) to secure his first victory, Hogan's wife, Valerie, believed in him, and this helped see him through the tough years when he battled a hook, which he later cured.

Between the years of 1938 and 1959, Hogan won 63 professional golf tournaments despite his career being interrupted in its prime by World War Two (he served in the US Army Air Forces) and a near-fatal car accident.

HEAD-ON COLLISION

Hogan and Valerie survived a head-on collision with a Greyhound bus on a fog-shrouded bridge, early in the morning in Texas on Feb 2, 1949.

Hogan threw himself across Valerie in order to protect her, and would have been killed had he not done so, as the steering column punctured the driver's seat.

This accident left Hogan, aged 36, with a double fracture of the pelvis, a fractured collar bone, a left ankle fracture, a chipped rib and near-fatal blood clots because of which he would suffer lifelong circulation problems and other physical limitations.

His doctors said he might never walk again, let alone play golf competitively. While in hospital, Hogan's life was endangered by a blood clot problem, leading doctors to tie off the large veins.

Hogan left the hospital on April 1, 59 days after the accident, regained his strength by extensive walking and resumed golf activities.

And he took his Major haul to nine, two Masters triumphs, three US Open victories and one British Open win coming after the nasty accident.

So look to Ben, Tiger, for yet another great comeback.
And adhere to what you, yourself, once said.

That "all the trophies and all the championships in the world don't change the fact that today I have to practise".

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