|Birth|| August 13, 1912 |
Fort Worth, Texas
|Height||5 ft 7 in (1.70 m)|
|Weight||140 lb (64 kg)|
|Professional wins (64)|
|PGA Tour||64 (4th all time)|
|Major Championship Wins (9)|
|Masters||(2) 1951, 1953|
|U.S. Open||(4) 1948, 1950, 1951, 1953|
|British Open||(1) 1953|
|PGA Championship||(2) 1946, 1948|
|PGA Player of the Year||1948, 1950, 1951, 1953|
|PGA Tour money winner||1940, 1941, 1942, 1946, 1948|
|Vardon Trophy||1940, 1941, 1948|
William Ben Hogan (August 13, 1912 – July 25, 1997) was an American golfer, and is generally considered one of the greatest golfers in the history of the game. Born within six months of two of the other acknowledged golf greats of the twentieth century, Sam Snead and Byron Nelson, Hogan is notable for his profound influence on the golf swing theory and his legendary ball-striking ability, for which he remains renowned among players and aficionados. His life is depicted in the biographical film, Follow the Sun (1951).
At age 9, Hogan's father Chester committed suicide. By some accounts Chester committed suicide in front of him, which some (including Hogan biographer James Dodson) have cited as the cause of his introverted personality in later years.One of his fellow caddies at Glen Garden was Byron Nelson, later a tour rival. The two would tie for the lead at the annual Christmas caddy tournament in December 1927, when both were fifteen. Nelson sunk a thirty foot putt to tie on the ninth and final hole. Instead of sudden death, they played another nine holes; Nelson sunk another substantial putt on the final green to win by a stroke.
The following spring, Nelson was granted the only junior membership offered by the members of Glen Garden. Club rules did not allow caddies age 16 and older, so after August 1928, Hogan took his game to three scrubby daily-fee courses: Katy Lake, Worth Hills, and Z-Boaz.
Hogan dropped out of Central High School during the final semester of his senior year, and became a professional golfer at the Texas Open in San Antonio in late January 1930, more than six months shy of his eighteenth birthday. Hogan met Valerie Fox in Sunday school in Fort Worth in the mid-1920s, and they reacquainted in 1932 when he landed a low-paying club pro job in Cleburne, where her family had moved. They married in April 1935 at her parents' home. His early years as a pro were very difficult, and he went broke more than once. He did not win his first pro tournament until March 1940, when he won three consecutive tournaments in North Carolina. Although it took a decade 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. By most accounts, Ben Hogan was the best golfer of his era, and still stands as one of the greatest of all time. "The Hawk" possessed fierce determination and an iron will, combined with his unquestionable golf skills, formed an aura which could intimidate opponents into competitive submission. In Scotland, Hogan was known as "The Wee Ice Man", or, in some versions, "Wee Ice Mon," a moniker earned during his famous British Open victory at Carnoustie in 1953. It is a reference to his steely and seemingly nerveless demeanor, itself a product of a golf swing he had built that was designed to perform better the more pressure he put it under. Hogan rarely spoke during competition, and few opponents could avoid wilting under his icy glare. Hogan was also highly respected by fellow competitors for his superb course management skills. During his peak years, he rarely if ever attempted a shot in competition which he had not thoroughly honed in practice.
This accident left Hogan with a double-fracture of the pelvis, a fractured collar bone, a left ankle fracture, a chipped rib, and near-fatal blood clots: he would suffer lifelong circulation problems and other physical limitations. His doctors said he might never walk again, let alone play golf competitively. He left the hospital on April 1, 59 days after the accident.
It still stands among the greatest single seasons in the history of professional golf. Hogan was unable to enter — and possibly win — the 1953 PGA Championship (to complete the Grand Slam) because its play (July 1–7) overlapped the play of the British Open at Carnoustie (July 6–10), which he won. It was the only time a golfer won three major championships in a year until Tiger Woods matched the feat in 2000.
Hogan often declined to play in the PGA Championship, skipping it more and more often as his career wore on. There were two reasons for this: firstly, the PGA Championship was, until 1958, a match play event, and Hogan's particular skill was "shooting a number" — meticulously planning and executing a strategy to achieve a score for a round on a particular course (even to the point of leaving out the 7-iron in the U.S. Open at Merion, saying "there are no 7-iron shots at Merion"). The second reason was that the PGA required several days of 36 holes per day competition, and after his 1949 auto accident, Hogan was barely able to manage 18 holes on his bandaged legs.
Hogan was known to practice more than any other golfer of his contemporaries and is said to have "invented practice". On this matter, Hogan himself said, "You hear stories about me beating my brains out practicing, but... I was enjoying myself. I couldn't wait to get up in the morning, so I could hit balls. When I'm hitting the ball where I want, hard and crisply, it's a joy that very few people experience. He was also one of the first players to match particular clubs to yardages, or references points around the course such as bunkers or trees, in order to improve his distance control.
Hogan thought that an individual's golf swing was "in the dirt" and that mastering it required plenty of practice and repetition. He is also known to have spent years contemplating the golf swing, trying a range of theories and methods before arriving at the finished method which brought him his greatest period of success.
The young Hogan was badly afflicted by hooking the golf ball. Although slight of build at only 5'7" and 140 pounds (64 kg), attributes that earned him the nickname "Bantam", which he thoroughly disliked, he was very long off the tee early in his career, and even competed in long drive contests.
It has been alleged that Hogan used a "strong" grip, with hands more the right of the club grip in tournament play prior to his accident in 1949, despite often practicing with a "weak" grip, with the back of the left wrist facing the target, and that this limited his success, or, at least, his reliability, up to that date (source: John Jacobs in his book 'Fifty Greatest Golf Lessons of the Century').
Jacobs alleges that Byron Nelson told him this information, and furthermore that Hogan developed and used the "strong" grip as a boy in order to be able to hit the ball as far as bigger, stronger contemporaries. This strong grip is what resulted in Hogan hitting the odd disastrous snap hook. Nelson and Hogan both grew up in Fort Worth, and they are known to have played against each other as teenagers.
Hogan's late swing produced the famed "Hogan Fade" ball flight, lower than usual for a great player and from left to right. This ball flight was the result of his using a "draw" type swing in conjunction with a "weak" grip, a combination which all but negated the chance of hitting a hook.
Hogan played and practiced golf with only bare-hands i.e. he played or practiced without wearing any gloves. Moe Norman also did the same, playing and practicing without wearing any golf gloves. Both these players are/were arguably the greatest ball strikers golf has ever known, even Tiger Woods quoted them as the only players ever to have "owned their swings", in that they had total control of it and as a result, the ball's flight.
Hogan revealed later in life that the "secret" involved cupping the left wrist at the top of the back swing and using a weaker left hand grip (thumb more on top of the grip as opposed to on the right side).
Hogan did this to prevent himself from ever hooking the ball off the tee. By positioning his hands in this manner, he ensured that the club face would be slightly open upon impact, creating a fade (left to right ball flight) as opposed to a draw or hook (right to left ball flight).
This is not something that would benefit all golfers, however, since the average right-handed golfer already slices or fades the ball. The draw is more appealing to amateurs due to its greater carry. Many believed that although he played right-handed as an adult, Hogan was actually left-handed, a belief that seemed corroborated by Hogan himself in his book "Power Golf". However, some mystery still remains about this since Hogan in subsequent interviews said that the belief of him being left-handed was actually a myth (noted in what was probably his last video interview and in his 1987 Golf Magazine interview).
In these interviews Hogan said that he was indeed a right hand player who early on practiced/played with a left hand club that had been given to him because it was all that he had and that it was this issue that brought about the myth that he was left-handed. This may be the reason that his early play with right-handed equipment found him using a cross-handed (right hand at the end of the club, left hand below it) grip, similar to what a "switch hitter" in baseball would do. In "The Search for the Perfect Golf Swing", researchers Cochran and Stobbs held the opinion that a left-handed person playing right-handed would be prone to hook the ball.
Even a decade after his death, amateurs and professionals continue to study the techniques of this consummate player, as evidenced by such books as Ben Hogan, The Man Behind the Mystique (Martin, 2002) and the more recent The Secret of Hogan's Swing (Bertrand and Bowler, 2006).
Ben Hogan's Modern Fundamentals: The Five Lessons of Golf was initially released as a five part series beginning in the March 1957 issue of Sports Illustrated magazine, and was printed in book form later in that same year. It is currently in its 64th printing. Even today it continues to maintain a place at or near the top of the Amazon.com golf book sales rankings. The book was co-authored by Herbert Warren Wind, and illustrated by artist Anthony Ravielli.
Hogan's ball striking has been described as being of near miraculous caliber by very knowledgeable observers such as Jack Nicklaus, who only saw him play some years after his prime. Nicklaus once responded to the question, "Is Tiger Woods the best ball striker you have ever seen?" with, "No, no - Ben Hogan, easily.
Further testimony to Hogan's (and Norman's) status among top golfers is provided by Tiger Woods, who recently said that he wished to "own his (golf) swing" in the same way as Moe Norman and Hogan had. Woods claimed that this pair were the only players ever to have "owned their swings", in that they had total control of it and, as a result, of the ball's flight.
Although his ball striking was perhaps the greatest ever, Hogan is also known to have at times been a very poor putter by professional standards, particularly on slow greens. The majority of his putting problems developed after his car accident in 1949. Towards the end of his career, he would stand over the ball, in some cases for minutes, before drawing the putter back. It was written in the Hogan Biography, Ben Hogan: An American Life, that Hogan had damaged one of his eyes and that poor vision added to his putting problems.
While he suffered from the "yips" in his later years, Hogan was known as an effective putter from mid to short range on quick, US Open style surfaces at times during his career.
Prior to the 1949 accident, Hogan never truly captured the hearts of his galleries, despite being one of the better golfers of his time. Perhaps this was due to his cold and aloof on-course persona. But when Ben Hogan shocked and amazed the golf world by returning to tournament golf only 11 months after his accident, and, amazingly, took second place in the 1950 Los Angeles Open after a playoff loss to Sam Snead, he was cheered on by ecstatic fans. "His legs simply were not strong enough to carry his heart any longer", famed sportswriter Grantland Rice said of Hogan's near-miss. However, he proved to his critics (and to himself, especially) that he could still win by completing his famous comeback five months later, defeating Lloyd Mangrum and George Fazio in an 18-hole playoff at Merion Golf Club to win his second U.S. Open Championship. Hogan went on to achieve what is perhaps the greatest sporting accomplishment in history, limping to 12 more PGA Tour wins (including 6 majors) before retiring. In 1951, Hogan entered just five events, but won three of them - the Masters, the U.S. Open, and the World Championship of Golf, and finished second and fourth in his other two starts. He would finish fourth on that season's money list, barely $6,000 behind the season's official money list leader Lloyd Mangrum, who played over 20 events. That year also saw the release of a biopic starring Glenn Ford as Hogan, called Follow the Sun: The Ben Hogan Story. He even received a ticker-tape parade in New York City upon his return from winning the 1953 British Open Championship, the only time he played the event. With his British Open Championship victory, Hogan became just the second player, after Gene Sarazen, to win all four of the modern major championships -- the Masters, U.S. Open, British Open, and PGA Championship.
Hogan never competed on the senior golf tour, as that circuit did not exist until he was in his late sixties.
Major championships are shown in bold.
|Year||Championship||54 Holes||Winning score||Margin||Runners up|
|1946||PGA Championship||N/A||6 & 4||6 strokes||Ed Oliver|
|1948||U.S. Open||2 shot lead||-8 (67-72-68-69=276)||2 strokes||Jimmy Demaret|
|1948||PGA Championship (2)||N/A||7 & 6||7 strokes||Mike Turnesa|
|1950||U.S. Open (2)||2 shot deficit||+7 (72-69-72-74=287)||Playoff 1||George Fazio, Lloyd Mangrum|
|1951||The Masters||1 shot deficit||-8 (70-72-70-68=280)||2 strokes||Skee Riegel|
|1951||U.S. Open (3)||2 shot deficit||+7 (76-73-71-67=287)||2 strokes||Clayton Heafner|
|1953||The Masters (2)||4 shot lead||-14 (70-69-66-69=274)||5 strokes||Ed Oliver|
|1953||U.S. Open (4)||1 shot lead||-5 (67-72-73-71=283)||6 strokes||Sam Snead|
|1953||The Open Championship||1 shot lead||-2 (73-71-70-68=282)||4 strokes|| Antonio Cerdá, Dai Rees, |
Frank Stranahan, Peter Thomson
Note: The PGA Championship was match play until 1958
1 Defeated Mangrum and Fazio in 18-hole playoff: Hogan (69), Mangrum (73), Fazio (75)
|The Open Championship||DNP||DNP||DNP||DNP||DNP||DNP|
|The Open Championship||NT||NT||NT||NT||NT||NT||DNP||DNP||DNP||DNP|
|The Open Championship||DNP||DNP||DNP||1||DNP||DNP||DNP||DNP||DNP||DNP|
|The Open Championship||DNP||DNP||DNP||DNP||DNP||DNP||DNP||DNP|
NT = No tournament
DNP = Did not play
WD = Withdrew
CUT = missed the half-way cut
R64, R32, R16, QF, SF, F = Round in which player lost in PGA Championship match play
"T" indicates a tie for a place
Green background for wins. Yellow background for top-10.