Saturday, February 27

BOOK EXCERPT: How Ben Hogan Survived a Head-On Collision With a Greyhound Bus

Thankfully, perhaps miraculously, Tiger Woods survived a horrific car accident on Tuesday and has come through surgeries that saved his leg and much more. We've been told he is "in good spirits." A long recovery begins.

In the last few days there has been a lot of interest in (and comparison to) Ben Hogan and his head-on collision with a bus 72 years ago. I wrote about it in my book THE LONGEST SHOT. Here's an excerpt.

January 10, 1949
ON FEBRUARY 2, 1949, GROUNDHOG DAY, Ben Hogan swung his Cadillac onto Highway 80 in Van Horn, Texas, en route to Fort Worth 500 miles to the east. He and wife Valerie were anxious to return home after the season-opening tour events, two of which Hogan won, the Bing Crosby Pro-Am and the Long Beach Open.

Encountering patches of dense fog and a surface thinly coated with ice, Hogan switched on his headlights and crept along the two-lane highway. At their snail-like pace, it would take hours longer to cover the hundreds of miles to Fort Worth. In minutes, the comforts of home would become even more distant for the Hogans.

Alvin Logan wanted to stay on schedule. The 27-year-old Greyhound bus driver and 34 passengers were traveling westbound, the opposite direction from the Hogans, when Logan decided to pass a six-wheel freight hauler lumbering along the fog-shrouded road. Seeing no vehicles ahead, Logan swung the 10-ton coach into the passing lane and accelerated to 50 miles per hour up a slight incline.

Seconds later, at 8:30 a.m., the bus and Cadillac collided on a small bridge that crossed a culvert. Hogan saw the oncoming headlights in his lane but was trapped on the bridge with no escape route. He let go of the steering wheel and threw himself across the passenger seat to shield his wife from the head-on crash. It saved his life.

The impact drove the steering column into the sedan, catching Hogan's left shoulder and fracturing his collarbone. The Cadillac's 500-pound V-8 engine also slammed into the car's interior. Hogan's face struck the dashboard, and his left leg was crushed. In addition to the fractured collarbone, he sustained a double fracture to his pelvis, a broken left ankle and a cracked rib. Valerie's injuries were minor.

In the confusion that followed, none of the 38 people left the scene to find a phone and report the accident. A Texas state trooper arrived and radioed for help. Ninety minutes elapsed before the battered golfer received medical attention and was loaded into an ambulance.

Hogan was in a state of delirium, fading in and out of consciousness. At one point during the long ambulance ride to El Paso, he gripped an imaginary golf club in his hands and waved back a gallery to the left of a dreamy fairway.

* * *

While eating breakfast that morning in El Paso, a young golf pro overheard a waitress say there was a terrible accident east of Van Horn. A short while later, with lights flashing and sirens screaming, two police motorcycles and an ambulance sped by as the golf pro headed in the opposite direction to San Antonio for the Texas Open.

The next morning Jack Fleck read in the newspaper that Ben Hogan was near death in an El Paso hospital.

* * *
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Arriving at El Paso's Hotel Dieu Hospital in critical condition, Hogan rallied over the next few days, and his condition progressed from fair to good. Cards, letters and flowers poured into Hogan's hospital room as news of the accident was splashed across the front pages of the nation's newspapers. A story line emerged that would change how the public regarded the aloof golf champion: Ben Hogan sacrificed himself to save his wife. Hogan was a hero.

Publicly, hospital personnel expressed satisfaction with the patient's progress. Privately, Hogan's doctors doubted whether the golf great would walk again without assistance and all but ruled out tournament golf.

Then things took a sudden downturn. A blood clot traveled from Hogan's left leg to his right lung, causing a sharp pain in his chest. More large clots broke free, each one a certain death sentence if it blocked a main artery. There were few medical options in 1949 and no effective blood-thinning drugs. They decided to operate. Newspapers prepared obituaries.

Dr. Alton S. Ochsner, the country's top vascular surgeon and a Tulane University professor, flew to El Paso to perform the high-risk surgery. It was a complex, highly invasive two-hour procedure to enter Hogan's abdomen and tie off the inferior vena cava, the blood's primary pathway from the lower body to the heart and lungs. Valerie prayed in the chapel.

On April 1, Ben Hogan, weighing 120 pounds, left the hospital on a gurney and boarded a train for Fort Worth, completing the journey he and his wife had begun two months earlier.

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Wednesday, February 24

LA Times on Tiger Woods: 'A Bright Morning, a Bend in the Road, a Horrible Crash'

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IF YOU'VE BEEN FOLLOWING the Tiger Woods story, there may be nothing new here.

But I found this story in the Los Angeles Times (published Wednesday morning) to be a thorough recap of the single-vehicle crash, Tiger's injuries, and the apparently dangerous stretch of road where he lost control of his SUV and "rolled and rolled."

First, the injuries, which as the Times said in their headline, "cloud his future in golf":

Woods was taken to Harbor-UCLA Medical Center where he underwent "a long surgical procedure" on his lower right leg and ankle, according to a statement the golf legend released on Twitter late Tuesday. Doctors had to insert a rod into his leg and placed screws into his foot and ankle, according to the statement, which described Woods as "awake, responsive and recovering."

LA County Sheriff Alex Villanueva said Tiger is "lucky to be alive." He was wearing a seatbelt, and in combination with the other safety features in the Genesis GV80, it surely saved his life.

An ax and a prying tool were used to pull Woods out through the windshield of the crumpled vehicle.

Speed was apparently a factor in the accident.

Also of interest are the locals' descriptions of this "curvy, steep stretch of Hawthorne Boulevard" and the somewhat frequent incidents:

Donnie Nelson, a resident of Rolling Hills, said that stretch of Hawthorne is the site of dangerous accidents once or twice a year....

Nelson said he knows at least one person who was seriously injured by a garbage truck on the hill. The speed limit is 45 mph, but "cars fly by you here," he said....

[Bob] Fong knows how tricky the steep curves on Hawthorne Boulevard can be — so much so that near the crash site, there is a runoff lane for use in emergencies.

"It's a heavily trafficked area. There's accidents all the time," said Laureen Swing, a 15-year resident of Rancho Palos Verdes. "I think it's almost a dangerous stretch of road."

Monday, February 22

PGA TOUR VIDEO: Max 'Forgive Quickly' Homa Recovers to Claim Playoff Victory at Genesis Invitational

SOCAL'S MAX HOMA WON THE GENESIS INVITATIONAL at iconic Riviera Country Club in a sudden-death playoff with Tony Finau. Homa's par on the second playoff hole, the 14th, finished off Finau, who was bunkered and couldn't get up and down.

It was the second PGA Tour title for Homa. It couldn't have been much more special for a young man who grew up 30 minutes away, had attended the tournament since he was a toddler, and idolized tournament host Tiger Woods, who handed over the hardware.

Homa struck an exquisite pitching wedge to about 3 feet at the home hole, but didn't convert the tournament-winning birdie because he was "shaking like a leaf."

"I was just a little nervous, honestly," Homa said. "This tournament means a lot to me."

Somehow he had to gather himself for the playoff. A phone call with his wife Lacey helped.

Homa said, "I think I choked a little bit."

Lacey repeated the message she offered at the start of the round: "Forgive quickly."

That's a message Finau also needs to embrace after so many seconds and only one tour victory. But Finau rallied with a 64 on Sunday just to make it into the playoff. No shame in that.

The same can be said for Sam Burns, who led most of the way at Riviera but unraveled down the stretch. Forgive quickly. It's a pretty good motto for all who play this tormenting game.

The PGA Tour travels east for the WGC-Workday Championship in Bradenton, Florida, and the Puerto Rico Open.

Friday, February 19

FRIDAY PHOTO: 'How Times Have Changed': Millennials Eating Bananas, Ben Hogan and Arnold Palmer Smoking


Thanks to Cameron Adam for these side-by-side images. They say a lot.

Wednesday, February 17

USGA Names Mike Whan as CEO

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As someone who grew up loving this game, I have always had huge respect for the USGA and its role in leading our sport. The game has given me so much throughout my life, both personally and professionally. I know I have a lot to learn, but I'm truly excited about this role, as it gives me the opportunity to not only give back to the game, but to also work hard to leave it stronger.
—Mike Whan

LIBERTY CORNER, N.J. – The USGA announced today that Mike Whan will join the organization this summer as CEO, and will become the eighth top executive in USGA history. 

Last month, Whan announced his intention to step down as LPGA Commissioner in 2021, after his organization completes a search for the next Commissioner. His transition follows an impressive 11 years at the helm of the LPGA, during which the organization experienced historic growth in virtually every aspect of the business. 

As USGA CEO, Whan will be responsible for leading all aspects of the association's operations, including its core functions, essential programs, and human and financial resources. He will also represent the USGA on a variety of national and international boards. 

"Mike Whan is a proven, successful and transformative leader, not only in the golf industry but throughout his entire career," said USGA President Stu Francis, who oversaw the CEO search process. "He has shown a unique ability to understand how the environment is changing in global golf and how to quickly and thoughtfully adapt an organization to meet those changes. Importantly, Mike is already a trusted peer for so many key stakeholders in the industry, and his existing relationships will not only help the USGA, but will also help advance the game."

Whan started his career at the Procter & Gamble Company in 1987, where he rose to Director of Marketing for Oral Care before leaving to pursue a passion for sports. Whan's sports business career began at Wilson Sporting Goods as a Vice President and General Manager in the golf division. He joined the TaylorMade Golf Company as Vice President of Marketing in 1995 and later served as Vice President of Sales and Marketing and Executive Vice President/General Manager for Taylormade-adidas Golf. In 2002, Whan became the President and CEO of Mission Hockey, a hockey equipment company. 

Since joining the Ladies Professional Golf Association in 2010, Whan increased the number of tournaments on the LPGA Tour's schedule to 34 from 24, increased purses from $41.4 million to $76.5 million, and grew television hours from 125 hours per season, to over 500 hours. Under his leadership, the LPGA became a truly global business – with players, tournaments, sponsors and fans coming from all over the world. Currently, the LPGA Tour is televised in over 170 countries each week. Whan's leadership resulted in the expansion of the LPGA to now include both the Symetra Tour, the recently announced joint venture with the Ladies European Tour, as well as a nearly 50% increase in LPGA's teaching division. Whan's focus on growing the game for junior girls has led to a significant expansion of the LPGA-USGA Girls Golf Program, which had 5,000 members when he joined the organization to 90,000 girls now engaged in the program.  

"As someone who grew up loving this game, I have always had huge respect for the USGA and its role in leading our sport," said Whan. "The game has given me so much throughout my life, both personally and professionally. I know I have a lot to learn, but I'm truly excited about this role, as it gives me the opportunity to not only give back to the game, but to also work hard to leave it stronger."

Current USGA CEO Mike Davis, who joined the USGA in 1990 and became the Association's seventh executive director in 2011 and first CEO in 2016, will depart later this year to team with Tom Fazio II in a new course design venture, Fazio & Davis Golf Design. 

"I've had the pleasure of working with Mike Whan for many years and I view him as a trusted, strategic leader who has a proven track record of building collaborative partnerships," said Davis. "I know the USGA will be in great hands, and I look forward to partnering with Mike to ensure a smooth and successful transition for the USGA." 

Tuesday, February 16

VIDEO: Francesco Molinari Rolls It Off 1st Tee at AT&T Pebble Beach Pro-Am

DANIEL BERGER WON THE AT&T PEBBLE BEACH PRO-AM with an eagle on the final hole.

Now that we have that out of the way, I wanted to share the above tee shot by Francesco Molinari. A British Open champion.

I'm usually not eager to focus on the misfortune of the world's greatest golfers, but I admit that it's always eye-opening when they hit a shot like a duffer. To be honest, it seems to surprise me every time. I guess it shouldn't.

For the record, his opening shot went just 70 yards, not making it past the forward tee box. He scrambled his way to an opening bogey, avoiding a big number to start his third round at the AT&T Pebble Beach Pro-Am.

I stood on that 1st tee eight years ago. Yeah, I was nervous playing Pebble. But I had fun. That was the goal. I hit many mediocre and poor shots, and a few really good ones.

Thursday, February 11

Calvin Peete: 'Golf's Most Unlikely Success Story'

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PGATOUR.COM HAS SOME GOOD longform content. But you have to scroll to the bottom of the site to find it. Once you do, there are some gems.

Like this 2017 story by Helen Ross, on Calvin Peete. It's the kind of story that makes you want to get back on the course and play golf. To hit some balls and practice your short game on a lonely muni.

Calvin Peete faced seemingly every barrier to the game of golf. He was black. He started too late. He had a bad left arm. The list goes on.

Here's an excerpt from Helen's feature on Peete, describing his first round (with rented clubs):

"[Calvin Peete] said when he first put his hands on a golf club, it felt like that's where they belonged," [Pete] McDaniel said. "He had found his calling, and then he knew that it was going to be his life from that moment on, and so he attacked the game."

After 18 holes were in the books and Peete's buddies drove him back to the hotel, in fact, he turned right around and went to the driving range. Peete's single-minded determination fueled a session that lasted so long he all but lost track of time.

"He stayed there until the range manager told him, 'I can't sell you any more golf balls because I've got to go home with my family,'" said Dr. Tony Parker, the historian at the World Golf Hall of Fame.

Peete was 23 years old, and he had finally found the direction for his life. Even so, to imagine that Peete, who died in 2015 after battling cancer, would go on carve out a career with 12 PGA TOUR victories was the stuff of fantasy.

Wednesday, February 10

USGA Names Walker Cup Standout Robert C. Lewis Jr. as 2021 Bob Jones Award Recipient

LIBERTY CORNER, N.J. – Robert C. Lewis Jr., a veteran of six Walker Cup Matches who is renowned for his sportsmanship and integrity, has been named the recipient of the 2021 Bob Jones Award, the United States Golf Association's highest honor.

Robert Walker (USGA)
Presented annually since 1955, the Bob Jones Award recognizes an individual who demonstrates the personal character and respect for the game exhibited by Jones, the winner of nine USGA championships whose integrity and spirit are considered the gold standard in golf.

The award recognizes Lewis' enduring sportsmanship, which has endeared him to teammates and opponents alike during a competitive career that spanned more than four decades. The native of Warren, Ohio, has demonstrated an appreciation for the spirit of the game by showing grace in both victory and defeat and has been unwavering in his personal accountability on and off the course.

"I am so deeply humbled to receive this award," said Lewis. "To be included among such a special group of influential figures in the game who I love and respect moves me beyond words.The USGA has played such an important role in my life. Many of my fondest memories in amateur golf come from representing our country as both a player and captain of the USA Walker Cup Team. Bob Jones was the ultimate amateur and I am truly honored to be included in his company."

Lewis' character is exemplified through service in his local community, where he has volunteered as the head golf coach at Gilmour Academy in Gates Mills, Ohio. There he instilled the virtues of integrity, etiquette and respect, and emphasized the need for student-athletes to be well-rounded. Lewis served as an important role model who was tireless in his behind-the-scenes efforts to build long-term financial support for the program.

Additionally, Lewis sat on the board of the Northeastern Ohio chapter of Boys Hope Girls Hope, a program that provides at-risk youths with support to develop into successful adults. He also played a leading role in establishing the "Values and Visions" education endowment in support of Catholic education in his home county, which has provided more than $2 million to support local education opportunities.

Monday, February 8

PGA TOUR VIDEO: Brooks Koepka Returns From 'Real Dark Places' to Win Waste Management Phoenix Open

BROOKS KOEPKA RALLIED TO VICTORY at the Waste Management Phoenix Open. He did it in Brooks Koepka style, coming from five shots back and highlighted by a dramatic pitch-in eagle on the 17th hole.

Koepka fired rounds of 68, 66, 66 and 65 to finish at 19-under par at TPC Scottsdale. It was win No. 8 on the PGA Tour. Kyoung-Hoon Lee and Xander Schauffele tied for second at 18 under.

Koepka's winning performance snapped an unfortunate streak of three consecutive missed cuts.

"It's been a wild ride for the last year and a half," Koepka said, "and very frustrating. I've had moments where I didn't know if I was going to be the same, if I could even come back.

"I went through it mentally," he added. "I think that's probably the toughest thing, where you don't know if you're ever going to be the same competitor that you were. You go through some real dark places, and it's not a fun place to be."

A bunch of players had a chance on Sunday, including 53-year-old Steve Stricker, slump-ridden Jordan Spieth and up-and-comer Scottie Scheffler.

The field included two-time FedEx Cup champion Rory McIlroy and defending champion Webb Simpson. McIlroy teed it up in Phoenix for the first time in his career, while fellow FedEx Cup winner Justin Thomas was looking to improve on third place in Phoenix last year.

McIlroy and Thomas finished T13.

The AT&T Pebble Beach Pro-Am tees off on Thursday.

Wednesday, February 3

Augusta National Helps Expand Access to COVID-19 Vaccinations

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AUGUSTA NATIONAL GOLF CLUB IS WORKING to make COVID-19 vaccinations available in the Augusta, Georgia, area.

Augusta National and the Masters Tournament are partnering with a local health organization -- and donating $1 million -- to help with COVID-19 vaccinations on property donated by the club.

The club's property at Washington Square shopping center will be used as a vaccination site. Augusta University Health will run it.

Augusta National Chairman Fred Ridley was quoted as saying:

"Helping expand access to COVID-19 vaccinations is another meaningful way to do more for our neighbors in the Augusta community that has supported the Masters Tournament for more than 80 years. We hope these resources will have an immediate impact on their efforts to protect those most vulnerable and our community at large through more vaccinations.''

Tuesday, February 2

The USGA and R&A Announce Golf Equipment Research Topics and Proposed Equipment Standards Changes

Research topics include potential Local Rule and review of club and ball specifications to help mitigate continuing distance increases
Proposed changes to current Equipment Standards on club length, test conditions for golf ball testing and tolerances for club spring-like effect to ensure effectiveness in relation to distance limits

LIBERTY CORNER, N.J., USA and ST. ANDREWS, Scotland – The USGA and The R&A are re-engaging with the golf industry on the Distance Insights project, which aims to help achieve a more sustainable long-term future for golf.
The governing bodies are
 issuing specific Areas of Interest to help mitigate continuing distance increases and three proposed changes to the Equipment Rules to ensure their effectiveness in relation to distance limits.   
The delivery of research topics related to hitting distances and golf’s sustainability was delayed in 2020 to allow the golf industry to focus on the impact of the global COVID-19 pandemic.   
The Areas of Interest notice, sent on Monday to golf equipment manufacturers, follows the conclusions of the Distance Insights Report delivered last February. It is the first step of the established Equipment Rulemaking Procedures, which give the opportunity for golf’s stakeholders to provide research and perspectives on topics that might lead to equipment Rules changes. 
In addition, three proposals related to Equipment Standards were also sent to the manufacturers yesterday and have been published  two to modernize equipment testing protocols and the other to consider the adoption of a Model Local Rule that would provide flexibility for committees, if they so choose, to limit the maximum length for clubs other than putters from 48 to 46 inches. Notice and comment periods have begun immediately to invite feedback on each of the three proposals from golf industry stakeholders.  
Research Topics/Areas of Interest 
Document link:  Official USGA/R&A Document 
(Research due by Nov2, 2021) 
The Areas of Interest noticaddresses two specific Areas of Interest:   
  • The potential use of a Local Rule that would specify the use of clubs and/or balls intended to result in shorter hitting distances. This would enable committees conducting competitions to stipulate whether such equipment should be used. It could be available at all levels of play and would also allow golfers playing outside of competition to choose for themselves.
  • A review of the overall conformance specifications for both clubs and balls, including specifications that both directly and indirectly affect hitting distances. This review would consider whether any existing specifications should be adjusted or any new specifications created to help mitigate continuing distance increases. It would not consider revising the overall specifications to produce substantial reductions in hitting distances at all levels of the game. list of club and ball specifications to be reviewed can be found in the official notice.  
Stakeholders are invited to participate in the process by sharing any data or perspectives they might have on these topics by Nov2, 2021 
The topics are purely areas for research. No solutions or decisions are being proposed at this stage. Any proposals for Rule changes that might result from this research will be communicated in accordance with the Equipment Rulemaking Procedures. 
Proposed Equipment Standards changes  
Document Link:  Official USGA/R&A Document   
The USGA and The R&A are addressing the effectiveness of current equipment-testing processes, protocols and standards with respect to distance limits. As a result, the governing bodies are seeking comment from equipment manufacturers on three proposed Equipment Standards changes, as follows:  
Proposal #1: Club length – reduction to 46 inches available as Model Local Rule (MLR) (Original proposal delivered in 2016 and paused in 2017 due to the Distance Insights Project). Comment period ends on March 4, 2021. 
Proposal #2: Update on testing method for golf balls. Comment period ends on Aug2, 2021. 
Proposal #3Change to testing tolerance – Characteristic Time. Comment period ends on Aug2, 2021. 
The 2020 Annual Driving Distance Report 
The USGA and The R&A also today released the 2020 Annual Driving Distance Report. The full report can be found here: Report Link 
Key quotes 
Mike Davis, Chief Executive Officer of the USGA, said, “The research conducted through Distance Insights clearly shows that hitting distances have consistently increased through time and, if left unchecked, could threaten the long-term future of our game at every level and every golf course on which it is played. This is the first forward step in a journey and a responsibility the USGA and The R&A share with the worldwide golf community, to ensure that golf continues to thrive for the next hundred years and beyond.” 
Martin Slumbers, Chief Executive of The R&A, said, “We are now able to progress with the work on this critical topic and are beginning the next phase as expeditiously as possible. The research topics and the proposed changes we have announced will be the focus of our attention in the coming months and we look forward to gaining insights from the golf industry and fully understanding their perspectives on these key areas. We remain fully committed to conducting this hugely important exercise for the sport thoroughly, efficiently and collaboratively.” 
Updates Since February 2020 
During the pause in distance-related research caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, the USGA and The R&A completed their regular review of equipment-testing processes, protocols and standards to ensure their effectiveness in relation to distance limits. The proposals detailed above are the outcome of this regular review of equipment-testing processes, protocols and standards to ensure their effectiveness.  
As such, these proposals were not conceived and are not intended to be solutions to the distance issues identified in the Distance Insights Report.  
All notices related to golf equipment follow the Equipment Rulemaking Procedures adopted in 2011 by the USGA, The R&A and golf equipment manufacturers, which provide aopen process of dialogue for all involved. The procedures can be reviewed here.  
The Distance Insights Report released last year highlighted the impact of long-term hitting distance increases on some of golf’s essential elements, including changing the strategic challenge of the game, altering the variety of skills needed to be successful and risking courses becoming less challenging or obsolete. Further, the report states that the overall trend of golf courses becoming longer has adverse consequences that ultimately affect golfers at all levels of the game. The governing bodies are working with the key stakeholders in golf to address these issues in a way that brings the game together and which ensures it will continue to thrive for many years to come. 
Work is also currently being conducted to develop industry-wide recommendations and best management practices on course design, setup and course conditions related to distance for all golf courses and golfers, as detailed among next steps in the Distance Insights conclusions document delivered last year. The USGA is currently conducting field testing and research, with outcomes to be delivered throughout 2021.