Why it is wrong to expect Tiger Woods to match Ben Hogan's car crash recovery

How ironic. We were told, after all, by the sages that it had been wrong for people to claim that Tiger Woods winning a fifth Masters title in 2019 after recovering from career-threatening back trouble had been the ‘greatest comeback in golf history’.
Tiger Woods pictured during the PNC Championship at the Ritz Carlton Golf Club in Orlando, Florida, in December. Picture: Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images.Tiger Woods pictured during the PNC Championship at the Ritz Carlton Golf Club in Orlando, Florida, in December. Picture: Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images.
Tiger Woods pictured during the PNC Championship at the Ritz Carlton Golf Club in Orlando, Florida, in December. Picture: Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images.

Not, it was pointed out, when the equally great Ben Hogan had almost lost his life in a serious road traffic accident but had fought his way back to win six more majors.

Woods had barely gone into the operating theatre following his car crash in a Los Angeles suburb early on Tuesday morning as the parallels were already being drawn and, of course, that is inevitable.

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Hogan, though, was 36 when he nearly lost his life after a Greyhound bus smashed into his black Cadillac while he was driving with his wife, Valerie, in Texas in February 1949.

The crash left him with a broken collarbone, fractured ribs, a broken ankle, a double fracture to his pelvis and deep contusions to his left leg,

It took nearly an hour for the emergency services to get him out of the wreckage, photographs of which show he was a lucky man to escape from it alive.

His remarkable recovery will, indeed, inspire Woods over the coming weeks and months, and what a tale it would be if he could add just one more major to his current tally of 15.

At 45, though, and with all his back issues over the past few years, that might be asking too much, even if we are talking about one of life’s great fighters here.

First and foremost, Woods is facing a battle to simply get back on his feet because, make no mistake, he suffered serious leg damage in his car accident.

It may not have involved a big bus - in this case, it was just his vehicle - but he, too, was deemed to have been “fortunate to be alive” by police officers.

In the official medical bulletin, it was revealed that Woods had suffered "comminuted open fractures” in his lower right leg, which means that the bone has been broken into two pieces.

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A rod has been inserted into the tibia bone to stabilise that issue while “additional injuries” to the bones of the foot and ankle required screws and pins to be inserted.

Even for a young and fit individual, you would be talking about the recovery from all of that being pretty tough. After everything he’s been through on the medical front over the past decade, you wonder if this might be a bridge too far for Woods.

This, after all, was the tenth surgery he’s undergone in just over a decade, having suffered knee, back and neck problems in that time. “As if his body hasn’t endured enough,” said Spaniard Jon Rahm, the world No 2 speaking as he prepared for this week’s WGC-Workday Championship in Florida.

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Tiger Woods 'lucky to be alive' following LA car crash

Golf owes Woods a huge debt of gratitude. In the same way as Arnold Palmer and Jack Nicklaus did - Seve Ballesteros, too, on this side of the Atlantic - the American inspired a generation of golfers.

The game just wasn’t the same during his various spells on the sidelines in recent years, and that was there for all to see when fans spilled out onto the 18th fairway on the final day as he returned to winning ways after a five-year drought in the 2018 Tour Championship in Atlanta.

Even more memorable was that fifth Green Jacket victory just under seven months later, the Tiger roar in celebration showing exactly what that meant to the man himself after being in some dark places at times since landing his previous major win in the 2009 US Open.

If Woods does indeed come out of this with an appetite to try and add to his 15 major titles and 82 PGA Tour successes, then great and just think, for example, what a reception he’d get at St Andrews when it stages the 150th Open Championship in the summer of 2022.

Right now, though, the only thing that really matters is that he makes a full recovery so that he can enjoy doing everyday things with his two young children, daughter Sam (13) and son Charlie (12).

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There was no hiding Tiger’s joy as he teamed up with Charlie in the PNC Championship for the first time in Florida in December and Woods jnr will be hurting like hell at the moment as his dad lies in a hospital bed on the other side of the US.

On the one hand, yes, of course, we want to see Woods back playing. On the other, though, we all have enough great memories to be thankful for if this unfortunate episode is, indeed, the final straw in his long physical fight.

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