Crenshaw on Ben Hogan: 'He was so precise'

May 23, 2012
PGA TOUR staff

EDITOR'S NOTE: Byron Nelson, Ben Hogan and Sam Snead were each born 100 years ago, and their lives eventually intersected as three of golf's legendary players. PGATOUR.COM asked another golfing great, Ben Crenshaw, to provide his thoughts on each of the three as part of our Century Celebration. We'll post Crenshaw's comments on the tournament week in which each of those legends are most associated. This week: Ben Hogan for the Crowne Plaza Invitational at Colonial.

By Ben Crenshaw, Special to PGATOUR.COM

People were naturally scared of Ben Hogan. He had an aura about him and people knew not to approach him.

He had so many hardships and that shell was around him as a youngster growing up. Then he saw his father die and that shell was with him the rest of his life.

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There were so many instances when he was basically untrusting of anyone. You can certainly see why. He was a very, very hard man who didn't suffer the fools at all. He had no time for them.

Dan Jenkins told me the funniest story about Hogan after the first round of the 1959 Open at Winged Foot. He'd played his first round and in those days, he'd come in to change his shoes and there would be a dozen reporters around him. And Dan said there was a new New York Times golf writer who didn't know much about golf but was assigned to the tournament.

Hogan answered a few questions about this and that. Then this guy held his hand up in the back. Mr. Hogan, he asked, when during the round today did you know you were going to shoot 69? Dan went "Omigod. None of us knew what he was going to do or say.''

He said Hogan's head went down for minutes ... minutes. Everybody's really getting nervous now. What's he going to do? What's he going to say? He finally looked up at the guy and said, "That's the stupidest damn question I've ever been asked." Dan said it was searing.

Ben Hogan and I always got along. We talked about clubs, we talked about equipment. He gave me two of his drivers. And I was fascinated to know how much he knew. I've never heard anyone who was more of a technician about his clubs. He was so precise about certain things about his clubs.

I took one of the drivers he gave me and tried to play with it on TOUR, but I couldn't play with it. It was a very stiff shaft and had a very flat face. No radius in the club head at all. I told him his was the flattest face I every saw and he looked at me like I was an idiot. He said, "An iron doesn't have it, does it? An iron is just flat.'' That went against everyone I'd learned at that point. Then, I had a beautiful Tommy Armour driver and he looked at it ... and looked at it ... and then he turned it over and said, "Just looks like a damn doorknob.'' I was so deflated.

But he gave as much attention to clothes as he did to clubs. I've never seen anyone wear clothes as well as he did. They were absolutely crisp, sharp, very conservative, but you couldn't imagine clothes of a finer texture. The crease of his pants, you could cut yourself on it.

He was so proud. And he was going to look neat as a pin. There was a lot of quality to him. He was a professional golfer. He wanted to look as good as he could. He even wore a suit and a hat to Shady Oaks. He looked like the businessman and he was. Then, he'd got into the locker room and he'd change into golf clothes.

There was a cult following of players who tried to figure him out. They watched him practice more than anybody -- his work ethic, the way he could play and his decisions.

To have gone through what he did in 1949 ... his legacy is the will and discipline and love for the game that got him through all that. He had a mangled-up body and despite the physical elements, look at how hard he worked to get back into playing shape. He was hitting his stride before the crash. His tournament playing tapered off dramatically after the crash.

Before that he was playing 30 tournaments a year. Those guys played every event. Hogan's tournament workload dropped off after the accident. He just couldn't get ready that many times a year, but you look at it. He wins in '51, wins in '52 and then 1953 ... He played some of his best golf after the crash, which is amazing.

Ben Crenshaw is the winner of 19 PGA TOUR events, including two Masters, and also captained the U.S. team to a win at the 1999 Ryder Cup. He is an accomplished golf course designer with partner Bill Coore.