Other than my
annual appearance at the Masters, I don't play much on the PGA Tour anymore, so
when I was invited to help celebrate the 60th anniversary of the Colonial last
week, I looked at it as a chance to honor, first, an event that I've played 32
times; second, my home state of Texas; and third, but hardly least, the man
who'll forever be associated with both the place and the tournament, Ben Hogan.
It's a week I'll always remember, not only because I birdied the last three
holes on Friday to make the cut but also for the historic atmosphere and the
memories it conjured.
to play at Colonial and not feel Mr. Hogan's presence. I've never met anyone
who could hit a golf ball the way he could. He would outwork you on the range
and outthink you on the course. He was the ultimate competitor. When I was
starting my career, I was fortunate to meet him six or seven times, either at
the course or in his office at the Hogan Company. The first couple of times I
was scared to say anything; I simply listened to him tell stories.
Mr. Hogan wasn't
one to hold back his opinions, even if they hurt your feelings. Back then I had
a driver that I loved, and one day he asked to look at it. He held it up at an
angle and examined it on all sides. Finally he said, "That's the worst
driver I've ever seen." Man, that killed me, but that was the way he
course, the site of the first U.S. Open held in the South [in 1941], is like
Mr. Hogan in some ways: short and complex. Maybe that's why he won here five
times. I was able to win the tournament twice, in 1977 and '90.
But I also came
away with a pain that has lingered longer than that insult to my driver. It was
a self-inflicted injury that occurred right on these grounds. In 1979 I was in
contention when I three-putted the 16th hole on Sunday. I was mad, and as I
walked off the green I kicked a big trash barrel so hard that I'm still paying
for it. I've had surgery on the big toe on my right foot once, and probably
will again, because the toe is arthritic. Plus, I've developed some back
problems from walking on the side of my foot because of the toe.
hurt can't dim the glow of the Colonial. It's difficult to build an atmosphere.
Many other tournaments have tried, but few can match this wonderful, classic
test of golf, thanks to its six decades of history and the aura of Mr. Hogan
that will envelop the place forever. Yes, the Colonial has left its mark on me
in more ways than one.