Friday, June 11, 2010

June 11, 1950: Comeback complete

ARDMORE, Pa. - Ben Hogan should have been dead.

Sure, the car accident that happened in February 1949 was bad enough - after hitting a Greyhound bus head-on, Hogan had a broken collarbone, pelvis, and ankle, plus had a crushed rib and developed blod clots. That's pretty severe. But he should have been dead, and if he wouldn't have thrown himself in front of his wife to protect her, the steering column would gone through him. Instead, it went through the driver's seat, and Hogan was sent to the hospital.

Doctors told him he'd never walk again, that he was lucky to be alive, but that wasn't acceptible to Hogan. While recovering in the hospital, he took small steps and practiced his golf swing, determined to get back on the course. He left the hospital after 49 days, but he still had a long way to go to be fully recovered.

One year later, he was on the course. The 1950 U.S. Open wasn't his first tournament back, but it was the tournament that became his lasting legacy. At Merion Golf Club in Pennsylvania, and playing with heavily bandage legs, Hogan found himself in contention entering the final day, a brutal 36-hole marathon that would certainly strain his still-damaged body.

With the tournament seemingly his to win, he started to fade, bogeying the 15th and 17th holes of his second round that day. On the 18th, needing a par to join a playoff, Hogan hit his most famous shot as a golfer, a 1-iron from 200 yards away, into a wind, that landed on the green within easy range for a par. The picture at left, one of the most famous in golf history, shows Hogan following through on his legendary 1-iron shot.

But Hogan's work wasn't done. He still had the playoff the next day, June 11. But after sufficient rest, his legs could handle 18 holes - it probably seemed like nothing compared to the 36 from the day before - and Hogan shot a 69 to win by four shots.

Hogan was already considered one of the best golfers in the world before his car accident. His win in the 1950 U.S. Open served notice that it would take more than a bus to slow him down.

June 11, 1997: SALT LAKE CITY, Utah - There have been many images of Michael Jordan in triumph on a basketball court, but none have looked like this: Jordan slumped over in the arms of teammate Scottie Pippen, being dragged to the bench, completely out of energy. He had woken up the day before with the flu, and, still visibly weak, gutted out Game 5 of the finals anyway. Unable to concentrate, and often on the brink of collapse, Jordan still played 44 of a possible 48 minutes, scoring 38 points, including a game-clinching 3-pointer with less than a minute to play. The Bulls won the title in Game 6, a championship that might not have been possible if it wasn't for Jordan's famouse Flu Game.

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