Other than myannual appearance at the Masters, I don't play much on the PGA Tour anymore, sowhen I was invited to help celebrate the 60th anniversary of the Colonial lastweek, I looked at it as a chance to honor, first, an event that I've played 32times; second, my home state of Texas; and third, but hardly least, the manwho'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 threeholes on Friday to make the cut but also for the historic atmosphere and thememories it conjured.
It's impossibleto play at Colonial and not feel Mr. Hogan's presence. I've never met anyonewho could hit a golf ball the way he could. He would outwork you on the rangeand outthink you on the course. He was the ultimate competitor. When I wasstarting my career, I was fortunate to meet him six or seven times, either atthe course or in his office at the Hogan Company. The first couple of times Iwas scared to say anything; I simply listened to him tell stories.
Mr. Hogan wasn'tone to hold back his opinions, even if they hurt your feelings. Back then I hada driver that I loved, and one day he asked to look at it. He held it up at anangle and examined it on all sides. Finally he said, "That's the worstdriver I've ever seen." Man, that killed me, but that was the way hewas.
The Colonialcourse, the site of the first U.S. Open held in the South [in 1941], is likeMr. Hogan in some ways: short and complex. Maybe that's why he won here fivetimes. I was able to win the tournament twice, in 1977 and '90.
May 28, 2006
But I also cameaway with a pain that has lingered longer than that insult to my driver. It wasa self-inflicted injury that occurred right on these grounds. In 1979 I was incontention when I three-putted the 16th hole on Sunday. I was mad, and as Iwalked off the green I kicked a big trash barrel so hard that I'm still payingfor it. I've had surgery on the big toe on my right foot once, and probablywill again, because the toe is arthritic. Plus, I've developed some backproblems from walking on the side of my foot because of the toe.
Nevertheless, thehurt 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, classictest of golf, thanks to its six decades of history and the aura of Mr. Hoganthat will envelop the place forever. Yes, the Colonial has left its mark on mein more ways than one.
by JIM GORANT
The post-Masters lull proves the wisdom of moving thePlayers to May.