Death of a Master

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FORT WORTH, Texas: Ben Hogan, the golfer made of stone, died Friday at 84. Some called him "Bantam Ben," because he stood a slight 5-foot-8. Some called him "The Hawk" for the way he analyzed a course. But the Scots called him "The Wee Ice Mon." Because he was Ben Hogan. Hogan was the game's third-winningest player with 63 tour victories. He won nine major championships, four U.S. Open titles, the career Grand Slam and was the only person to win three Grand Slam events in a single season. But the Hogan Mystique was truly born on Feb. 2, 1949, when Hogan's car collided head-on with a bus. Hogan shattered both his legs, and nearly died from blood clots. Less than a year later, though, he was back on tour. He never played in more than seven tournaments in a single season after the wreck, yet he won 13 more, including six of the first nine majors he played after the accident. On the course, Hogan did not laugh. He did not joke. He did not smile. In his trademark white hat, Hogan walked deliberately from shot to shot, chain-smoking. And he hit the ball, cleanly, precisely, again and again, completely a craftsman of each swing and of each round. "Ben Hogan personified golf for many of us," said Professional Golfers' Association Tour commissioner Tim Finchem. "Perhaps no other player had the same impact on the way people approached playing the game." And yet no player today is what Hogan was every day: always the most competitive, the most serious, the most driven player on the course. Every single hole.