"Ugh," they called him. Or "Little Ice Water" or "Blazing Ben" or "the Hawk." Ben Hogan had almost as many nicknames as he did victories in golf's major championships, and that was nine. The sobriquets were mainly attempts to inject a little color into a man whose personality matched his no-nonsense golfing attire--white linen cap, beige shirt and sharply pressed slacks.
But his legend needed no embellishment. When William Benjamin Hogan died last week at 84, he was rightly revered as the greatest shotmaker who ever lived. "No human has ever come as close to controlling the golf ball as perfectly as he did," said Ben Crenshaw. The son of a Dublin, Texas, blacksmith, Hogan forged his ideal swing through hard work. He would practice until his hands bled, and when other pros gathered around the fire during a rain delay, Hogan would still be hitting shots to his caddie. His fierce will helped him recover from a 1949 auto collision that nearly killed him.
Playing with a limp, Hogan still won: six more majors, three in 1953 when he took the Masters, U.S. Open and British Open. His mystique was further enhanced by the 1967 Masters, when he shot a record 30 on the back nine. In the par-3 tourney before this year's Masters, Ernie Els found himself in a group with Gary Player and Sam Snead. When Els asked Player how he should address the great Snead, Player replied, "Sam will be fine. If we were playing with Ben Hogan, though, you'd call him Mr. Hogan."
--By Steve Wulf