William Ben Hogan (August 13, 1912 – July 25, 1997) was an American professional golfer who is generally considered to be one of the greatest players in the history of the game. He is notable for his profound influence on golf swing theory and his legendary ball-striking ability.
Hogan's nine career professional major championships tie him with Gary Player for fourth all-time, trailing only Jack Nicklaus (18), Tiger Woods (15) and Walter Hagen (11). He is one of only five players to have won all four majors: the Masters Tournament, The Open (despite only playing once), the U.S. Open, and the PGA Championship. The other four are Nicklaus, Woods, Player, and Gene Sarazen; Hogan's first major win came at age 34.
During Hogan's prime years of 1938 through 1959, he won 63 professional golf tournaments despite the interruption of his career by World War II and a near-fatal car accident. Hogan served in the U.S. Army Air Forces from March 1943 to June 1945; he was stationed locally at Fort Worth and became a utility pilot with the rank of lieutenant.
Driving home to Fort Worth after a Monday playoff loss at the 1949 Phoenix Open, Hogan and his wife Valerie survived a head-on collision with a Greyhound bus east of Van Horn, Texas. On the morning of Wednesday, February 2, Hogan had reduced his speed in the limited visibility ground fog; the bus was attempting to pass another vehicle on a narrow bridge, which left no place to avoid the crash. Hogan threw himself across Valerie in order to protect her. He would have been killed had he not done so, because the steering column punctured the driver's seat of their new Cadillac sedan.
This accident left Hogan, age 36, with a double-fracture of the pelvis, a fractured collar bone, a left ankle fracture, a chipped rib, and near-fatal blood clots: he would suffer lifelong circulation problems and other physical limitations. His doctors said he might never walk again, let alone play golf competitively. While Hogan was in the hospital in El Paso, his life was endangered by a blood clot problem that led doctors to tie off the vena cava. He left the hospital on the first of April, 59 days after the accident, and returned to Fort Worth by train.
Hogan regained his strength by extensive walking and resumed his golf activities in November 1949. He returned to the PGA Tour to start the 1950 season at the Los Angeles Open, where he tied with Sam Snead over 72 holes, but lost the 18-hole playoff, held over a week later (due to course conditions).