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Today in Golf History: Byron Nelson starts his streak of 11 wins in a row

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It was 72 years ago today when Byron Nelson won the 1945 Miami International Four Ball Tournament. Between March 8 and August 4, he was untouchable. Nelson won a record of 11 events in a row and shot 50 consecutive rounds under par starting with his first swing in Miami.

Nelson’s record streak took place during WWII. Pros like Lloyd Mangrum, Tommy Bolt, Jack Fleck, Herman Keiser, Ted Kroll, Ed “Porky” Oliver all served in WWII. Mangrum and Fleck were both even involved in the heroic D-Day invasions. Nelson did not serve in the army, but he did play a big role along with other professionals in raising money in exhibition matches. In 1945, with the help of Nelson, PGA members raised more than $100,000 for the war efforts. In all, Nelson won 18 events during the 1945 season.

In this story, I examine the utter dominance displayed by Lord Byron during his record streak over the course of 5 months and 3 days.

Miami International Four-Ball (Team Event)

  • Where: Miami Springs Golf and Country Club
  • Margin: 1st Place – 8 & 6 (Four-Ball Format)
  • Prize: $2,000 (War Bonds)

Byron Nelson and Harold McSpaden beat Sammy Byrd and Denny Shute in the final match of the $7,500 International Four Ball Tournament. His partner in the Miami event, Harold “Jug” McSpaden, a 17-time winner on the PGA Tour, had a front row seat to the streak. Over the course of the 1945 season, McSpaden finished runner up in 13 events… mostly to Nelson.

1945 Charlotte Open

  • Where: Myers Park Club Course
  • Margin: 4 strokes (playoff)
  • Prize: $2,000 (War Bonds)

In the 1945 Charlotte Open, Nelson and Sam Snead tied at the end of 72 holes with a score of 272. The next day they had a playoff to determine the winner. The problem was that Nelson and Snead tied again the next day with a pair of 69s. Nelson finally won, besting Snead by four strokes in a second 18-hole playoff… a grim match played before an almost silent gallery of some 1,800 people. Already three strokes ahead, Nelson sank a 30-foot putt on the 18th hole to finish Snead off.

1945 Greater Greensboro Open

  • Where: Starmount Forest CC
  • Margin: 8 strokes
  • Prize: $1,333 (War Bonds)

Just five days after he beat Snead at Charlotte, Nelson was back at it again but just at Snead’s home course. Nelson was absolutely dominant. He was 8 strokes ahead of his closest competitor, Sam Byrd.

1945 Durham Open

  • Where: Hope Valley Country Club
  • Margin: Won by 5 strokes
  • Prize: $1,000 (War Bonds)

Byron Nelson shot a final-round of 65 while continuing his unbeaten streak at Durham. In geographical terms, he swept the Carolinas with wins at Charlotte, Greensboro and Durham.

1945 Atlanta “Iron Lung” Open

  • Where: Capital City Country Club
  • Margin: 9 strokes
  • Prize: $2,000 (War Bonds)

In Atlanta, Nelson only picked up his pace from previous weeks. He had 22 birdies during the event with rounds of 64-69-65-65. He set a new mark for the Tour’s 72-hole scoring record with 263, a number that would be bested by the end of the year. The King of Atlanta golf, Bobby Jones, said: “When I was at my best, I never came close to the golf Nelson shot in this tournament.”

1945 Montreal Open

  • Where: Toronto St. Andrews
  • Margin: 10 strokes
  • Prize: $2,000 (War Bonds)

In his first event north of the border, Nelson continued his winning ways at the $10,000 Montreal Open posting a score of 268 and winning by 10 strokes. In doing so, he recorded the lowest four-day score at a Canadian course in tournament play beating Lawson Little’s mark at the Toronto St. Andrews layout in 1933.

1945 Philadelphia Inquirer

  • Where: Llanerch Country Club
  • Margin: 2 strokes
  • Prize: $3,333 (War Bonds)

In the 1945 Philadelphia Inquirer, Nelson impressed himself. He shot a sizzling, final-round of 63 at the Llanerch Country Club, besting the club record by three strokes.”It was the hottest round of golf I’ve ever played,” he said. Nelson finished the tournament with a 269, two shots better than Jug McSpaden.

1945 Chicago Victory National Open

  • Where: Calumet Country Club
  • Margin: 7 strokes
  • Prize: $1,333 (War Bonds)

Many thought Nelson’s streak would end at the Chicago Victory National Open because of a back strain sustained in the long-driving contest one day prior. That didn’t stop him one bit, as he played through pain to post 13-under par for a total of 275. Once again Harold “Jug” McSpaden finished second. He tied with Ky Lafoon, seven strokes behind.

1945 PGA Championship (Match Play)

  • Where: Moraine Country Club
  • Margin: 1st Place – 4 & 3
  • Prize: $5,000 (War Bonds) and the Wanamaker Trophy

The 1945 PGA Championship was the ninth of Nelson’s record 11 consecutive wins in 1945. It was Nelson’s fifth and final major title and his second win at the PGA Championship (he also won in 1940). Due to WWII, it was the only major championship played in 1945. Over the course of the tournament, Nelson disposed of Denny Shute and Claude Harmon before facing Sammy Byrd in the finals. Byrd, a former New York Yankee, lost to Nelson 4 & 3 and the streak lived on.

Fact: Sammy Byrd is the only person to ever play in both the World Series and The Masters.

1945 All-American Open

  • Where: Tam O’Shanter Course
  • Margin: 11 strokes
  • Prize: $10,200 (War Bonds)

In the All-American Open, also known as the Tam O’Shanter Open, Nelson dominated with an 11-stroke victory over the nearest competitors, Gene Sarazen and Ben Hogan. At this point, Nelson had collected $45,200 in War Bonds… just as much as he won in 1944. This was Nelson’s fourth win of the event in its five-year history.

1945 Canadian Open

  • Where: Thornhill Golf & Country Club
  • Margin: 4 strokes
  • Prize: $2,000 (War Bonds)

In his second visit to Canada during his winning streak, Nelson won the Canadian Open by four strokes. At this point, the newspapers were calling him the “mechanical man” for his flawless golf, but Nelson was showing signs of wear. Over the stretch his highest 18-hole total happened in the Canadian Open with a pair of 72s.

Nelson displayed a valiant effort in getting to 12 wins in a row, but was cut short the next week finishing 4th in the Memphis Open.

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Josh is the Editor and Owner of GolfHistoryToday.com, an area of the web dedicated to golfing history involving players, courses, and events from 1800s Scotland to present. Frequent Weekend Caddy...USGA Volunteer.

3 Comments

3 Comments

  1. Dan

    Mar 13, 2017 at 9:24 pm

    I don’t care who your playing against, 11 in a row is a great accomplishment. Oh and by the way McSpaden (17 wins on the PGA), Hogan and Snead weren’t bad competition. Even if Hogan and Snead hadn’t hit their best years yet.

  2. Jack Nash

    Mar 13, 2017 at 9:08 am

    For those who suggest Nelson was playing against weaker opponents, I suggest you consider the number of HoF’ers in these fields as compared to, let’s say any Modern Day golfer, eg. Woods and just add them up.

  3. chinchbugs

    Mar 12, 2017 at 6:48 pm

    Dem Pants Doe

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Opinion & Analysis

A Letter from the Editor: Big changes are happening at GolfWRX

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For those of you who don’t know who I am, my name is Andrew Tursky. I recently went from the right-hand-man of former GolfWRX Editor-in-Chief Zak Kozuchowski, to running the show here at GolfWRX as the Editor-in-Chief myself. In my new role, I’m going to help GolfWRX fulfill its fullest potential as the best golf website in existence, and that means making a number of immediate changes, all of which I’ll highlight below.

First, a look back. Over a decade ago, GolfWRX started as a small community golf forum for golfers to discuss golf equipment, courses, instruction, rules, bargains, and everything else golf related. The forums continue to grow everyday, and they’re stronger than ever with over 250,000 members who are the most knowledgable and passionate golfers on the planet. They also helped us determine the Best Driver of 2018. Additionally, sometime around 2011, Kozuchowski took GolfWRX.com from simply a community golf forum to a golf media powerhouse by adding a front page section of the website, equipped with ultra-professional editorial. He built a team of Featured Writers — consisting of some of the biggest names in the golf industry — to help produce content that readers love and need. Since 2013, I’ve been helping Zak run the site by writing/producing original content myself, and working with the Featured Writer team. Currently averaging over 1.8 million unique readers per month, GolfWRX has been doing just fine. But I believe so strongly in the GolfWRX brand that I don’t want to settle for “just fine.” I believe we have more to offer, and I want every golfer in the world to garner entertainment or knowledge from our website.

As such, and building upon the foundation that is GolfWRX.com and the forums, I’ve been empowered by the “powers that be” at GolfWRX — you know, the guys who cut paychecks — to grow and shape the best golf website on the Internet.

So what does that mean going forward? Well, that’s what I wanted to discuss.

Here at GolfWRX, we’ve always been great at telling stories through the written word and images, and we will continue to do so with our Featured Writers team and legion of golf writers who love and know the game of golf. But after taking over the editorial direction of the website, I also wanted to help give GolfWRX a voice and a face. There are so many amazing people in the world of golf, and I wanted to provide platforms for us to help them tell their stories… to provide our readers the chance to see how golf clubs are made, how courses are designed, why professionals play certain equipment, and so much more. I wanted to bring readers where they’ve never been and hear from the people they’ve never heard from. Here at GolfWRX, we have the opportunity to speak with amazing people and play golf at amazing courses, and it’s about time the GolfWRX readers got to enjoy those experiences with us.

Therefore, we’re implementing our own original video and radio initiatives.

On the video-end of the spectrum, GolfWRX has recently hired Johnny Wunder full-time to the GolfWRX Staff. He’s a Hollywood producer (check out his new film Josie, starring Sophie Turner from Game of Thrones, that was recently in select theaters across the country!) and is also the new Director of Original Content at GolfWRX. If you’ve enjoyed the Bob Parsons interview, Paige interview, PXG Gen2 Editor’s Journal, or how PXG irons get built, you have Mr. Wunder to thank. Also coming soon are experiences with Mike Taylor at Artisan Golf, David Edel, Bert Lamar of Iliac Golf, the Criquet Golf team in Austin, a short game series with Gabe Hjertstedt, a new fashion series and much more. We’re extremely excited to bring our own original content to the world, and help highlight the people in golf who we think deserve a platform. See the things you’ve never seen, go places you’ve never gone, and meet people you’ve never met; that’s what we want to do with our new GolfWRX original video content. We truly hope you enjoy it, and learn a lot from the content we produce.

We’ve also started three great podcasts — the “19th Hole with host Michael Williams,” “Two Guys Talkin’ Golf,” and “Gear Dive” — with plans to expand in the very near future. Check all of them out here on SoundCloud, or here on iTunes.

The 19th Hole is hosted by Michael Williams, who was the PGA Mediaperson of the Year in 2014 and is a longtime titan in both golf media and radio in general; he has produced and hosted shows on CBS Radio, Fox Sports Radio and Voice of America. Michael is a true professional, knowledgeable golfer, and knows how to conduct one heck of an interview. So far on the show, his guests have included Greg Norman, Bob Vokey, Rees Jones, Robert Trent Jones Jr., Scott Van Pelt, Byron Scott, Michael Breed, Louis Oosthuizen, Jim Nantz, Roger Cleveland, Mike Taylor, and many more.

Two Guys Talkin’ Golf (TG2), is hosted by equipment expert Brian Knudson and myself, a former Division I golfer and GolfWRX Editor. Together, we discuss all things golf, but mostly focus on golf equipment… and the occasional hot take. TG2 welcomes guests on the show as well, ranging from GolfWRX forum members to club builders to Tour professionals to caddies. If you’re hungry for more equipment knowledge and high-level golf conversation, TG2 is your type of podcast.

The third, and all-new podcast, is called “Gear Dive,” hosted by Johnny Wunder. What you can expect is a weekly podcast where Wunder interviews anyone who’s anyone “in the know” of golf equipment… and he’s going deep. To give you an idea, his first guest was legendary clubmaker Larry Bobka who made Tiger Woods’ old Titleist irons.

Also, as I discussed before, GolfWRX is great with telling stories via the written word. To make sure we continue to do so, we’ve hired Ben Alberstadt who’s been writing for GolfWRX for over 5 years now. He was previously a freelance journalist who worked with a variety of media and news outlets, and he now wears the GolfWRX hat full time. I cannot be more excited to have him aboard the ship because he’s a true, hard-working journalist and he’s great at telling a story in his own unique style. If you’ve read any of his stuff, you know what I mean.

And as for me, I promise to continue providing GolfWRX readers with the content they want and need to read/hear/see on a daily basis. It’s my duty to help our readers be the most knowledgable golfers and golf buyers, and be entertained while learning more about the sport we all love. I simply love GolfWRX and our readers/listeners/viewers, and I want you to have the best website of all time to visit every day… a website to be part of and proud of.

What do I ask from you GolfWRX readers? Your feedback! If we write a bad story, tell us why you think it’s bad. If we publish a video you like, tell us why in the comments or on social media. If you love the new podcast, tell us that you loved it and support by subscribing. (If you want all of our podcasts transcribed, we’re working on it!) We want to have the best website in the world, and we want to provide information to golfers in the way they want to consume it. We care deeply about your opinion. GolfWRX began as a forum community, and we will always be a community. Personally, I was a GolfWRX reader myself before ever writing for the site. So was Alberstadt and Williams and Knudson and Wunder. We love golf and we love GolfWRX. We want to see it thrive, and you, the readers, are a huge part of that success.

Anyway, thanks for taking the time to read this letter, and I hope you continue to be a GolfWRX reader and participant. And if you do, make sure to tell your golfing buddies how much you love the site… in real life or on social media. The more we grow, the better stories and podcasts and videos we can create. I love and appreciate the opportunity to be your GolfWRX Editor, and I won’t let you down!

 

Hit em between the tree line,

Andrew Tursky

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Opinion & Analysis

Fantasy Preview: 2018 Zurich Classic of New Orleans

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Just as in 2017, the Zurich Classic of New Orleans will once again provide a change in format for the players this week. Players will team up once more at TPC Louisiana for a combination of Best Ball (Rounds 1 and 3) and Alternate Shot (Rounds 2 and 4). Unfortunately, the change in format means that there is no DraftKings this week.

The course is long at over 7,400 yards, but it’s also very generous off the tee. TPC Louisiana offers the opportunity to go low, and players took advantage last year despite the inclement weather conditions. It took a Monday playoff to separate them, but eventually Cameron Smith and Jonas Blixt pipped Kevin Kisner and Scott Brown by making birdie on the fourth playoff hole to take the title after both teams had posted 27-under par in regulation.

Selected Tournament Odds (via Bet365)

  • Justin Rose/Henrik Stenson 7/1
  • Patrick Reed/Patrick Cantlay 12/1
  • Justin Thomas/Bud Cauley 14/1
  • Bubba Watson/Matt Kuchar 14/1
  • Jordan Spieth/Ryan Palmer 14/1
  • Jon Rahm/Wesley Bryan 16/1
  • Rafa Cabrera Bello/Sergio Garcia 22/1

For the first time, Bubba Watson and Matt Kuchar (14/1) will team up for this event. Last year, Watson played alongside J.B Holmes. The two performed well, finishing in a tie for fifth place. TPC Louisiana has been a course that has suited Watson’s game over the years, his prodigious length being a significant factor. Along with his T-5 in 2017, Watson has a victory and three other top-20 finishes at the course when the event was an individual stroke-play tournament.

While Watson can be feast or famine at times, Kuchar is Mr. Consistent. He hasn’t missed a cut in over a year, and he has been a top-10 machine over the past few years on the PGA Tour. Despite this, Kuchar hasn’t been able to convert many of his top-10 finishes into wins, but playing alongside Watson this week — who has already notched two victories in 2018 — may help his cause. Over their last 24 rounds, Watson ranks third for Strokes Gained-Off the Tee and eighth in Strokes Gained Total. Over the same period, Kuchar has been predictably consistent, ranking in the top third in the field in every major Strokes Gained category. It’s an intriguing partnership, with Watson’s explosiveness combined with Kuchar’s consistency, and it’s a cocktail that should prove to be a formidable force at TPC Louisiana.

Two men with the hot hand coming into this event are fellow Americans, Jimmy Walker and Sean O’Hair (25/1). Last week at the Valero Texas Open both men excelled, posting the highest finishes of their year thus far. Walker finished solo 4th, while O’Hair grabbed a T-2. It’s the pairs first time playing TPC Louisiana together, but Walker has some good course form to lean on. Back in 2012 and 2013, he posted back-to-back top-20 finishes, which shows that TPC Louisiana is a course that fits his game. Accuracy off the tee has never been Walker’s strength, but the generous fairways may be one of the reasons that he has performed well at this course.

O’Hair has been in good form as of late. The Texan has three top-15 finishes in his last six events, and last week he recorded his highest Strokes Gained Total at an event in years. Walker also seems to have turned a corner with his game. Along with his excellent performance last week, he managed a top-20 finish at the Masters, and his Strokes Gained-Total at the Valero was his highest since his 2016 PGA Championship victory. With both men coming off their best performances in a long time, they should be confident. The duo looks to be a decent value to mount a challenge this week.

Last year’s runners-up Kevin Kisner and Scott Brown (40/1) are hard to ignore at their price this week. Brown has struggled mightily for form in 2018, missing six cuts out of 11 events played so far this year, but the prospect of playing alongside Kisner may be the boost that Brown’s 2018 is needing.

Kisner’s form has been strong as of late. He backed up his runner-up finish at the WGC-Dell Technologies Match Play with a T-28 at Augusta before grabbing a T-7 at the RBC Heritage. At Harbour Town, Kisner’s iron play was especially sharp, with his Strokes Gained-Approaching the Greens total being the highest since the Memorial last year. Despite Brown’s slump, in a highly tricky format to predict, the pair showed enough chemistry last year and an ability to excel in the format, which is enough for me to consider their price a little undervalued this week.

Recommended Plays

  • Bubba Watson/Matt Kuchar 14/1
  • Jimmy Walker/Sean O’Hair 25/1
  • Kevin Kisner/Scott Brown 40/1
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Podcasts

Gear Dive: Legendary club builder Larry Bobka speaks on Tiger’s old Titleist irons

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Legendary club builder Larry Bobka joins us in the first episode of our new podcast called “Gear Dive,” hosted by Johnny Wunder, GolfWRX’s Director of Original Content. Gear Dive is a deep look into the world of golf equipment, and Wunder will be interviewing the craftsman, the reps and the players behind the tools that make up the bags of the best golfers in the world.

Bobka, our first guest, is a former Tour rep and club builder involved in some of the most important clubs of the past 25 years. From his days at Wilson Golf working with legends such as Payne Stewart, Hale Irwin and Bernhard Langer, he transitioned into the Golden Age of Titleist/Acushnet building clubs for Tiger Woods, Davis Love, David Duval and Brad Faxon. He currently runs Argolf where he builds and fits handmade putters for Tour players and amateurs alike. He’s one of the Godfather’s of modern golf equipment.

Skip to 45:30 for the discussion about Tiger’s Titleist irons.

Check out our podcast on SoundCloud below, or click here to listen on iTunes!

What do you think of the new podcast? Leave your feedback in the comments below!

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