Byron Nelson Dies at Age 94

By Associated PressSeptember 26, 2006, 4:00 pm
IRVING, Texas -- Byron Nelson's mechanics were so perfect that the U.S. Golf Association nicknamed its robotic swing device the 'Iron Byron.' He was such a Masters icon that Augusta National named a bridge after him in 1958, then a few years ago added a statue of him, too.
 
And the man known as 'Lord Byron' was so beloved in golf he became the first player after whom a PGA Tour stop was named.
 
Byron Nelson
Byron Nelson was known as much for his kindness as for his winning.
Yet what will forever define the story of the courtly Texan with the elegant stroke and personality to match always comes back to 1945, when Nelson completed the greatest year in the history of the game: 18 wins, and a mesmerizing 11 of those in a row.
 
'The Streak' is a record that no golfer has ever approached. Many believe no one ever will.
 
Nelson died Tuesday at 94, the end of a life spanning eras from hickory shafts and meager prize money to titanium heads and multimillionaires.
 
His wife, Peggy Nelson, told family friend Angela Enright that her husband appeared fine as she left their Roanoke home for Bible study Tuesday morning.
 
'I'm so proud of you,' he told her, something he often said about her church involvement, Enright said. When she returned, Peggy Nelson found her husband on the back porch, which faces the woodworking shop where he spent much of his free time.
 
The Tarrant County Medical Examiner's Office said he died of natural causes.
 
Arnold Palmer called Nelson 'one of the greatest players who ever lived.'
 
'I don't think that anyone will ever exceed the things that Byron did by winning 11 tournaments in a row in one year,' Palmer said in a statement.
 
The closest any player has come to Nelson's streak is six, first by Ben Hogan in 1948. When Tiger Woods reached that number in 1999-2000, Nelson was typically gracious when putting his own mark into perspective.
 
'Anytime you make a record stand for 55 years, why, you've done pretty good,' he told The Associated Press.
 
Nelson won 18 tournaments in 1945, also a record for a calendar year. He captured 31 of 54 tournaments in 1944-45, and won a total of 52 events, including five majors: the Masters in 1937 and '42, the U.S. Open in 1939 and the PGA Championship in 1940 and '45.
 
Then, at age 34, he retired after the 1946 season to spend more time on his Texas ranch.
 
'When I was playing regularly, I had a goal,' Nelson recalled years later. 'I could see the prize money going into the ranch, buying a tractor, or a cow. It gave me incentive.'
 
Nelson's long, fluid swing is considered the model of the modern way to strike a golf ball. In 1968, he was the first player to have a PGA Tour event named for him, an honor that remained his alone until the former Bay Hill Invitational, scheduled for March, was renamed the Arnold Palmer Invitational.
 
'We have lost a giant in the game ... someone who elevated the game in every way: as a player, an ambassador and a gentleman,' said Ben Crenshaw, a two-time Masters champion and winner of Nelson's tournament in 1983. 'Whoever came up with `Lord Byron,' they got it exactly right.'
 
Nelson's connections helped make his event the No. 1 fundraiser for charity on the PGA Tour -- more than $94 million since the tournament's inception, including $6.3 million this year. The U.S. House recently voted to award Nelson a Congressional Gold Medal for philanthropy; the legislation, Congress' highest award, is pending in the Senate.
 
'Our players, young and old, looked to Byron as the consummate role model of our sport,' PGA Tour commissioner Tim Finchem said. 'His legacy spans across his historic performances, the gentle and dignified way he carried himself and his tremendous contributions to golf and society.'
 
Nelson held the PGA Tour records for most consecutive made cuts (113) and for single-season scoring average (68.33) until both were broken by Woods, who called him 'the greatest ambassador golf has ever known.'
 
'He retired early,' Woods said early Wednesday from the American Express Championship outside London. 'All he wanted to do was make enough money to buy his ranch. If he had kept playing like guys do now, more than likely he would have won more tournaments than anyone.'
 
Nelson's mark on the Masters was honored in 1958 when the path that takes golfers over Rae's Creek to the 13th tee was named Nelson Bridge, commemorating his final-day charge over the 12th and 13th holes that sent him to victory in 1937. He later was the annual honorary starter, along with Gene Sarazen and Sam Snead. Nelson made his final ceremonial shot in 2001.
 
'Today we have lost a truly wonderful gentleman,' said Billy Payne, chairman of Augusta National Golf Club and the Masters. 'Byron has meant so much to so many people, and has been an integral and important part of this tournament since he first played here in 1935.'
 
Nelson for years had been host of the Masters' champions dinner at Augusta National, but he did not make the trip this year, turning the role over to Crenshaw.
 
'He sent me a note saying he probably wouldn't make it to the next Masters, so he must have had an inkling,' Woods said.
 
John Byron Nelson was born Feb. 4, 1912, on the family farm in Waxahachie, Texas, and started in golf in 1922 as a caddie at Glen Garden Country Club in Fort Worth. One year, he won the caddies' championship, defeating Hogan in a playoff.
 
After graduating from high school, Nelson got a job as a file clerk in the accounting office of the Forth Worth and Denver Railroad and played golf in his spare time. He lost his job during the Great Depression but found work in 1931 with a bankers' magazine.
 
The same year, he entered his first tournament, the National Amateur in Chicago, where he missed qualifying by one stroke. With jobs hard to find, he turned professional in 1932.
 
Nelson was excused from military service during World War II because he was a hemophiliac. With many foes in the service, he faced weakened fields -- still, his accomplishments in the war years were astounding.
 
In 1944, he won 13 of the 23 tournaments he played. But it was the following year that will forever live as one of the greatest in golf history. Besides his 18 wins and streak of 11, he also finished second seven times, was never out of the top 10 and at one point played 19 consecutive rounds under 70.
 
His streak is honored in a series of displays at the course where his tournament is held. The course also boasts a larger-than-life statue of Nelson; by Tuesday night, several flowers had been placed at its feet.
 
Nelson was voted AP Male Athlete of the Year in 1944 and 1945. He was elected to the PGA Hall of Fame in 1953 and to the World Golf Hall of Fame in 1974. He's now sixth on the career wins list, behind Snead, Jack Nicklaus, Hogan, Palmer and Woods.
 
Although Nelson continued to play in an occasional tournament after 1946, he retreated to his 673-acre ranch in Roanoke and never returned to competitive golf full time. He spent time on the course in the 1960s as one of golf's early TV announcers.
 
Nelson developed a widely imitated 'Texas style' swing that was upright and compact, unlike some of the unwieldy swings of early players.
 
'The mechanics of my swing were such that it required no thought,' Nelson said. 'It's like eating. You don't think to feed yourself. If you have to think about your swing it takes that much away from your scoring concentration.'
 
Funeral arrangements were pending, with an announcement expected Wednesday. Besides his wife, Nelson is survived by his brother Charles Nelson and sister Ellen Scherman.
 
Copyright 2006 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.
Getty Images

Ortiz takes Web.com Tour clubhouse lead in Bahamas

By Golf Channel DigitalJanuary 16, 2018, 2:19 am

Former Web.com Tour Player of the Year Carlos Ortiz shot a bogey-free, 4-under-par 68 Monday to take the clubhouse lead in The Bahamas Great Exuma Classic at Sandals Emerald Bay.

Four other players - Lee McCoy, Brandon Matthews, Sung Jae Im and Mark Anderson - were still on the course and tied with Ortiz at 6-under 210 when third-round play was suspended by darkness at 5:32 p.m. local time. It is scheduled to resume at 7:15 a.m. Tuesday.

Ortiz, a 26-year-old from Guadalajara, Mexico, is in search of his fourth Web.com Tour victory. In 2014, the former University of North Texas standout earned a three-win promotion on his way to being voted Web.com Tour Player of the Year.

McCoy, a 23-year-old from Dunedin, Fla., is looking to become the first player to earn medalist honors at Q-School and then win the opening event of the season.

Getty Images

Randall's Rant: Can we please have some rivalries?

By Randall MellJanuary 16, 2018, 12:00 am

Memo to the golf gods:

If you haven’t finalized the fates of today’s stars for the new year, could we get you to deliver what the game has lacked for so long?

Can we get a real, honest-to-goodness rivalry?

It’s been more than two decades since the sport has been witness to one.

With world No. 1 Dustin Johnson and former world No. 1 Rory McIlroy at the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship this week, an early-season showdown would percolate hope that this year might be all about rivalries.

It seems as if the stars are finally aligned to make up for our long drought of rivalries, of the recurring clashes you have so sparingly granted through the game’s history.

We’re blessed in a new era of plenty, with so many young stars blossoming, and with Tiger Woods offering hope he may be poised for a comeback. With Johnson, McIlroy, Jordan Spieth, Jason Day, Justin Thomas, Jon Rahm, Hideki Matsuyama, Brooks Koepka and Rickie Fowler among today’s dynamic cast, the possibility these titans will time their runs together on the back nine of Sundays in majors excites.

We haven’t seen a real rivalry since Greg Norman and Nick Faldo sparred in the late '80s and early '90s.

Woods vs. Phil Mickelson didn’t really count. While Lefty will be remembered for carving out a Hall of Fame career in the Tiger era, with 33 victories, 16 of them with Tiger in the field, five of them major championships, we get that Tiger had no rival, not in the most historic sense.


CareerBuilder Challenge: Articles, photos and videos


Phil never reached No. 1, was never named PGA Tour Player of the Year, never won a money title and never dueled with Woods on Sunday on the back nine of a major with the title on the line.  Still, it doesn’t diminish his standing as the best player not named Tiger Woods over the last 20 years. It’s a feat so noteworthy it makes him one of the game’s all-time greats.

We’ve been waiting for an honest-to-goodness rivalry since Faldo and Norman took turns ruling at world No. 1 and dueling in big events, including the back nine of multiple majors. 

In the '70s, we had Nicklaus-Watson. In the '60s, it was Nicklaus-Palmer. In the '40s and '50s, it was Hogan, Snead and Nelson in a triumvirate mix, and in the '20s and '30s we had Hagen and Sarazen.

While dominance is the magic ingredient that can break a sport out of its niche, a dynamic rivalry is the next best elixir.

Dustin Johnson looks capable of dominating today’s game, but there’s so much proven major championship talent on his heels. It’s hard to imagine him consistently fending off all these challengers, but it’s the fending that would captivate us.

Johnson vs. McIlroy would be a fireworks show. So would Johnson vs. Thomas, or Thomas vs. Day or McIlroy vs. Rahm or Fowler vs. Koepka ... or any of those combinations.

Spieth is a wild card that intrigues.

While he’s not a short hitter, he isn’t the power player these other guys are, but his iron game, short game, putter and moxie combine to make him the most compelling challenger of all. His resolve, resilience and resourcefulness in the final round of his British Open victory at Royal Birkdale make him the most interesting amalgam of skill since Lee Trevino.

Woods vs. any of them? Well, if we get that, we promise never to ask for anything more.

So, if that cosmic calendar up there isn’t filled, how about it? How about a year of rivalries to remember?

Getty Images

McIlroy: 2018 may be my busiest season ever

By Will GrayJanuary 15, 2018, 6:28 pm

With his return to competition just days away, Rory McIlroy believes that the 2018 season may be the most action packed of his pro career.

The 28-year-old has not teed it up since the Alfred Dunhill Links Championship in early October, a hiatus he will end at this week's Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship. It will be the start of a busy spring for the Ulsterman, who will also play next week in Dubai before a run of six PGA Tour events leading up to the Masters.

Speaking to the U.K.'s Telegraph, McIlroy confirmed that he will also make a return trip to the British Masters in October and plans to remain busy over the next 12 months.

"I might play more times this year than any before. I played 28 times in 2008 and I'm on track to beat that," McIlroy said. "I could get to 30 (events), depending on where I'm placed in the Race to Dubai. But I'll see."

McIlroy's ambitious plan comes in the wake of a frustrating 2017 campaign, when he injured his ribs in his first start and twice missed chunks of time in an effort to recover. He failed to win a worldwide event and finished the year ranked outside the top 10, both of which had not happened since 2008.

But having had more than three months to get his body and swing in shape, McIlroy is optimistic heading into the first of what he hopes will be eight starts in the 12 weeks before he drives down Magnolia Lane.

"I've worked hard on my short game and I'm probably feeling better with the putter than I ever have," McIlroy said. "I've had a lot of time to concentrate on everything and it all feels very good and a long way down the road."

Getty Images

What's in the Bag: Sony Open winner Kizzire

By Golf Channel DigitalJanuary 15, 2018, 6:05 pm

Patton Kizzire earned his second PGA Tour victory by winning a six-hole playoff at the Sony Open in Hawaii. Take a look inside his bag.

Driver: Titleist 917D3 (10.5 degrees), with Fujikura Atmos Black 6 X shaft

Fairway Wood: Titleist 917F2 (16.5 degrees), with Aldila Tour Blue 95 TX shaft

Hybrid: Titleist 913H (19 degrees), with UST Mamiya AXIV Core 100 Hybrid shaft

Irons: Titleist 718 T-MB (4), 718 CB (5-6), 718 MB (7-9), with True Temper Dynamic Gold X100 shafts

Wedges: Titleist SM7 prototype (47, 52, 56, 60 degrees), with True Temper Dynamic Gold X100 shafts

Putter: Scotty Cameron GoLo Tour prototype

Ball: Titleist Pro V1x