Nelson Goes Birdie-Eagle Roars To 1937 Win


Byron Nelson was a 25-year-old tall, nervous Texan in 1937. The Masters was only three years old, going on four. And Ralph Guldahl had a big lead as the tournament entered its final nine holes Sunday.
Nelson had hit the ball brilliantly throughout the tourney. He had opened with a 66, hitting every green in regulation, hitting every par 5 in two. But he had troubles with his putting, and as the homeward nine began on the final day, he trailed Guldahl by three shots.
Nelson was playing in the group directly behind Guldahl. At the little par-3 12th - little but dangerous - Guldahl pushed his tee shot off the bank and down into the creek. A double bogey resulted, and Nelson, watching intently, got an inspiration that jolted him all the way down to his spikes.
'I suddenly realized I had been playing negative golf for two days,' Nelson wrote in his autobiography, How I Played the Game.
'Watching his (Guldahl's) misfortunes, I felt like a light bulb went off in my head, like the fellow you see in the cartoons when he gets a brilliant idea. I realized that if I could get lucky and make a two, I would catch Guldahl right there.'
So Nelson chose a 6-iron, and with the pin in its normal position cut in the back right of the green, he sent the ball toward the flag. 'I went straight for the pin,' he said, defying a credo that says you never go for the flag on Sunday. Convention says you go for the middle.
But Nelson's ball stopped just six feet away from the target. And then, Nelson achieved his goal, holing the putt. He and Guldahl, sure enough, were tied for the lead.
Nelson, however, had by now grasped away the momentum. On the next hole, the par-5 13th, Guldahl hit his 3-iron second shot into the ditch in front of the green for a bogey. Nelson, meanwhile, drove well there, then also went for the green in two. He swung a 3-wood and the ball easily was long enough, finishing left of the putting surface, about 50 feet from the pin.
From there, Nelson chipped in for eagle. That gave him six strokes on Guldahl in two holes. He led by three and went on to win the tournament by two.
'That 32 on the back nine did more for my career than anything, because I realized my game could stand up under pressure, and I could make good decisions in difficult circumstances,' Nelson wrote. 'It was the turning point, the moment I realized I could be a tough competitor.'
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