1937: Byron Nelson wins first of two Masters
Coming into the 1937 Masters, Byron Nelson was relatively unknown.
He had missed the first Augusta National Invitation Tournament and hadn’t made much noise with a tie for ninth in 1935 and a tie for 13th in 1936.
That all changed in the first round of 1937 when he matched the Augusta National course record with 6-under-par 66.
“The best round of golf I played in my whole career was the first round of the 1937 Masters,” Nelson told the Masters Journal.
He added 72 in the second round to maintain a three-shot advantage over fellow Texan Ralph Guldahl at the halfway point.
But Guldahl caught and passed him in the third round with 68 to Nelson’s 75. That set the stage for one of the biggest swings in tournament history.
Nelson didn’t do anything spectacular in his first nine holes of the final round, but he coaxed a 12-foot birdie putt into the cup at the 10th hole.
Guldahl had a four-shot lead over Nelson when he reached the 12th tee. But Guldahl, who was playing ahead of Nelson, hit it into Rae’s Creek. He made double bogey and then followed it up with a bogey at the par-5 13th.
After a par at the 11th, Nelson hit his tee shot on the 12th to six feet and made the birdie putt to eat into Guldahl’s lead. At the 13th, Nelson went for the green in two and came up just short. But he chipped in for an eagle.
In less than an hour, Nelson had made up six shots on the leader. He parred the remaining holes for a two-shot win over Guldahl. While his play at what eventually would be called Amen Corner gets the attention, Nelson gives equal credit to his birdie to start the second nine.
“Everyone mentions the 2 and the 3, but the putt on No. 10 set the whole thing up,” Nelson once said. “I never thought about my chances. I just kept plugging away and hoping. It just seemed that everything I did was right.”
Five years later, Nelson defeated Ben Hogan in an 18-hole playoff for his second Masters win in 1942.
In later years, Nelson was an integral part of the tournament as the golfer traditionally paired with the 54-hole leader, and he served as an honorary starter for several years.
Guldahl endured another runner-up finish in 1938, but he came back in 1939 to win the Masters thanks to an eagle on the 13th in the final round.
In 1958, the Nelson Bridge was dedicated at the No. 13 tee as a permanent reminder of the first of Nelson’s two Masters victories. It also recognizes Guldahl for his heroics during his victory.