Byron Nelson in 1945: 18 Wins, 11 in a Row, All His Scores and Finishes

What's the most-famous year of any golfer in PGA Tour history? What's the best year any golfer has ever had on the PGA Tour? "Byron Nelson in 1945" is an answer to both those questions that immediately comes to mind. Perhaps only Tiger Woods' 2000 season is really in the running as a challenge to Nelson's incredible 1945 achievements. So we're going to run down what Nelson did on the PGA Tour in 1945, looking at every tournament he played.

Nelson played 30 tournaments on the PGA Tour in 1945. He won 18 of them, easily the highest number of single-season wins in tour history. At one point, won Nelson 11 tournaments in a row, again, easily the all-time best. He set scoring records, some of which stood for decades.

We'll start by showing you Nelson's 11-tournament win streak, then his 18 total victories. We'll end by listing all 30 of the tournaments Nelson played in 1945, their dates, the score of all of Nelson's rounds plus the final scores, his margin of victory and who he beat in his wins, and, for the 12 tournaments he played but didn't win, where he finished and who beat him.

Nelson's 11 Wins In A Row

Here are the 11 tournaments that make up the most-famous winning streak in golf, along with Nelson's margin of victory in each:
  1. Miami International Four-Ball, a team match play tournament, Nelson was partnered by Jug McSpaden
  2. Charlotte Open, won playoff
  3. Greater Greensboro Open, won by 8
  4. Durham Open, won by 5
  5. Atlanta Open, won by 9
  6. Montreal Open, won by 10
  7. Philadelphia Inquirer Open, won by 2
  8. Chicago Victory National Open, won by 7
  9. PGA Championship, won the match-play final by a score of 4 and 3
  10. Tam O'Shanter Open, won by 11
  11. Canadian Open, won by 4
Nelson won "only" one major championship during the year, but that's because the 1945 PGA Championship was the only one played that year.

Nelson's streak ended at the Memphis Invitational, two weeks after his Canadian Open victory. Nelson finished in fourth place, six strokes behind winner Fred Haas, who was still an amateur.

Prior to Nelson's 11 consecutive wins, the PGA Tour record for most wins in a row was three. Three consecutive wins had been achieved many times previously, including by Nelson in 1944 and by Sam Snead in 1945, just prior to the beginning of Nelson's 11-tournament streak. The first golfer to win three in a row, in what are now recognized as PGA Tour events, was Walter Hagen in 1923. So when Nelson won his fourth consecutive tournament, the Durham Open, in 1945, he had already established a new tour record. Then he just kept going, until finally reaching 11.

Jug McSpaden, Nelson's partner in the Miami Four-Ball, set a couple of his own records in 1945: He finished in the Top 10 31 times, and finished second 13 times — seven of those times behind Nelson. Nelson and McSpaden were good friends, and they won and finished 1-2 so often in 1945 they were dubbed the "Gold Dust Twins."

Nelson's 18 Wins Total

Here is the list of all 18 of Nelson's PGA Tour victories in 1945, with his winning scores:
  1. Phoenix Open, 274
  2. Corpus Christi Open, 264
  3. New Orleans Open, 284
  4. Miami International Four-Ball (team, match play)
  5. Charlotte Open, 272
  6. Greater Greensboro Open, 271
  7. Durham Open, 276
  8. Atlanta Open, 263
  9. Montreal Open, 268
  10. Philadelphia Inquirer Open, 269
  11. Chicago Victory National Open, 275
  12. PGA Championship (match play)
  13. Tam O'Shanter Open, 269
  14. Canadian Open, 280
  15. Knoxville Invitational, 276
  16. Esmeralda Open, 266
  17. Seattle Open, 259
  18. Glen Garden Open, 273
Nelson's 18 total wins in 1945 was, of course, the new PGA Tour record. Whose record did he shatter? The previous record has been nine wins in one PGA Tour season, set by Paul Runyan in 1933. Since Nelson's 1945 season, only Ben Hogan (13 wins in 1946 and 10 wins in 1948) and Sam Snead (11 wins in 1950) have posted double-digit win years.

The last two of Nelson's wins came in his last two tournaments of the year. He opened 1946 with two straight wins, for a four-tournament winning streak. As we already learned above, that four-tournament win streak would, itself, have been a new tour record ... if Nelson hadn't already won 11 in a row earlier in 1945. Still today, only Ben Hogan and Tiger Woods have PGA Tour win streaks longer than four in a row, in addition to Nelson.

Byron Nelson's Full 1945 PGA Tour Tournament Results

Below are Byron Nelson's results in all 30 official tournaments he played in 1945. We say "official" because Nelson actually played a 31st event, and he won it. It would give him 19 wins and 12 wins in a row ... except that the event was scheduled for only 36 holes and so is not counted by the PGA Tour as an official win.

In addition to Nelson's 18 wins, you'll noticed that he also finished second seven times and never outside the Top 10. The week before his streak began, he finished sixth in the Jacksonville Open. That was his worst finish of the year except for the ninth-place in his third-to-last event of the year. He finished outside the Top 5 only those two times.

Of his 112 stroke-play rounds, 92 of them were below par. He had more rounds below 65 than he had above 72.

Byron Nelson's 1945 Tournament Scores, Finishes

  • Jan. 5-8, Los Angeles Open: 71-72-70-71—284, tied for second place (with Jug McSpaden) one stroke behind Sam Snead.
  • Jan. 12-14, Phoenix Open: 68-65-72-69—274, first place, won by two strokes over Denny Shute.
  • Jan. 18-21, Tucson Open: 67-68-67-67—269, second place, one stroke behind Ray Mangrum.
  • Jan. 26-28, Texas Open: 67-66-68-68—269, second place, one stroke behind Sam Byrd.
  • Feb. 1-4, Corpus Christi Open: 66-63-65-70—264, first place, won by four strokes over Jug McSpaden.
  • Feb. 9-11, New Orleans Open: 70-70-73-71—284, first place, defeated Jug McSpaden in playoff.
  • Feb. 16-18, Gulfport Open: 69-68-72-66—275, second place, lost playoff to Sam Snead.
  • Feb. 23-25, Pensacola Open Invitational: 69-69-71-65—274, second place, seven strokes behind Sam Snead.
  • March 1-4, Jacksonville Open: 68-66-72-69—275, sixth place, nine strokes behind Sam Snead.
  • March 8-11, Miami International Four-Ball: First place. Match-play tournament, partnered by Jug McSpaden. They beat Sam Byrd/Denny Shute in the championship match.
  • March 16-19, Charlotte Open: 70-68-66-68—272, first place, defeated Sam Snead in 36-hole playoff.
  • March 23-25, Greater Greensboro Open: 70-67-68-66—271, first, won by eight strokes over Sam Byrd.
  • March 30-April 1, Durham Open: 71-69-71-65—276, first place, won by five strokes over Toney Penna.
  • April 5-8, Atlanta Open: 64-69-65-65—263, first place, won by nine strokes over Sam Byrd.
  • June 7-10, Montreal Open: 63-68-69-68—268, first place, won by 10 strokes over Jug McSpaden.
  • June 14-17, Philadelphia Inquirer Open: 68-68-70-63—269, first place, won by two strokes over Jug McSpaden.
  • June 29-July 1, Chicago Victory National Open: 69-68-68-70—275, first place, won by seven strokes over Ky Laffoon and Jug McSpaden.
  • July 9-15, PGA Championship: First place, match play tournament. Won the championship match over Sam Byrd, 4 and 3.
  • July 26-29, Tam O'Shanter Open: 66-68-68-67—269, first place, won by 11 strokes over Ben Hogan and Gene Sarazen.
  • Aug. 2-4, Canadian Open: 68-72-72-68—280, first place, won by four strokes over Herman Barron.
  • Aug. 16-19, Memphis Invitational: 69-73-66-68—276, fourth place, six strokes behind Fred Haas.
  • Aug. 23-26, Knoxville Invitational: 67-69-73-67—276, first place, won by 10 strokes over Sam Byrd.
  • Aug. 31-Sept. 3, Nashville Invitational: 70-64-67-68—269, tied for second place (with Johnny Bulla), four strokes behind Ben Hogan.
  • Sept. 6-9, Dallas Open: 72-70-71-68—281, third place, five strokes behind Sam Snead.
  • Sept. 13-16, Tulsa Open: 73-69-75-71—288, fourth place, 11 strokes behind Sam Snead.
  • Sept. 19-23, Esmeralda Open: 66-66-70-64—266, first place, won by seven over Jug McSpaden.
  • Sept. 27-30, Portland Open Invitational: 71-71-67-66—275, second place, 14 strokes behind Ben Hogan.
  • Oct. 4-7, Tacoma Open: 70-69-73-71—283, ninth place, eight strokes behind Jimmy Hines.
  • Oct. 11-14, Seattle Open: 62-68-63-66—259, first place, won by 13 strokes over Harry Givan and Jug McSpaden.
  • Dec. 14-16, Glen Garden Open: 72-65-66-70—273, first place, won by eight strokes over Jimmy Demaret.
Nelson set several tournament and tour records for lowest winning scores. His 271 at the Greater Greensboro Open was the tournament record; his 263 at the Atlanta Open was the tournament record and, at the time, the all-time PGA Tour record. It bested Craig Wood's 264 from 1940. However, Ben Hogan took that record away with his 261 at the Portland Open, then Nelson re-took the 72-hole scoring record with his 259 in Seattle (the first sub-260 score in Tour history). Finally, Nelson's 269 was the tournament record in the Tam O'Shanter.

The 259 Nelson posted in winning in Seattle stood as the PGA Tour 72-hole scoring record for 10 years, until Mike Souchak's 257 at the 1955 Texas Open. Other than Souchak, nobody bettered Nelson's 259 on the PGA Tour until 1989. And Nelson's 62 in the first round in Seattle tied the tour's then-record for 18 holes.

Nelson's scoring average in 1945 was 68.33. That's unadjusted (today the Vardon Trophy is awarded based on adjusted scoring average). Nelson didn't win the Vardon Trophy, however, because it wasn't awarded from 1942-46. However, Nelson's 1945 unadjusted scoring average of 68.33 wasn't bettered until Tiger Woods' 68.17 in 2000. The PGA Tour's own award for low scoring average is today named the Byron Nelson Award.

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