Ralph Guldahl's Tour Wins and Record in Majors

Ralph Guldahl was one of the best golfers of the 1930s. He won 16 times total (including a couple wins in the 1940s), and three of those victories were in major championships. On this page we'll take a closer look at those wins, plus his other close calls in majors.

Guldahl's Professional Tournament Victories

Guldahl's 16 official PGA Tour wins are enough to land him on the list of golfers with the most PGA Tour wins. This is despite the fact that he twice left the tour, including almost fully retiring from tour play at the age of 32. (See our Ralph Guldahl biography for details on why he quit so young.)

These are Guldahl's 16 PGA Tour wins, the first of which happened when he was only 19 years old:

  • 1931 Santa Monica Open, match play, def. Tony Manero, 1-up, in 36-hole championship match
  • 1932 Arizona Open, 285, won by five strokes over John Perelli
  • 1934 Westwood Golf Club Open Championship, 273, won by four strokes over Willie Hunter
  • 1936 Western Open, 274, won by three strokes over Ray Mangrum
  • 1936 Augusta Open, 283, won by two strokes over Henry Picard, Denny Shute
  • 1936 Miami Biltmore Open, 283, won by two strokes over Horton Smith
  • 1937 U.S. Open, 281, won by two strokes over Sam Snead
  • 1937 Western Open, 288, beat Horton Smith in playoff
  • 1938 U.S. Open, 284, won by six strokes over Dick Metz
  • 1938 Western Open, 279, won by seven strokes over Sam Snead
  • 1939 Miami Biltmore International Four-Ball (with Sam Snead), match play, beat Horton Smith/Paul Runyan, 7 and 6 (36 holes) in championship match
  • 1939 Greater Greensboro Open, 280, won by three strokes over Clayton Heafner, Lawson Little
  • 1939 Masters Tournament, 279, won by one stroke over Sam Snead
  • 1939 Dapper Dan Open, 287, defeated Denny Shute in playoff
  • 1940 Milwaukee Open, 268, won by two strokes over Ed Oliver
  • 1940 Inverness Invitational Four-Ball (with Sam Snead), beat runners-up Jimmy Demaret/Dick Metz

His Second-Place Finishes

Guldahl had another 19 runner-up finishes in official PGA Tour tournaments:
  • 1933 U.S. Open
  • 1934 Santa Monica Mid-Summer Open (lost playoff)
  • 1934 Southern California Open Championship
  • 1936 Shawnee Open
  • 1936 Centennial Open
  • 1936 Seattle Open (lost playoff)
  • 1937 Los Angeles Open
  • 1937 Oakland Open
  • 1937 Masters
  • 1937 Hershey Open
  • 1937 Canadian Open
  • 1937 Miami Open
  • 1938 Masters
  • 1938 Chicago Open
  • 1939 Canadian Open
  • 1940 New Orleans Open
  • 1940 Asheville "Land of the Sky" Open
  • 1941 Miami Biltmore International Four-Ball
  • 1941 St. Paul Open

Ralph Guldahl's Wins in Major Championships

Guldahl first played in a major at the 1930 U.S. Open, and last in the 1973 Masters. But the years 1931-40 really constituted his tour career. His three wins in majors happened from 1937-39:

1937 U.S. Open

Guldahl opened the 1937 U.S. Open with a score of 71 and stood tied eighth at the end of the first round. A 69 in the second round moved him into a tie for first place. Following a 72 in Round 3, Guldahl was tied for second place with Sam Snead.

He started the final round one stroke behind the leader, Ed Dudley. And in that last round, Guldahl carded the lowest score of any of the leaders, a 69. He won by two strokes over Snead, who shot 71. (Dudley fell back with a 76.)

Guldahl played much of his final round with the pressure of knowing the score that Snead, playing well ahead of him, had posted. And Snead's 283 was just one stroke off the tournament scoring record. But Guldahl sank long putts on both the fifth and eighth holes, making birdie and eagle, respectively. On the back nine he overcame bogeys on the 10th and 11th with birdies on the 12th and 13th. He parred-in from there to win with a score of 281, setting a new U.S. Open scoring record.

1938 U.S. Open

Guldahl won his second consecutive U.S. Open, becoming just the fourth golfer to win this major back-to-back. He had to overcome a four-stroke deficit to start the final round, but he had some help from the golfer he was chasing.

Guldahl's first-round 74 left him in a tie for seventh place. After a 70 in Round 2, he was in fifth. And a 71 in Round 3 moved him up to third place. In first was Dick Metz, four strokes in front of Guldahl.

But Guldahl and Metz went in opposite directions in the final round. Guldahl scored 69 while Metz skied to a 79. The 10-stroke swing gave Guldahl a six-stroke win over runner-up Metz. Guldahl finished the 1938 U.S. Open at even-par 284, the only golfer who was not over-par for the tournament.

1939 Masters

The two previous years, Guldahl won the U.S. Open back-to-back. But he also finished second back-to-back in The Masters of 1937 and 1938. In the 1939 Masters, however, he got the top prize.

Guldahl opened with a 72 and was tied for sixth place after the first round. In Round 2, he moved up to second with a 68. With a 70 in the third round, he took the lead. His lead going into the final round was one over second-place Gene Sarazen, two over the quartet of Sam Snead, Byron Nelson, Lawson Little and Billy Burke.

Among those leaders, Guldahl's final-round 69 was bettered only by Snead's 68, but that wasn't good enough for Snead to catch him. Guldahl won by one stroke over Snead, who finished second. And Guldahl's 279 total established a new Masters Tournament scoring record.

His Scoring Records
With his Masters scoring record in 1939 joining the U.S. Open scoring record he set in 1937, Guldahl simultaneously held the scoring records of the two biggest stroke-play tournaments in America.

His U.S. Open mark of 281 broke the previous record of 282 set by Tony Manero in 1936. It stood until Ben Hogan won the 1948 U.S. Open with a score of 276.

Guldahl's Masters mark of 279 broke the record of 282 established by Sarazen and Craig Wood in 1935. It stood until Hogan won the 1953 Masters at 274.

His Second-Place Finishes in Majors

Guldahl had another three runner-up finishes in majors:
  • 1933 U.S. Open: Guldahl trailed amateur Johnny Goodman by six strokes entering the final round, but by his final hole he had made up all of that. He needed a birdie to win, a par to tie. Guldahl bogeyed, missing a 4-foot par-putt. He finished second, and Goodman was the last (to date) amateur to win the U.S. Open.

  • 1937 Masters: Here, Guldahl led by three after three rounds, with Byron Nelson four behind. But the tournament turned on the 12th and 13th holes of the final round. Guldahl played those holes in 5-6, Nelson in 2-3. Nelson wound up winning by two. The Nelson Bridge at Augusta National was dedicated in 1958 to commemorate Nelson's play on Nos. 12 and 13 in 1937.

  • 1938 Masters: Guldahl was one behind Henry Picard entering the final round, and he finished two behind him. Picard scored 70 in Round 4, Guldahl 71.

Guldahl's Other Top 10 Finishes in Majors

In addition to his three wins and three runner-up finishes, Guldahl also had these Top 10 finishes in major championships:
  • 3rd-place: 1940 PGA Championship (lost in match-play semifinals)
  • 5th-place: 1940 U.S. Open
  • 7th-place: 1939 U.S. Open
  • 8th-place: 1934 U.S. Open, 1936 U.S. Open
  • 9th-place: 1941 PGA Championship (lost in match-play Round of 16)
Guldahl played the British Open only once, tying for 11th in 1937. He entered the U.S. Open and Masters a few times near the end of the 1940s, then skipped the entire decade of the 1950s. Beginning in 1964, he played The Masters nine out of the next 10 years, his final appearance in a major coming in the 1973 Masters.

See also: Ralph Guldahl biography

Augusta National Golf Club. Masters 2024 Media Guide, "1937 Masters," "1938 Masters," "1939 Masters."
Brenner, Morgan. The Majors of Golf*, Volume 2, 2009, McFarland and Company.
Lincoln Evening State Journal. "Guldahl and Snead card 28 for 9 holes," March 9, 1939
Masters.com. "About the Masters," Historical Records and Stats, https://www.masters.com/en_US/scores/stats/historical/index.html
Oakland Tribune. "Guldahl wins Westwood tourney," November 23, 1934
PGATour.com. "Ralph Guldahl," PGA Tour Wins, https://www.pgatour.com/player/05252/ralph-guldahl
Sarasota Herald. "Ralph Guldahl wins at golf," January 26, 1931
Tucson Daily Citizen. "Snead, Guldahl take tournament," June 17, 1940
USGA. "U.S. Open Championship 124th Record Book," 2024.
USGA.com. "U.S. Open History," https://victory.usopen.com/history-landing/scoring-and-stats/records.html
*(affiliate link, commissions earned)

Popular posts from this blog

Ryder Cup Captains: The Full List