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Byron Nelson: His Last Interview

FORGET THE LAST ONE AND FOCUS ON THIS ONE

"The best round of golf I ever played was at the 1937 Masters. Not the best score, but the best round. I didn't putt that good, but I shot a 66. I was in the zone. I walked off the 18th green and shook [playing partner] Paul Runyan's hand, and he said, 'You did something I've never seen before.' I didn't know what he meant, but I had played perfect golf tee-to-green. I hit every par 3 in one, every par 4 in two and every par 5 in two. That's 32 swings in 18 holes. I was in the moment, as they say. I wasn't thinking about what I was gonna shoot, or how many greens I hit. Forget about that last birdie or that last bogey when you get to the next tee. Just forget it. It's gone. Play one shot. One shot. One shot. That's how you do it. That's golf."

BE BOLD WHEN YOU'RE FEELING IT

"Another thing about the '37 Masters: There are times to be brave. On Sunday I was three shots down to Ralph Guldahl with nine to play. I came to 13, the par 5 with water in front, with Ralph playing in front of me. I'm in the fairway and I saw him make 6, so my caddie and I talked about laying up, so I'd make no worse than 5 and gain a shot. But I just knew I could get a 3-wood to that little ol' green. So I said, 'The Lord hates a coward. Give me the 3-wood.' I took it, knocked it on the left edge, and chipped in for eagle! That was my first Masters win. By nature I'm conservative, but sometimes you have to step boldly."

BE YOURSELF

"Ben Hogan and I knew each other since we were kids, but we were not really friends. We were well acquainted, let's say. When Ben built a nice home in Fort Worth, I was never invited to his house. I never got a call to come over. I never got a call from Hogan in my life. I never heard him crack a joke or say something funny. The man wanted to be left alone. I respect that, but I've always believed in having lots of friends and family around you. One time Ben and I played together in Fort Worth. We went to the caddie master, and Ben's caddie, this little kid, said, 'Hi, Mr. Hogan!' Ben just looked at the boy and said, 'You know the rules: Carry my clubs and keep your mouth shut.'"

RESPECT YOURSELF AND THE GAME

"I only threw a club once in a tournament, but boy, I really threw it! I was playing in Canada with Horton Smith. I was swinging well but not putting great. I missed a three-footer and, as we walked off the green, I was so mad that I snapped. I threw that putter up into this big old evergreen. It hit some branches, wobbled, and came back down. That got some tension out, and I calmed down and shot 66. That night, Horton, who was older, said, 'You know, I was disappointed to see you throw that putter today. I've never seen you do that.' And he gave me a little lecture, which I deserved. Then he smiled and said, 'But if you hadn't thrown that putter, I don't think you would have shot 66.'"

JUST HIT THE DARN BALL

"In '35 in the practice round at a tournament in Winston-Salem, I put a ball into this ditch on the long par-3 eighth hole and made a 6. Well, the thought of playing that hole haunted me all that night. When I got there in the first round, I was already 5-over. And it hit me: 'You dumbbell! You've been worrying about the shot all day, and now your whole round is ruined.' I put all this pressure on myself. That creates tension and changes your rhythm. So you want to think every shot is like a shot you hit at the range. No tension. Just hit the darn ball."

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