Byron Nelson: His Last Interview

THE MAN OF STEEL
Nelson's swing stemmed from a shift in technology

Byron Nelson emerged as world-class golfer just as steel shafts were beginning to replace traditional hickory shafts, and he was the first to realize that steel required a less "handsy" swing. He determined that using the leg, hip and torso muscles was a more reliable and powerful way to hit a ball. The World Golf Hall of Fame notes: "Nelson was particularly noteworthy for the way his swing was more upright and along the target line, employing a full shoulder turn with restricted wrist cock, and for the way he kept his knees flexed in the downswing."

How flawless were his mechanics? When True Temper Sports developed a robotic swing device in 1964, its technicians, in search of a model, studied high-speed photography of the swings of dozens of Tour pros and scratch amateurs. Nelson's motion was the most efficient, wasting the least energy from the top of the swing through impact. The machine, which the USGA now uses to determine equipment standards, was at first called the "Golf Club Testing Device." Years later it assumed the muchcatchier moniker: "Iron Byron."

NELSON'S NUMBERS

Eleventh Heaven
Byron Nelson's 11-tournament winning streak has held up as the Tour's best for 61 years—and it may remain so for 61 more. Here's where and how he pulled it off.
Event Final Score in
relation to par
Strokes won by Earnings
1 Miami Four-Ball match play --- $1,500
2 Charlotte Open -16 4 $2,000
3 Greater Greensboro Open -13 8 $1,333
4 Durham Open -4 5 $1,333
5 Atlanta Open -13 9 $2,000
6 Montreal Open -20 10 $2,000
7 Philadelphia Inquirer Invitational -11 2 $3,333
8 Chicago Victory National Open -13 7 $2,000
9 PGA Championship match play -- $3,750
10 Tam O'Shanter Open -19 11 $13,600
11 Canadian Open E 4 $2,000
Total earnings: $34,849 (about $391,600 in today's dollars)
Arnold Palmer on The Streak: "In 1945, Byron Nelson was the greatest golfer of all time. The man won 11 tournaments in a row. Some people say it was the war and lack of competition, but that's bull. In 1945 Byron Nelson was as close to a machine as anyone who ever played golf."


5 - Major victories (1937 and '42 Masters, 1939 U.S. Open, 1940 and '45 PGA Championship)

11 - Consecutive wins in 1945 (a Tour record)

18 - Total wins in 1945 (year of The Streak); finished second seven times

34 - Age at which he retired

52 - Career PGA Tour victories, sixth all-time

65 - Consecutive tournaments he finished in the top 10 from 1942-46

68.33 - Scoring average in 1945

67.67 - Fourth-round scoring average in 1945

113 - Consecutive cuts made, second all-time to Tiger Woods' 142

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