Recently, while browsing a thrift shop in the Destin area, I found Byron Nelson's autobiography, entitled How I Played the Game. For those of you that don't already know it, Byron came from the same caddy yard as Ben Hogan, and often got the better of him as a professional. He won fifty four official PGA tournaments, along with seven more unofficial professional events, before retiring early to enjoy life on his Texas ranch.
He was a consummate ball striker. He also established a record that will surely never be equalled in 1945. In that year he won eighteen tournaments, including eleven in a row. He also finished second seven times. It took a kid named Tiger Woods to finally have a marginally lower scoring average than the 68.33 Byron had in 1945.
However, a round I didn't know about, and one that Byron spoke fondly of was the sixty six he posted in the opening round of the 1937 Masters on his way to his first Masters win. In that round, Byron hit every green in regulation, including all the par five greens in two. He took thirty four putts for a sixty six. It remained the lowest opening round in the Masters for thirty nine years until Raymond Floyd, with a hot putter, bettered it. If there was ever a better round, from a ball striking perspective, I'm not aware of it.
We are inclined to marvel at these modern pros and how they can strike the ball. But, I'm here to tell you that there's nobody out there who strikes it any better, or more consistently, than Byron did. I guess that's why they call the machine, Iron Byron. These new kids are good, but me thinks Byron would have taught them a thing or two. In fact, Byron helped Tom Watson and Ken Venturi on their way to becoming great ball strikers and champions.
These guys are good, but don't forget, when discussing the great ones, to give Byron his due. I only wish I could have seen him play.