THE MOMENT: HOGAN AND NELSON PLAYOFF
Byron Nelson and Ben Hogan once worked together in the same caddie yard in Fort Worth, Texas.
The two made their way to professional golf in the 1930s, and Nelson quickly reached star status with a handful of wins in the biggest events. Hogan was still searching for his first major victory.
In 1942, with the world at war and most big events suspended, the Masters was held for the last time before a three-year hiatus. Nelson and Hogan would be the principal figures as high drama played out at Augusta National.
Nelson took the 36-hole lead with a torrid 68-67 start, but Hogan closed the gap with 67 in the third round. When Nelson slipped to 73 in the final round, Hogan forged a tie with 70.
The Monday playoff was just the second in the brief history of the Masters. Under ideal conditions and in front of a reported gallery of 4,000 fans, Nelson and Hogan stepped onto the first tee for what would prove to be an epic battle.
Nelson was battling a nervous stomach on the day of the playoff.
"I remember seeing Byron's wife, Louise, in a corridor of the Bon-Air Hotel that morning," Hogan recalled in a Masters Journal article. "And she told me he was sick. I said, 'Uh-oh. I don't want to play him today.' I've seen too many guys play their best golf when they're sick. It happens all the time."
Hogan's fears were unfounded, at least early on.
Nelson hit a poor tee shot on the first hole, and that led to a double bogey. After a bogey at the fourth, Nelson found himself three shots behind the steady Hogan.
Nelson cut into the lead with a birdie at the sixth while Hogan made bogey. At the par-5 eighth, Nelson laced his second shot to within six feet of the cup, and he rolled in the putt for eagle.
After both made pars at No. 9, Nelson held a one-shot lead.
A bogey at the 10th dropped Hogan two back, and then Nelson put on a display of excellent golf with birdies at the 11th, 12th and 13th holes.
Hogan made birdies on the 11th and 13th, but then he found himself three down with five to play.
Hogan cut into the deficit with birdies at Nos. 14 and 15, but that would be as close as he would get. A bogey on the 16th sealed his fate.
A closing bogey left Nelson with 69, and he played the final 13 holes in 5-under fashion. Hogan played excellent golf, making five birdies, but he finished one shot back with 70.
The victory made Nelson the second two-time Masters winner, and he was clearly pleased with the victory.
"Except for the first hole, I think that was the finest round of golf I ever shot," Nelson said afterwards. "It easily could have been a 66 or 67."
WORLD WAR II
It didn't take long for Augusta National and the Masters to shut down operations during World War II.
Five months after Japan attacked Pearl Harbor on Dec. 7, 1941, the Masters went on as scheduled. Byron Nelson defeated Ben Hogan in an 18-hole playoff.
Bobby Jones and Clifford Roberts decided almost immediately after the 1942 Masters to cease play for the duration of the war. It's hard to imagine now, but the club's greenskeeper raised turkey and cattle on the grounds while the club was closed.
Jones, who was 40, was commissioned as a captain in the Army Air Corps. He was eventually stationed overseas, and the day after D-Day his unit landed at Normandy.
Several top players also enlisted. Sam Snead and Jimmy Demaret were in the Navy, Ben Hogan was in the Army Air Corps and Lloyd Mangrum served in the Army. Byron Nelson, who had a medical condition, was exempt from service.
Augusta National reopened in 1945, and the Masters resumed in 1946.
Jimmy Demaret was the most colorful character in Masters history. Famous for his brightly colored outfits, Demaret became the tournament's first three-time winner with victories in 1940, 1947 and 1950.
Demaret's four-stroke win in 1940 earned this description from The Augusta Chronicle's Tom Wall: "He clicked off the final round in machine-like precision despite tremendous pressure, never once appearing concerned about how it all might end."
Demaret parred the first 14 holes, added a two-putt birdie at the 15th, then parred the final three holes to sew up his victory. Fellow Texan Lloyd Mangrum, who opened the tournament with a course record 64, could do no better than 74 on the final day and finished second.
In 1947, Demaret picked up his second Masters victory as the first golfer in tournament history to score all four rounds under par. He shot rounds of 69, 71, 70 and 71 for a two-shot win over Byron Nelson.
Three years later, Demaret needed some help from Jim Ferrier to become the tournament's first three-time winner. Ferrier carried a four-stroke lead into the final round over Demaret, who was playing well in front of Ferrier on the final day. Demaret posted his 69 and waited to see whether his total would hold up.
Ferrier carried a big lead into the final nine, but he came home in 41 to ruin his chance of winning. Demaret, who played the par-5 13th in 6-under for the tournament with two eagles and two birdies, made birdies on three of his final six holes. Ferrier bogeyed five of the final six.
It was Demaret's wardrobe, not his golf, that Randy Russell focused on in his account in The Chronicle : "Demaret, whose colorful garb made him look like an Easter egg rolling along the greensward, backed in to the victory that made him the first man in history to win the Masters three times."
Phil Harison witnessed every Masters from its inception through 2008. Beginning in 1947, he had a pretty good seat. He served as the official starter and chairman of the Starters and Pairings Committee from 1947 until 2007.
In 1941, Craig Wood shed his label as a player who couldn't quite get over the Masters hump. He was runner-up in the inaugural event in 1934, and the next year fell victim to Gene Sarazen's famous double eagle.
The "blond bomber," Wood's nickname for his length off the tee, started with 6-under 66, and he followed with 71, 71 and 72. He won by three shots over Nelson, and he became the first wire-to-wire winner at Augusta National.
Herman Keiser gave the tournament its first major upset when he nipped Ben Hogan by a shot to win the 1946 Masters.
Keiser had led from the outset but 3-putted the final hole for a closing 74. Hogan came to the final hole with a chance to win outright, but he missed his birdie putt from 12 feet.
The ball slipped past about three feet, and when Hogan missed the comeback, Keiser won outright.
Claude Harmon's only professional victory came at the 1948 Masters. Best known for being the club pro at Winged Foot and Seminole, Harmon proved he could play with the touring pros as his total of 279 matched the low score for 72 holes and his five-stroke win over Cary Middlecoff established a record for margin of victory.
Sam Snead was known for his straw hat, but his first Masters win will always be linked to another piece of clothing: the first green jacket.
The Masters awarded the iconic garment to the winner beginning in 1949, and Snead was the first recipient.
He started slowly with scores of 73 and 75 but closed like a champion with a pair of 67s for a three-shot win.