Golf’s 13 greatest achievements: Let the debate begin

Trying to sort out, much less rank, the greatest individual achievements in the history of golf may be more hazardous than trying to drive a distant, well-bunkered green. Just remember that these picks are made not for lifetime greatness, but for excellence in a single tournament or over a season or two.

1. Byron Nelson wins 11 straight tournaments in 1945

Byron Nelson winks as he poses at the display table of the trophy and medals at the PGA Golf Championship at Shawnee Country Club, Shawnee-on-Delaware, Pa., June 14, 1938.

This record is to golf what Joe DiMaggio’s 56-game hitting streak is to baseball. It’s hard to imagine it ever being broken. The closest anybody has come is Tiger Woods, who strung together seven straight wins on the PGA Tour beginning in 2006 and ending in 2007. While Nelson may have benefitted from some dropoff in competition as the result of World War II, his record is still astounding in a sport in which just a few bad holes can be costly.

As Woods himself says of Nelson’s streak, “I don't care that some of the guys were gone with the war and stuff. Winning 11 in a row ... do you realize how good you have to play? You're going to have one bad week in there, but his bad week he still won by probably, three, four, five shots?'' Actually, his average margin of victory was 6.6 strokes in medal play (the other victories came in a team and match-play events).

Altogether Nelson won 18 tournaments in 1945, finished second seven times, and turned in the tour’s lowest year-long scoring average (68.33 shots per round). The amiable Texan retired from fulltime competition the next year at age 34 because by then he had enough money to do what he set out to do, which was to become a rancher.

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