Masters 2012: Breaking Down 1942 Event That Made This a Major Event

Fred Altvater@@tolohgolfrContributor IIApril 2, 2012

Ben Hogan & Byron Nelson were tied at 280 in the 1942 Masters
Ben Hogan & Byron Nelson were tied at 280 in the 1942 Masters

Bobby Jones Jr. won all four major championships in 1930: the U. S. Open, the U. S. Amateur, the British Amateur and the British Open.

Jones’ “Grand Slam” has gone down in history as one of the greatest golfing accomplishments of all time. 

Bobby Jones and his partner Clifford Roberts purchased an old nursery at the edge of Augusta, Georgia for the purpose of building a championship golf course. 

In 1931 Dr. Alistair McKenzie was chosen to design Augusta National.  Bobby had decided on McKenzie after playing two of his finer works, Pasatiempo and Cypress Point, on a trip through California.  

Work was completed on the Augusta National Golf Club in 1933 and the first tournament was held in 1934.

Byron Nelson, Sam Snead and Ben Hogan were all born in 1912 and began their golfing careers in the 1930s. 

Snead, a natural athlete, became the most popular American golfer of this era and helped get the professional golf tour started. 

Byron Nelson took five years to perfect his swing and then dominated golf until he retired to run his ranch in Texas at the age of 34.

Ben Hogan took the longest to find success of these three but ended with the most heralded career.

Augusta National Club House
Augusta National Club HouseDavid Cannon/Getty Images


The three golfers together had 168 wins, 21 major titles and dominated golf for over twenty years.  In his new book, James Dodson calls them the “American Triumvirate”.

All three were having success on the fledgling PGA tour by 1942 and were competing for first place checks every week.

Ben Hogan had ten wins and always seemed to finish in the top five of every tournament that he entered.  He was the PGA Tour’s leading money winner in 1940 and 1941.  

Byron Nelson won the 1937 Masters, the 1939 U. S. Open and the 1940 PGA.

By 1942 Sam Snead was the most recognizable figure on the PGA Tour and had already won 26 regular tour events.  The only thing lacking from his golfing resume’ was a major title. 

Leading into the 1942 Masters Hogan, Snead and Nelson were all at the top of their games.  Two weeks prior to Masters week when they finished first, second and third in the prestigious North and South Open held at Pinehurst, considered a major at the time. 

Hogan also added a win in Asheville, North Carolina before rolling into Augusta.

World War II was raging in Europe.  The Japanese had attacked Pearl Harbor in December 1941 and everyone knew it was just a matter of time before the PGA would be forced to cease tournament play.

The British Open had already been suspended and Britain’s finest golf courses had been turned into landing strips for aircraft.

Gas was rationed making it impossible to travel to events. Steel for golf shafts and rubber for golf balls were also needed for the war effort.

All of the golfers felt the added pressure to get a major before the war shut down the PGA Tour.

1942 was also the first time that the Masters was broadcast live by NBC radio.  Many feel this is one of the factors that helped turn the Masters into a major.

Clifford Roberts had recognized the importance that press coverage could have to the overall success of the tournament. 

He scheduled the Masters to coincide with the close of Major League Baseball Spring Training which allowed the leading sportswriters to stop at Augusta on the way north to follow the start of the baseball season.

These reasons plus the stature that the great Bobby Jones brings to the history and feel of the event are enough to make it a major.

The fact is that the top players have to perform well to make a tournament something special.  The Masters delivers year after year.

Ben Hogan and Byron Nelson ended the 1942 Masters tied in regulation at 280.  They were forced to play an 18-hole playoff on Monday.  Sam Snead finished seventh in 1942 but would go on to win the Masters in 1949, 1952 and 1954.

Sam Snead
Sam Snead

Nelson and Hogan did not disappoint the 1,500 spectators that showed up on Monday for the playoff. 

After Byron had struck a nearly perfect seven-iron at the treacherous par-three twelfth he tapped in for his birdie and took a three-up lead with just six holes remaining to play.

Hogan countered with birdies on 14 and 15 again cutting Nelson’s lead back to just one with three to play.  He would never get any closer.

Ben made bogey on the par-three 16th and fell two behind which would be the final difference.  Byron Nelson would win his second and last Masters title. 

History had been made.

Every year crowds continued to swell and the interest in the Masters began to spread across America. 

Today the Masters announces the beginning of spring for most of the country and the beginning of the serious golf season as the first major of the year. 

It is the only major tournament played on the same course every year and golf fans anxiously await the beautiful spring colors of Azaleas, Dogwoods and Magnolias splashed across their television screens. 

After the 1942 Masters Bobby Jones and Cliff Roberts turned Augusta National into farm raising turkeys and cattle to support the war effort.

The Masters was not resumed until 1946 when Ben Hogan three-putted the 72nd hole and again finished runner-up.  Ben had to wait to get his Green Jackets in 1951 and 1953.

The Masters has become one of the most watched and anticipated events in golf. 

The aura of Bobby Jones lingers among the majestic pines, rolling fairways and undulating greens.

It is the first major of the year.  Golf fans are forced to wait with eager anticipation every year from the end of the PGA Championship in August to the first week in April. 

Another reason for the Masters huge popularity is that it is held annually at one of the most beautiful golf courses in the world, Augusta National.

Most importantly it is one of the most difficult tournaments to qualify or be invited to play.  Every year it brings drama and excitement especially when the leaders make the turn to the back nine on Sunday and reach “Amen Corner”.

The list of winners of the Masters over the years reads like a roll call for the Hall of Fame.  In addition to Hogan, Snead, and Nelson, Arnold Palmer, Jack Nicklaus, Gary Player, Phil Mickelson and Tiger Woods have each won multiple Green Jackets.

Augusta National and the Masters just like Bobby Jones are true American Gems.


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