The Byron Nelson vs. BMW PGA

May, 24, 2011
05/24/11
9:59
PM ET

PGA Tour leadership, divert your eyes.

Trivia question

During Byron Nelson's record streak of 11 victories in 1945, a win in what tournament started the run? (Answer below.)

It's another week, another superior field in the European Tour event.

Maybe that's not entirely fair to the PGA Tour this week, though, as the BMW PGA Championship is being held -- one of the European Tour's crown jewel events. Regardless, Europe should be where golf fans turn to see the best in the world this weekend.

The BMW this week has the top-three players in the world, six of the top seven, all four reigning major champions and half the world's top-20 players in their field this week.

The HP Byron Nelson Championship -- which isn't a shabby PGA Tour event at all -- has one top-10 player (10th-ranked Matt Kuchar), and just four top-20 players in their field.

If you're looking for a favorite at the BMW this week, it's almost impossible to not pick world No. 2 Luke Donald.

Since winning the WGC-Accenture Match Play in February, Donald has yet to finish outside the top-10 in the world in eight starts, with five of those finishes being of the top-five variety. Donald finished tied for second in this event last year, and has three career top-10's to his credit.


Three on the tee is a look at a trio of intriguing players in this weekend's HP Byron Nelson Championship. With formalities out of the way, the starter calls to the tee:

Jason Day: Day broke through with his first career victory here last year, holding off Brian Gay, Blake Adams and Jeff Overton by 2 shots. Day is playing terrific golf right now -- he's got five top-10 finishes in 11 starts this year, and had three straight T-10s before last weekend's T-31 finish.

No champion has repeated here since Tom Watson won it three straight times from 1978-1980. If Day is to break that trend, it certainly wouldn't hurt to putt the ball like he did a year ago, when he led the field in total putts and in strokes gained. For the week, he was 60-for-63 from inside 10 feet, helping him play the back nine in 8-under for the tournament.

Brian Gay: Gay gave the young Aussie a run for his money here last year, closing with a bogey-free 63 and surging to a T-2 finish. Gay, who leads the PGA Tour in driving accuracy, has the type of game that fits perfectly for Lord Byron's event.

TPC Four Seasons ranked second-toughest in driving-accuracy percentage on the PGA Tour last year, as just 48.94 percent of tee shots for the week found the short grass. Only windy Waialae CC in Hawaii was tougher. Gay has made nine straight cuts, and might turn the corner on a course that fits his eye like this one does.

Nick Watney: With Donald and David Toms out of the field this week in Texas, Watney might qualify as the hottest player teeing it up. Watney finished tied for fourth at the Players Championship two weeks ago, and is just two months removed from the biggest win of his career at Doral. Watney trails only Donald and Hunter Mahan in top-10 finishes on tour with six.

Watney's putter is what is making him his money this year. At TPC Sawgrass he had just 25 putts in his opening-round 64, and 24 in his final round. Watney is currently seventh on tour in total putting and ninth in putting average.


This week, many will be spending some time remembering the fantastic career of Byron Nelson, the tournament's namesake. The Texas golf legend was inducted to the World Golf Hall of Fame in 1974, was awarded the PGA Tour Lifetime Achievement Award in 1997, and most notable of all, given the Congressional Gold Medal shortly after his death in 2006.

Nelson is probably most remembered for one of the most incredible seasons in American sports history. In 1945, Nelson won an incomprehensible 18 times -- five more than any other player has in a single calendar year in tour history. During that 18-victory year was the longest win streak in tour history, too -- a run of 11 straight, lasting from March into August.

Those numbers could be 19 in a year and 12 in a row, though -- Nelson won a 12th event at the end of the streak -- a two-day tournament in Spring Lake, N.J. However, the tournament is not counted as official because its purse was below the PGA Tour minimum.

The 11 straight wins is four more than anyone else in tour history -- Tiger Woods won seven straight starts from 2006-2007. It's also two more than Tiger Woods' most prolific season (not consecutive wins, but total wins) -- nine, done in 2000.

Trivia answer

Question: During Byron Nelson's record streak of 11 victories in 1945, a win in what tournament started the run?

Answer: 1945 Miami Four Ball, which he won with Jug McSpaden.

During the 11 straight wins, Nelson won a total of $30,250. Mark Wilson finished tied for 31st last week at Colonial. For that finish, he earned $33,686.

Numbers Game is a weekly stat-centric look at the PGA Tour.

Justin Ray has been a studio researcher for ESPN since June 2008 and is the lead researcher for "The Scott Van Pelt Show." Send comments and suggestions to Justin.Ray@espn.com.

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