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As the HP Byron Nelson Championship gets underway this week in Irving, Texas, it seems like an opportune time to explore a record set by Byron Nelson back in the 1940s that will never, ever be broken.
If you think I’m referring to his 11 consecutive victories in 1945, you’d be wrong—although that record is also unlikely to be broken in this modern era of the game.
If you think I’m referring to Nelson’s 18 total victories in 1945, you’d also be wrong—although, once again, that record is unlikely to be touched anytime soon.
Nope, I am referring to Nelson’s streak of 113 consecutive cuts made.
Okay, now, before you begin jumping through your computer monitor to attack me with, “Woods already broke Nelson’s record when he made 142 consecutive cuts,” we need to examine exactly how the PGA Tour defines a “made cut.”
The PGA Tour defines making a “cut” as simply receiving a pay check. The Tour’s media guide used to even have a category labeled, “Most Consecutive Tournaments in the Money” before changing it over to “Most Consecutive Events with Missing the Cut” in the late 1970s.
At a typical PGA Tour event, the top 70 and ties make the 36-hole cut and receive a pay check for the week. In Nelson’s era, however, only the top-20 finishers would receive pay checks.
So, Nelson’s streak of 113 consecutive cuts is better defined as a streak of 113 consecutive top-20 finishes, which is a record that will NEVER be matched by any player.
Just to put Nelson’s streak into perspective, Woods’ longest streak of top-20 finishes tops out at 23 between 2000 and 2001, a mere 90 short of Nelson’s 113 consecutive “made cuts.”
Nelson also managed to win 38 tournaments during the course of this streak, which is a 34 percent winning percentage.
In this day and age, when parity has become the new winning,—at least in terms of the World Golf Rankings—it’s not out of the question to surmise that, had the World Golf Rankings existed in the 1940s, Nelson would have been the No. 1-ranked player for at least six years, which would have trumped Woods’ record of 264 consecutive weeks at No. 1.
It’s easy to get caught up in this modern era of the game. Due to the persistent media coverage surrounding Woods’ quest for 18 majors, we tend to forget that there were some truly great players who came along many years before Woods and Jack Nicklaus.
Woods may or may not break Nicklaus’ record of 18 major championship wins; no one can predict one way or the other with any level of certainty.
What is as close as possible to a certainty in this game, however, is that no one will even approach, let alone break, Nelson’s record of 113 consecutive top-20 finishes.
In this aforementioned day and age of “parity,” five consecutive top 10s might just get you to No. 1 in the World Golf Rankings. But take Luke Donald and let him win 34 events and finish within the top 20 113 consecutive times over the next six years.
Only then might you have a modern-day equivalent to Byron Nelson.