1940-1949 PGA Championships
Nelson won the 1940 PGA Championship with a 1-up victory over Sam Snead. In 1941, Nelson made it to the finals for a third straight time, falling to Vic Ghezzi in an overtime match.
With the outbreak of World War II, the match-play field was reduced to 32 players. Even with the change, Snead called the 1942 PGA Championship, his first of seven major triumphs, his biggest thrill in golf. He defeated Jim Turnesa, 2 and 1, in the finale. It was Snead’s third appearance in the finals and he finished the match by holing a 60-foot chip shot for birdie on the 35th hole.
Golf took a back seat to the War in 1943 and the PGA Championship was canceled. When the event resumed in 1944, underdog Bob Hamilton, 28, upset Byron Nelson, 1-up. Nelson had appeared in four finals and won only once. The following year, Nelson handled Sam Byrd in the finals, 4 and 3, while continuing one of sport’s most remarkable winning streaks—11 consecutive tournament victories. The Championship was No. 9 on Nelson’s memorable list.
The PGA Championship in 1946 was Ben Hogan’s first triumph in one of golf’s four majors. Then, in 1948, Hogan cruised past Mike Turnesa, 7 and 6, to win his second Championship and become the first player since Sarazen in 1922 to win the U.S. Open and the PGA Championship in the same year.
For the week, Hogan went 35-under par for the 213 holes he played. However, he said he didn’t think he would play in the PGA Championship again. The grind of 10 rounds in five days was too much. But Hogan reconsidered the following month after winning the U.S. Open. The 1949 automobile accident that left Hogan’s legs battered and unable to go 36 holes forced him to skip the PGA Championship until it switched to a stroke-play format in 1958.
Hogan had an impressive PGA record, qualifying seven times for the match-play portion, and winning 81 percent of his matches (22 of 27). He played in three stroke-play Championships, tying for ninth in 1964 and tying for 15th in 1965.
In 1949, The PGA Championship was played in “Snead Country,” Richmond, Va. Snead didn’t disappoint his fans, defeating Johnny Palmer, 3 and 2, for the Championship. Snead also won the 1951 Championship, streaking past Walter Burkemo, 7 and 6, the second-most decisive victory in PGA Championship match-play history. Snead was the only PGA Champion in the 1950s to win other major championships.