26th PGA Championship
A 36-hole qualifying round to get into match play was conducted the Monday and Tuesday before the Championship. Byron Nelson was low qualifier with 138. A score of 149 qualified for match play and two players at 149 had a playoff for one spot. Some notable players who didn’t make it to match play included Harry Cooper (150) and Olin Dutra (152). Sam Snead was unable to defend his title because he was in a naval hospital in San Diego, undergoing treatment for a recurrence of an old back injury. All matches played at 36 holes.
In the finals, the 28-year-old Hamilton was a 10-1 longshot, but still went on to upset Nelson, 1-up. After the morning round, the match was even as both players shot 70. In the afternoon round, Hamilton won the 19th hole with a birdie 3, and it was the first time in the Championship that Nelson had been down to an opponent. Nelson would never get the lead again. Hamilton got to 2-up when Nelson bogeyed the 29th hole, but Nelson birdied the next hole. Another birdie by Nelson at the 33rd hole squared the match, but Hamilton came back to win the next hole with a birdie. They halved the 35th hole with par and went to the final hole, which was a driveable 300 yards. Nelson’s drive landed in heavy grass short of the green, while Hamilton was just short of the green. Nelson pitched to within 10 feet of the hole, while Hamilton almost chipped it in, his ball stopping 20 inches away. Even though it was an exciting moment for Hamilton, Nelson forced him to earn the Championship by making his birdie putt. Hamilton quickly got over his putt and stroked it in, telling reporters afterwards, “I putted the last one as quick as possible. It was less than two feet, but the longer I looked, the longer the distance seemed.” Nelson was dejected afterwards, telling reporters, “Four times in the Championship finals, and I’ve won only one; maybe I should give up the game.” Nelson had rightful cause to give up, as he shot 140, 4-under-par, and lost to Hamilton, who was 5-under-par. Over the course of the seven-day Championship, Nelson was 30-under-par for the 196 holes he played.