Wood was second to Sarazen's famous shot
March 05, 2015
By World Golf Hall of Fame
- March 05, 2015
- Craig Wood lost playoffs at all four majors before winning the 1941 Masters and U.S. Open. (Courtesy of World Golf Hall of Fame)
This is the 80th anniversary of Gene Sarazen’s famed double-eagle at Augusta National’s 15th hole. Sarazen’s hole-out with a 4-wood from 255 yards led to his first Masters victory. He also is the only player to complete the career Grand Slam at Augusta National.
Sarazen’s improbable shot didn’t lead to an outright victory, though. He had to defeat Craig Wood in a playoff. Wood lost playoffs at all four major championships before winning the 1941 Masters and U.S. Open.
Wood was elected into the World Golf Hall of Fame in 2008. The below profile is courtesy of WorldGolfHallofFame.org.
He was known as the “Blond Bomber” because of his rugged good looks and his ability to drive the golf ball prodigious distances, but he also won 21 times on the PGA TOUR between 1928 and 1944. His two major victories came in the same year, at the 1941 Masters and U.S. Open.
Born in 1901 in Lake Placid, New York, Wood’s father was a timber company foreman and outdoorsman who taught his son how to wield an ax. It is said that this is where a young Wood developed keen hand-eye coordination and significant upper-body and hand strength, which later translated into his exceptional skill on the golf course.
But, in the early days of his career, Wood seemed "snake-bit," as he lost in a playoff in each of the professional Grand Slam events.
In the 1933 Open Championship at St. Andrews, Wood drove into the Swilcan Burn on the first hole of a playoff, ultimately losing to rival Denny Shute by five strokes in the only Open Championship that Wood played. (The Wood reputation for long driving was burnished at St. Andrews when he drove the ball a measured 430 yards into a bunker!)
Wood lost to his former student and assistant pro Paul Runyan in a sudden-death playoff at the 1934 PGA Championship after they were all-square after the scheduled 36 holes of the championship match.
Wood was runner-up at the inaugural Masters in 1934. He lost a playoff to Sarazen in 1935 after Sarazen hit arguably the most famous shot in tournament history. Sarazen holed out for an albatross on the par-5 15th in the final round, instantly making up a three-stroke deficit to Wood in the blink of an eye.
Sarazen went on to win the next day’s 36-hole playoff by five strokes.
Wood was tied with Byron Nelson and Denny Shute after the regulation 72 holes in the 1939 U.S. Open at Philadelphia Country Club. The ensuing 18-hole playoff quickly settled into a match between Nelson and Wood. Nelson made birdie on the final hole to tie Wood and force a second 18-hole playoff. Nelson edged Wood, 70 to 73, to capture the U.S. Open.
With America's entry in World War II looming, Wood had his finest year in 1941, becoming the first person to capture The Masters and the U.S. Open in the same year.
Wood was the Masters’ first wire-to-wire winner. He shot 8-under 280 (66-71-71-72) to finish three shots ahead of Nelson.
In the 1941 U.S. Open at Colonial Country Club in Fort Worth, Texas, Wood bested Shute, his old friend and rival, by three and finished five ahead of Johnny Bulla and hometown favorite Ben Hogan.
Wood was more than just a fine TOUR professional; he was widely recognized as a salt-of-the-earth man who regularly helped younger players with their game and remained true to his everyman roots in upstate New York. In fact, in his six years as the head professional at famed Winged Foot Golf Club, he would often go into the men's locker room and call out, "Anyone looking for a game?" Not bad for a man with two majors and 21 wins on the Tour.
But perhaps it was Sam Snead who best summed-up Wood when he said, "He's the nicest guy I think I've ever seen."