5 Most Overshadowed Single Seasons in Golf

Mike LynchContributor IIIDecember 16, 2011

5 Most Overshadowed Single Seasons in Golf

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    Luke Donald won the money titles on both the PGA and European Tour.  No golfer had previously accomplished this feat.  Yet 2011 will largely be overshadowed by other events in golf.

    Ben Hogan had his marvelous 1946 season dwarfed by the accomplishments of Byron Nelson the prior year.  Hogan got his revenge at the expense of Sam Snead in 1950.  His US Open victory put Snead's great year in the background.

    Jack Nicklaus managed to overshadow Tom Watson in 1980 and Greg Norman in 1986.

    The following slides will look at what each golfer accomplished in that particular year and why it was overshadowed by other performances.  Here are the five most overshadowed single season performances in golf history.

    As a disclaimer, I am only looking at post World War II years 

Ben Hogan: 1946

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    Ben Hogan won 13 professional tournaments including the PGA Championship.  It is undoubtedly one of the great years in golf history.

    However, Hogan picked a bad year to win so prolifically. In 1945, Byron Nelson had his signature season that still holds records today.  He won 18 tournaments, including 11 straight at one point.  He won over half the tournaments he entered.

    Hogan's great year came in the shadow of a legend.  While he won 13 tournaments, the magnitude of that had been dulled by Nelson's accomplishments the prior year.

    Hogan was further hurt by his icy demeanor and poor relationship with the press.

Sam Snead: 1950

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    Sam Snead holds the record for most PGA wins with 82.  The year 1950 saw him rack up 11 of these, his highest total for a single season.  However no one thinks of Sam Snead when 1950 is mentioned in golf.

    Ben Hogan suffered a life-threatening car accident in 1949.  The prospects of him ever playing golf again were slim.  

    He recovered amazingly enough that he was playing golf again in 1950.  He won the US Open that year at Merion despite nearly collapsing during the tournament.

    That one victory was enough to displace Snead for the PGA Player of the Year award.  Snead fell victim to an unbelievable story.  He also failed to win a major that year which did not help his cause.

    Snead managed to get a bit of revenge on Hogan in 1954.  Hogan had won all three majors he entered in 1953.  Snead beat him in a playoff at the Masters the following year, denying Hogan four straight majors.

Tom Watson: 1980

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    Tom Watson won seven tournaments including the British Open.  While he continued to establish himself as the best player of the day, Jack Nicklaus brought out some old magic.

    The Golden Bear had been in a mini hibernation, winning one major from 1976-1979.  In 1980, he awoke in a record way.  He only won two tournaments, but they happened to be the US Open and the PGA Championship.

    He set the scoring record at the US Open and won the PGA Championship by a record margin.

    Despite the consistent success of Watson, the flash of Jack Nicklaus proved to be the story in 1980. Watson did manage to win three majors in his career at the expense of Jack Nicklaus. Most notable was the "Duel in the Sun," the name given to the 1977 British Open.

Greg Norman: 1986

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    Greg Norman totaled eight wins between the PGA, European and Australian Tours.  His biggest was the British Open.  He had the lead in every major after 54 holes, dubbed the "Saturday Slam."

    Even though Norman failed to close out three of the Majors, it still was a remarkable feat.  Clearly he was the best golfer in the world based on the year.

    We pretty much all know what the story of 1986 was:  Jack Nicklaus wins the Masters at age 46.  He shot a 30 on his final nine holes to win with his son on the bag.  Norman failed to par the 18th to force a playoff.

Luke Donald: 2011

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    Luke Donald won the PGA and European Tour money titles.  It was an unprecedented accomplishment. He captured the PGA crown in dramatic fashion with a comeback win at the Fall Series finale.  He also won the European Tour's signature event: the BMW PGA Championship.

    While doing this, he also managed to gain the top spot in the world rankings.  He also has the sport by a considerable margin.  Another accomplishment was winning the WGC World Match Play Championship.

    Donald's year was overshadowed by Tiger Woods and Rory McIlroy.  Woods was battling an unprecedented slump in his career.  McIlroy set the US Open scoring record and became the youngest winner since Bobby Jones.  Those stories trumped Donald's achievements.

    Donald was severely hurt by failing to win a major.  He is not a long hitter and relies on his short game. His style is not flashy despite it being productive.

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