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 Wood played. (The Wood reputation for long driving was burnished at St. Andrews when Wood drove the ball a measured 430 yards into a bunker!)
In the 1934 PGA Championship at the Park Club of Buffalo inWilliamsville, N.Y.,Wood lost to his former student and assistant pro Paul Runyan in a “sudden death” playoff after the regulation 36-holes in the final round of match play.
In the 1935 Masters, the second ever played, Gene Sarazen tied with Wood, after Sarazen miraculously holed-out for a double eagle on the par-5 fifteenth hole of the final round, making up a three-stroke deficit to Wood in the blink of an eye. Sarazen went on to win the 36-hole playoff the next day by five strokes.
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 after nine holes. One stroke ahead of Nelson playing the 18th hole, Wood parred as Nelson birdied, forcing a second 18-hole playoff the next day. Nelson edged out Wood, as Lord Byron shot a one-over-par 70 to Wood’s 73, to capture the U.S. National Championship.
With America’s entry in WorldWar 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.