Dustin Johnson Ties Leo Diegel

When Dustin Johnson feathered a feel wedge from 85 years to within 3 feet on the 3rd hole at Kapalua Sunday it seemed to me the tournament was all but over. His converted birdie gave him a four stroke lead which isn’t insurmountable on this Tour (especially when you think back to DJ’s last start where he squandered a six stroke lead in the final round).dj toc18

But today it just looked like he was going to run away and hide from the other 33 players in this winners only field. And so he did, winning by 8 strokes.

With a less than compelling competition underway I was sidetracked by a list that the Golf Channel posted in the early going that showed a resume of players that have had extended consecutive year winning streaks on the PGA Tour.

Any legit golf fan knows that DJ had a current 10 season streak alive going into this week’s play. Most of us also were aware that Arnie and Jack jointly hold the all-time record of 17 consecutive years of PGA Tour winning. Real students of the game likely knew that Billy Casper (perhaps the most under appreciated great champion) was right behind the King and the Bear with 16 straight winning campaigns. I am not among that number but certainly I knew Casper was a three time major champ with over 50 Tour victories.

A little further down the list was a name I wasn’t familiar with: Leo Diegel – 11 consecutive years with tour wins.diegel

Our interconnected world has some drawbacks (Big Brother data acquisition and too many Tweets) but its also gives you instant access to all types of info. Thanks to Wikipedia, The World Golf Hall Golf Fame and the PGA Tour Hall of Fame, I now know bit about the mysterious Leo Diegel.

A Mid-Western boy born in 1899, Diegel turned pro at age seventeen. He came second place in the 1920 U.S. Open behind the great British champion Ted Ray. He won back to back to back PGA Championships in ’28-’29, defeating Walter Hagen in ’28 and ending the Great One’s four year winning streak. And he was runner-up to Bobby Jones when Jones took possession of the Claret Jug at Royal Liverpool in 1930.

Overall Diegel won 37 professional tournaments, 30 on the PGA Tour, with an 11 year streak thrown in.

But the numbers don’t tell the whole story . Known as an outstanding iron player, Herbert Warren Wind wrote “Diegel could put his second shots closer than any golfer of his day.”

His fellow competitor Gene Sarazen wrote “In all my years of golf, I have never seen anyone whose devotion to the game could match Leo’s. It was his religion. Between courses at the table, Leo used to get up and practice swings, Every night he went to bed dreaming theory and every morning he awakened with some hoy idea that was going to revolution the game”

Diegel suffered injuries in his mid thirties and an auto accident in 1938 ended his tournament career. He died young,a cancer victim at 52.

And he passed into history, almost, but not entirely forgotten. He was elected to the World Golf Hall of Fame in 2003.

And remembered again Sunday on Golf Channel.



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