Golf 2019 highlights: Brendon Todd's end-of-year surge as he wins twice

Brendon Todd
Brendon Todd

Flashback to 2014 and Brendon Todd had just won his first PGA Tour title at the HP Byron Nelson Championship. His impressive, bogey-free final round was enough to deny a spectacular upset, with former Masters champion Mike Weir a shock second.

Five years later, and Todd's transformation from the brink of the abyss to three-time PGA Tour winner is perhaps more remarkable than victory for Weir would have been during that turbulent week in Texas.

Victory in the Nelson earned Todd a two-year exemption and a place in the field at the Masters. He followed with a top five at the Crowne Plaza Invitational at Colonial to move inside the top 60 in the Official World Golf Rankings, earning a place in the upcoming US Open, where he would go on to finish 17th. As they like to say in the media centre, he was the very definition of 'trending'.

Two years on, during the final year of his two-year exemption, Todd missed 20 of his final 21 cuts. He would follow with eight missed cuts in his first nine starts in 2017 and all six in 2018 when playing solely on past champion exemptions. It was as spectacular a fall as you are ever likely to see: an exemption which began with acceleration through the gears before grinding to a halt.

How did it happen? The answer is both simple and complicated. Todd had, in his words, the swing yips.

Shortly after victory at the Byron Nelson, Todd began making changes in the quest for a higher ball flight. He felt this would increase his chances of success on Tour. Unfortunately, he developed faults, particularly a big miss to the right. This was a problem which crept into his game, and come the third round of the 2015 BMW Championship - a lucrative event - he has still right in the mix for silverware and precious FedEx Cup points.

Then came a particularly big miss. Todd hit a four-iron which missed the green by fully 50 yards, the first full manifestation of the underlying problems which would threaten his future. Still, he was able to score - he finished 23rd, and played well the following week - but soon a creeping problem overwhelmed him. Todd was lost, unable to make a weekend, forced to contemplate a change of career.

With plans to open a pizza restaurant in motion, Todd picked up a copy of The Great Ball Strikers, a book by player-turned-coach, Bradley Hughes. Something about it made perfect sense. Todd spoke to Hughes, the two bonded, and then they got down to work.

Determined to forge a new career out of the ashes of his old one, Todd took time away from the course to work on drills at his home in Atlanta, Georgia. He sought advice from a self-help book to cure the mental aspect of the yips. His work during this time - laborious, tough, not always rewarding - was the catalyst for what happened next.

Todd starting rebuilding his career, making weekends, and earning money - enough for the Korn Ferry Tour Finals and an opportunity to regain his PGA Tour card. That is exactly what he did, finishing eighth to earn a return to the top tier. And yet challenges continued: he missed his first four cuts, and it appeared as though there was more work to do. Whisper it, but he might even have thought a season on the Korn Ferry Tour would've helped ease the pressure.

Some form of progress was found for a return to Texas, this time Houston, where he finished 28th. And then, out of nowhere, Todd finally finished collecting those ten thousand pieces of the puzzle which had been scattered across his brain and his driving range. He put them together. He won the Bermuda Championship.

Entering this low-key, opposite event at 522 in the world, Todd opened with a 68. A blistering 63 followed before a 67 placed him in prime position heading into the final round. Stood on the 17th tee, Todd found himself in a precarious position. While holding a significant lead, he also faced a reachable par-five, needing a birdie-birdie finish to shoot 59.

Perhaps in some ways the lure of a 59 helped Todd pull away from the field that day. Perhaps it didn't matter - after all, he'd overcome challenges of greater significance, and whether first or second or third or fourth here, he was a golfer again.

The 59 wasn't to be. Wisely, Todd played safe for a par and then, heavy-handedly, he finished with a bogey. Still, it was a round of 62 which gave him a comfortable victory, and with it the validation that in five long years since the Nelson, he had been to hell and back and survived to tell the tale.

Not that this particular story ended there.

Less than a fortnight after triumphing in Bermuda, Todd made the journey to Mexico for the Mayakoba Golf Classic, an event disrupted by rain as some of the circuit's lesser lights battled conditions in the hope of securing their futures on the world's least forgiving circuit.

Todd, free from such concerns, continued his scintillating form with an opening 63 that was then validated with an assured 68. A third round 65 meant he entered the final round with the lead. Here we go again.

The final group managed 14 holes on Sunday before darkness descended. Sleeping on the lead might have done for Todd a month earlier, but now, he was at peace. Returning to the course on Monday, he holed his first shot, a putt from 20 feet, and went on to complete a dream double.

All good things come to those who wait, they say, just as all winning runs end in defeat. That would be the case at the RSM Classic, where Todd for so long looked set for one of the most remarkable hat-tricks in the history of this sport.

Instead, he settled for fourth, the FedEx Cup lead, a ranking within touching distance of the world's top 50, a place at the Masters and, above all, a PGA Tour card through to the end of the 2013 season.

"It was hard," said Todd, typically understated, unable to find words to match his achievements. "I had to really dig deep and trust the feelings. It’s incredible. I’m overcome with emotion right now."

They say smooth seas don’t make skilled sailors. It's no less true to say quitters don't make professional golfers. Todd's refusal to quit has been rewarded, spectacularly so, and that pizza restaurant will have to wait a while.

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