Todd goes back-to-back at Mayakoba Golf Classic
Was out of top 2000 in world, but now is No. 1 in the FedExCup
November 18, 2019
By Cameron Morfit, PGATOUR.COM
Brendon Todd wins at Mayakoba
PLAYA DEL CARMEN, Mexico – After every missed cut, Brendon Todd would go home and tell his wife that he could play his way out of this.
Rachel Todd, whose brother had played at Auburn but who hardly considered herself an expert on the game, nodded and offered what she could in the way of support.
Then she went back to caring for their kids, now 1, 3 and 5.
“It wasn’t that we were running out of money,” Rachel said by phone as Brendon won the rain-delayed Mayakoba Golf Classic at El Camaleón Golf Club on Monday, his second PGA TOUR win in as many starts after falling off the map for three years. “It was, we need to look into other options, what would be best for our family. Our financial advisor came and sat down with us.”
They set up a meeting to potentially franchise a Your Pie, the pizza restaurant that started in their hometown of Athens, Georgia. Then, almost a year ago to the day, Todd shot a 61 to Monday-qualify for The RSM Classic, the beginning of his comeback.
Some 365 days later, here he is, transformed. Todd (68, 20 under par) held it together in even par for his last four holes early Monday morning and watched as playing partner Vaughn Taylor (68, T2) left his 15-foot birdie try one rotation short on the 18th hole.
Just like that, Todd had held off Taylor, Carlos Ortiz (66) and Adam Long (66) by a shot. He had won for the second time in as many starts (Bermuda Championship). He had moved to No. 1 in the FedExCup, and qualified for the Masters Tournament in his adopted home state of Georgia.
Oh, and he’d come all the way back from potentially being in the pizza business.
“It was all very theoretical,” Todd, 34, said with a laugh while signing pin flags.
How did this happen? How did a guy with the full-swing yips come back from it?
“It’s unbelievable,” said Harris English (70, 17 under, solo 5th), who is younger than the winner and first met Todd on a recruiting trip to Georgia. “This game can go away from you so fast.”
Added Taylor, “Not many guys come back from that deep. It’s amazing. I think the whole TOUR is in awe. The scars in this game run deep. It’s a testament to his mental game.”
When play resumed with the sun barely up over the water, Todd drained his right-to-left birdie putt on 15 to retake a lead he had squandered with two loose holes as darkness fell Sunday night.
He gave it back, missing from inside three feet on 16, but Taylor bogeyed, as well.
Don Gadberry, Todd’s caddie, got in his ear as they walked to the 17th tee.
“I just said, ‘I need you for two more holes,’” Gadberry said.
Todd made a tough two-putt par on 17, then got up and down from in front of the 18th green.
The deft short-game display recalled the nickname coaches bestowed on Todd at Georgia, where he was a four-time All-American: “Grease T,” for his ability to get up and down from anywhere.
Hard to believe your new FedExCup No. 1 earned exactly zero FedExCup points in 2018, when playing out of Past Champion status he missed six cuts in six tries.
Brendon Todd's news conference after winning Mayakoba
Shortly after winning the 2014 AT&T Byron Nelson, Todd changed his swing in part to create a higher launch angle. To say the move backfired would be an understatement. He developed a big right miss that got in his head for the next three years, and gradually fell off the TOUR.
But Todd, who had made just six cuts in his previous 47 starts as the calendar turned to 2019, was not one to give up. His two older brothers, and their parents, never set that sort of example.
“We usually give each other a hard time if you’re being negative or a quitter or whatnot,” he said. “I think a lot of it for me was just the self-belief I had and all the previous success I’ve had. … And I had already been through a slump like that in 2010, so while it did last longer and I did consider maybe looking for other things to do, I always knew if I got my game back, I would know how to play at this level; it’s just a matter of can I hit the ball between the trees.”
Eventually, Todd found answers in a book called “The Great Ballstrikers” by Bradley Hughes, an Australian who played the TOUR from 1997 through 2005 and became his swing coach.
He read a book by Rick Ankiel, a baseball pitcher who had battled the throwing yips.
He began to consult with Ward Jarvis, a caddie on the Korn Ferry Tour who fought and overcame a stuttering problem and is now a firefighter in Paducah, Kentucky.
“I just had a feeling we would connect with our journeys,” said Jarvis, also a golf performance coach. He believes that in bad golf, as in stuttering, thinking can get in the way. “The answer isn’t to try harder,” he said. “Let go of the natural desire to want to control the outcome.”
Hughes, meanwhile, helped Todd retrain his body.
“The goal was to go by what he felt in his feet and hands and core,” Hughes said.
“He’s hitting fairways and greens again,” he added, “and his short game has always been there.”
Todd made eight of 11 cuts after they started working together, and went from Past Champion to full PGA TOUR status when he got through Korn Ferry Tour Finals. Still, it was something of a surprise, even for wife Rachel, when he shot a final-round 62 to win in Bermuda two weeks ago.
“I’d be more surprised if he won back-to-back,” she said during the final round at Mayakoba.
Well, it happened, and she and Todd and the kids FaceTime’d afterward.
“Super special,” Todd said of the win. “This win might honestly mean more to me than the last one, this being a full FedExCup event, full $7.2 million purse and a resort that I just love.”
Added Rachel, who plans to bring the family back on TOUR now that Todd’s status is secure through the 2022-23 season, “I never wanted to be in the restaurant business.”
Could Todd get the nod for the U.S. Presidents Cup Team if Brooks Koepka can’t play?
He laughs at that one.
“Before the Bermuda Championship,” he said, “I was on the driving range with (Golf Channel analyst) Jerry Foltz and he said something like, ‘Oh, your game looks good, win three in a row and maybe you’ll make the Presidents Cup.’ And then he was like, ‘No, actually if you win three in a row, you still won’t make the Presidents Cup, but go for it anyways.”
Next up: The RSM Classic. That would be three wins in a row. Improbable? Yes. But as the example of Brendon Todd reminds, never say never.