Life was pretty, pretty good for Brendon Todd on Sunday. By 1 o’clock on a board-of-tourism afternoon, the 34-year-old from Atlanta held a golf tournament deep in his back pocket. The focus wasn’t winning the inaugural Bermuda Championship—he’d already taken care of that. It was golf’s magic number.
Todd’s chase for 59 ultimately fell short at Port Royal Golf Club, but a nine-under-par 62 that included seven straight front-nine birdies was still satisfying. Todd finished a magical week at 24 under, good enough to win his second PGA Tour title by four shots over 54-hole leader Harry Higgs.
It’s the kind of day professional golfers at all levels dream of, the type of high that keeps you grinding through the lows. And few players have been so low as Todd.
“A year ago, I wasn’t sure if I was going to keep playing,” Todd said after the round. “So it’s really special to get this win this soon.”
While Smylie Kaufman’s slump got all the attention, Todd struggled just as mightily. Consider his plight just 14 months ago, when he had shot 75-78 to miss the cut at the 2018 Barracuda Championship. At that point, Todd had missed the weekend in 37 of his last 40 starts. Four years after the best year of his career—in 2014, he won the AT&T Byron Nelson, cracked the world top 40 and almost made the Ryder Cup team—Todd had dropped outside the top 2000.
Not two hundred, two thousand.
Making matters more puzzling, there was no serious injury to help explain the freefall—just a gnarly case of a four-letter affliction that has killed many a golf career.
“It was basically the ball-striking yips,” Todd told Golf Channel in June. “Every time I played, I would hit a 4-iron or a 3-wood 50 yards right, and I knew why, but I couldn’t really fix it. When the misses get so big that it’s an automatic double bogey, narrowing that miss up is hard.”
Desperate for solutions, the former University of Georgia All-American started working last fall with instructor Bradley Hughes, whose book Todd had read and enjoyed. The results came quickly—two months later, in his first start since the Barracuda, Todd shot 61 to Monday qualify into the RSM Classic and made the cut. Without context, a T-54 in a fall event doesn’t qualify as noteworthy. But for a player who couldn’t keep a long iron on the planet, simply completing four rounds meant major progress.
Todd carried the momentum, modest as it was, into the beginning of 2019, making three of his first four cuts while playing tournaments on sponsor exemptions and past-champions status, including a T-18 at the Wells Fargo Championship. In August, he finished tied for second at a Korn Ferry Tour event, his first top 10 on any tour in more than four years.
Still, before a T-28 at the Houston Open last month, Todd had missed four straight cuts to start the 2019-’20 season—a brutal stretch for a player desperate to earn FedEx Cup points and improve his status. He knew he was facing another season of oscillating back and forth to the Korn Ferry Tour, another year of trying to make the most of any PGA Tour event he could get into.
Now, after a week of 27 birdies and three bogeys, rounds of 68-63-67-62, Todd is looking at a year that includes the Sentry Tournament of Champions, the Players Championship and the PGA Championship. Perhaps most important, he’s fully exempt through the 2021-’22 season.
“It’s a dream come true,” Todd said, sounding more like a 24-year-old rookie than a 34-year-old veteran. “And hopefully a springboard to a really long career out here.”