PGA Championship 2020: The most improbable story in golf will continue this weekend at Harding Park
Darren Carroll/PGA of America
It is a story that continues to astound. And one that will continue into the weekend at Harding Park.
Brendon Todd has added another chapter to his staggering career comeback through two days at the PGA Championship, pairing a 65 and 70 that has him three shots off the lead as the Friday afternoon wave tees off.
“I feel like I’m still in a good spot going into the weekend,” Todd said on Friday after an even-par round. “No matter what I would have shot today, whether it was 62 or 70, I was still going to have to play a good weekend. I’m just in position and ready for those rounds.”
For those that have been tuned out—we don’t blame you, it’s been a busy year—the story of Todd is not lacking superlatives. A former four-time All-American at Georgia and one-time PGA Tour winner, Todd was besieged by swing yips and an ensuing loss of confidence. His World Ranking fell outside the top 2,000, and he became so vexed by the game he met with his financial advisor to contemplate quitting just two years back. He found salvation in a new instructor, regained his tour card in last year’s Korn Ferry Finals and won in consecutive starts at the Bermuda Championship and Mayakoba Classic. Fairy tale ending, accomplished.
He’s extended that providence into 2020, holding 54-hole leads at two events—including at last week’s WGC-St. Jude Invitational—to work his way into ninth in the FedEx Cup standings. Still, few expected the run to extend into San Francisco. TPC Harding Park is billed as a big-boy course and Todd is one of the game’s shortest hitters. He hasn’t competed for a Wanamaker since Whistling Straits in 2015, and he was coming off the business end of a Sunday in Memphis.
But here’s the thing about fairy tales: They don’t follow convention, and certainly not a script.
Despite a negative strokes/gained figure off the tee on Thursday and playing in tougher afternoon conditions, Todd held a share of the overnight lead thanks to a lights-out display on the greens (3.417 sg/putting). Friday morning did not bring the tranquility the Pacific had promised, winds keeping many low-round aspirations at bay. Not helping matters was Todd’s flat stick, which apparently missed its wake-up call.
“It was my play,” Todd said of the difference between Rounds 1 and 2. “We had the same wind as yesterday. Probably even warmer conditions. I just didn't quite hole the putts, but I played really well. I drove it better today. Hit a lot of good iron shots and just burned some edges.”
Yet Todd held steady, hitting 10 fairways and avoiding the bad number. Only Haotong Li and Tommy Fleetwood were ahead of Todd on the leader board as the afternoon pairings went off. With most names from the Round 1 leader board in the second wave, it’s likely Todd’s position drops by sundown. Nevertheless, it’s a standing no one expected from the 35-year-old.
For this saga to become a true part of major lore, there are tests that still need to be passed. Specifically, the final round. Todd finished outside the top 10 at the Travelers and WGC-St. Jude despite playing in the final group at both. He was also contended at the RSM Classic last November before running out of steam, closing out with a 72 at Sea Island to finish fourth. Those performances have translated to a 166th rank in final-round scoring on tour.
Conversely, sometimes a cowboy needs to be tossed from the bull before learning how to ride. If anyone knows how to dust themselves off ...
“I mean, I’m in a pretty comfortable situation in that I’ve been near the lead a few times here in the last month,” Todd said. “It really just comes down to executing golf shots and making putts. I’ve proven on this golf course I can do that, so I’ve just got to go out there and execute this weekend.”
Eighteen holes on Saturday stand between Todd and potential catharsis. It feels improbable. Which for Todd, seems apropos.
“What I would consider contending, having a chance to win on Sunday, and we’re still a long ways from there, so I’m just going to keep doing my thing and playing my best.”