Tight leader board leaves potential for dramatic Monday finish at the Mayakoba Golf Classic
A little more than a year ago, Brendon Todd (above) was thinking about giving up golf after being beaten down by a long battle with the full-swing yips. He was stuck in a miserable slump that at one point saw him miss 37 of 40 cuts and plummet outside the top 2,000 in the world. Instead of quitting, he worked his way back, and two weeks ago in Bermuda found himself shooting a closing 62 en route to the second victory of his career and first since 2014.
Now he’s in position for another.
Todd was 20 under par and tied for the lead with Vaughn Taylor with four holes left in regulation at the Mayakoba Golf Classic when play was halted because of darkness on Sunday night.
Inclement weather on Thursday had left everyone playing catch up the rest of the week. Players completed the first round on Friday, the second round on Saturday and attempted to play the third and fourth rounds on Sunday, knowing they were unlikely to get everything finished. The final round will resume at 7:30 a.m. on Monday.
“I feel good about my game,” said Todd, who will face a 15-footer when he returns to El Camaleon Golf Club. “I’m excited to tee it up in the morning and see if we can get another W.”
Considering where Todd was a year ago, it’s a miraculous turnaround. The way he has played lately, though, it’s hardly a surprise.
Over his last eight rounds, Todd is a cumulative 47 under par, with nothing higher than a 68 in that span. Leaning on his ball-striking, Todd this week leads the field in greens in regulation.
“I think [winning in Bermuda] helped a lot today,” said Todd, who had four birdies through his first dozen holes in the final round before a bogey on the 14th, his second-to-last hole of the day, dropped him into a tie with Taylor. “I felt really comfortable out there, was in control of my game and made a lot of birdies and pulled ahead.
“But it's totally different now. I had a four-shot lead [in Bermuda], maybe even a five-shot lead, so I wasn't feeling much pressure. Now that I’m tied for the lead, it’s kind of a new ballgame and I’ll have to go out there and hit good shots and try and fight them off.”
With a bevy of challengers lurking close behind it won’t be easy.
First, there’s Taylor. His round was perhaps saved when he got a drop from a fence that was in play on the seventh hole. He went on to save par, then rattled off birdies on Nos. 9 and 10 and added another at the par-5 13th to get within one of the lead at the time. Then came Todd’s bogey.
Like Todd, Taylor’s ball-striking, along with his driving and some hot putting, carried him, especially on Sunday. Through 14 holes in the final round, Taylor has hit 10 of 11 fairways, 11 greens in regulation and has nary a bogey against four birdies.
Right behind Todd and Taylor are Harris English and Carlos Ortiz, the sentimental favorite from Mexico. Both golfers are just a stroke back.
Ortiz, who opened the final round with a double bogey before bouncing back with seven birdies over his next 14 holes, had just made a nervy par save on the 17th on Sunday when his playing partners, Zach Johnson and Mark Hubbard, sprinted ahead to tee off on 18. Neither was in contention, and they were in a hurry to get their balls in play before the horn sounded so they could finish. The 28-year-old Mexican wisely didn’t want to be rushed, though. By the time he got to the tee box, Johnson was already halfway down the fairway, and it was too dark with too much on the line, so he chose not to tee off.
“From the last shot, it was hard to see,” Ortiz said. “Putts were hard to even read.”
A putt to take a share of the lead is what English, who won this event in 2013, will have when he returns on Monday. On the par-3 15th when the horn sounded, he teed off and hit it pin high, 20 feet right of the flag. Taylor, meanwhile, will face a five-footer to save par on the same hole.
Finally, there is Adam Long, who is alone in fifth, two strokes back. He’s looking for his second victory of 2019 but will have a testy putt to save par on the 16th when he returns for the final round.
So after a long slog for four days that included no shots being hit on Thursday and sun-up-to-sun-down golf since, Monday figures to a sprint. And with that in mind, Todd had perhaps the best advice: “Make that first putt, go from there.”