Old Pals ReuniteNovember 23, 2019

Webb Simpson says Brendon Todd was 'beating me like a drum' long before Toddmania took over the PGA Tour

Stan Badz

ST. SIMONS ISLAND, Ga. — More than two decades before "Toddmania" swept the PGA Tour, Brendon Todd terrorized junior golfers in North Carolina. One of his frequent victims, Webb Simpson, remembers those days well—just not fondly.

"I was kind of winning golf tournaments and then he moves to Cary, North Carolina," Simpson said following a Saturday 63 that saw him lose ground to his old pal. "He starts beating me like a drum."

Through three days at the 2019 RSM Classic, the competition between these longtime close friends is a lot closer. But Brendon is beating Webb. In fact, he's beating everyone. Again.

Thanks to a third-round 62 at Sea Island Golf Club's Seaside Course, Todd will take a two-stroke lead over Simpson and Sebastian Munoz into Sunday. The trio will play together in the final pairing as Todd attempts to win his third consecutive start on the PGA Tour—something only Tiger Woods, Vijay Singh, Rory McIlroy and most recently, Dustin Johnson in 2017, have achieved since 2000.

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"It gets difficult, for sure," Todd said of trying to block out the rare feat. "But I think just I've had to be so disciplined over the last year mentally about just focusing in on ever shot that I'm aiming to kind of use that experience to my advantage now."

In his younger days, Todd relied more on talent. Long before he developed the full-swing yips that have plagued him in recent years, he was a junior golf power and a four-time All-American at the University of Georgia.

"He was really good, and I think we kind of inspired each other growing up," said Simpson, a former standout at Wake Forest. "I'm only a couple months younger, but a grade behind him, so he definitely pushed me and hopefully I pushed him."

But forces stronger than a childhood friendship are pushing Todd now. What the 34-year-old has done in his past three starts would be remarkable by anyone's standards. Considering how far he'd fallen—twice—previously in his career, makes it downright miraculous.

"I mean, his story could be the biggest story of the year just, you know, where he was, to come back," Simpson said. "Even this year he started out, missed his first few cuts and he goes and wins and then he wins again. I think that just proves what kind of just guts he has inside of him to not give up or throw in the towel."

RELATED: Brendon Todd and the art of the painful comeback

There are plenty of stats to choose from when discussing Todd's struggles. The 37 out of 41 missed cuts. The Official World Golf Ranking in the 2000s. The top-10 drought on any tour that lasted more than four years. Now he lives on leader boards. At the top of leader boards, for that matter.

For the record, Todd said he and Webb won "about half the time" during their junior careers. But in their first Sunday final pairing together on tour, only one can emerge victorious. And despite their lopsided résumés as pros, Simpson seems like an obvious underdog considering the heater Todd is on right now.

Beginning with a final-round 66 at last month's Houston Open, Todd has shot 12 consecutive rounds in the 60s and is a cumulative 68 under par. If not for three brutal lipouts on Saturday, including one from 30 feet on No. 18, Todd's sub-70 streak could have included a sub-60.

"I think it's as close as I've ever come, for sure," Todd said of shooting 59. "I mean, there was only one putt I hit today that I knew wasn't going in."

About the only thing that hasn't gone Todd's way happened on Wednesday when Presidents Cup captain Tiger Woods passed him over for Rickie Fowler as Brooks Koepka's replacement on Team USA. Todd has played down his chances of making the squad, saying that talk is "mostly media-driven," but it's clearly something that was on his mind.

"Well, it's funny, Brendon texted me after he won Bermuda and he said, 'Captain's pick?'" said Simpson, the only member of the U.S. team to make the cut this week. "But now it's like he's playing as good as anybody in the world. I think the team's set, but he definitely gave it a good try."

In that regard, Todd's efforts probably are too little, too late. Unfortunately for Simpson and everyone else at Sea Island, though, he certainly doesn't look like a man who is done trying.

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