ST. SIMONS ISLAND, Ga. –Historically, Georgia’s Golden Isles has been where PGA Tour careers begin, but Brendon Todd appears poised to make a more forceful statement.
Playing what his caddie dubbed “video golf,” Todd moved into the lead at the RSM Classic and within 18 holes of becoming the first player since Tiger Woods in 2006 to win three consecutive PGA Tour events.
All total, Todd has played his last 11 rounds in 62 under par, a haul that includes his 18-under mark at Sea Island Golf Club where he leads Webb Simpson and Sebastian Munoz by two strokes. In other words, it has been a commanding performance.
It’s also been a wildly unlikely performance.
It’s not that Todd isn’t a talented player, it’s just that when you’ve fallen as far - and as often - as he has, it’s difficult to imagine a way back.
After leaving the University of Georgia in 2007, he struggled to find his way in the professional ranks, and in 2010 the 34-year-old developed what he can now admit was a case of the hitting yips.
“In 2010 I pretty much hit my driver 50 yards right for a year and fought my way out of it,” he admitted this week.
He endured those dark days, and in 2014 he won his first Tour event at the Byron Nelson. It was an abyss most players never recover from, and quietly within Tour circles he became a shining example of how perseverance can overcome even the worst golf can throw at you.
But it wasn’t that easy. For Todd, it never is.
In 2016 he lost his Tour card, and by 2018 he’d fallen into no man’s land. The yips were back and so were the doubts that had made his first bout with mediocrity so debilitating.
For Todd, he sought solace where he could find it. He’d been through this once before and there was no reason to think he couldn’t do it again.
“It didn't actually make it easier. It just provided some of the belief I needed to get through it because this one was unique in that it kind of lasted longer,” Todd said of his most recent swoon.
The first crack of daylight came in August when he finished runner-up in a Korn Ferry Tour event, but it was a familiar tune to begin the fall season on Tour. He missed the cut at the season opener and the Sanderson Farms Championship. He added two more short weeks at the Safeway Open and Las Vegas.
The only indication that he was on the precipice of a historic run was within Todd. He felt he was playing better and things began to change earlier this month at the Bermuda Championship when he carded four rounds in the 60s for the first time since November 2018 and won by four strokes.
Last week in Mexico was just as commanding, with Todd opening with a 63 on his way to a one-stroke victory. It’s nearly impossible to overstate how impressive Todd has been the last three weeks.
“I had some struggles for a couple years, he's had some struggles, so we've been able to talk to each other on the phone and help each other out,” said Simpson, who will be paired with Todd in the final group Sunday. “I've been so proud of him for hanging in there. I mean, I think besides the player of the year [race], his story could be the biggest story of the year, you know, where he was, to come back.”
Simpson has spent a young lifetime going head-to-head with Todd, who moved to North Carolina when he was a junior. He has seen Todd’s best and worst and can attest to how impressive this reemergence has been.
Nearly every Tour player will endure varying degrees of slumps in their careers, but few could expect to emerge from the far side with the flair and confidence that Todd has shown.
D.J. Trahan can certainly relate. Like Todd, Trahan turned pro with high expectations. But after winning twice on Tour in the mid-2000’s, he was slowed and nearly stopped by an ongoing back injury.
“I've been in that dark place and I'm pretty sure he's been right there with me,” said Trahan, who is alone in fourth place at 15 under par. “When you can dig yourself out of that hole, and never mind dig yourself out but do what he's doing right now, it is tremendous. What he's done and what he is doing right now this week is spectacular.”
Fall events often slip through the cracks in the public’s attention with golf overshadowed by football and an absence of many of the game’s stars, but Todd’s is a story that’s impossible to overlook. It’s also impossible to overstate.