At this time last year, Brendon Todd was in the midst of one final attempt to resurrect his professional golf career after gaining entrance to the 2018 RSM Classic at the Monday qualifier at the Brunswick Country Club.
A year later, Todd sits three strokes back of the leader following Round 1 of the 2019 edition of the PGA Tour event at Sea Island Golf Club as he looks to become the first golfer to win three straight starts since Tiger Woods in 2006.
A whirlwind year has seen the University of Georgia alumnus transform from potential pizza franchise owner to FedExCup Leader after winning his last two Tour starts at the Bermuda Championship and Mayakoba Golf Classic.
“Yeah, obviously my game’s really turned around this year as I was able to qualify for the Korn Ferry Finals and finish second in Columbus, got my card back, and then four missed cuts to start the fall season,” Todd said ahead of Wednesday’s Pro-Am. “So right back in the struggle that I’ve known out here a little bit, and it was nice to get some good form going at Houston and then carry it into Bermuda and Mexico.”
Finishing in a tie for 28th, followed by a pair of victories, has catapulted Todd to 83rd in the World Golf Rankings after starting the season ranked 2006th.
Not bad for a player that recently battled “swing yips.”
“I’ve battled them before,” Todd said. “In 2010, I pretty much hit my driver 50 yards right for a year and fought my way out of it, so essentially I had been through it.
“This one took a bit longer, but I’m now the player that I always knew I could be. I’ve won at every level. I was a three-time Junior All-American for AJGA, I was a four-time college All-American, I had won twice on the Korn Ferry Tour, Q-School, I won the Byron Nelson. So there was no reason to ever believe I wasn’t going to become a multiple-time winner out here on the PGA Tour, it was just a matter of figuring it out.”
The yips plagued Todd, who had missed the cut in 43 of the 55 PGA Tour events he competed in since 2016, so badly he considered hanging up his clubs. The lone win in his career had last come in 2014.
But he suddenly looks like a different player on the course.
Teeing off on hole No. 1 of the Seaside Course, Todd bounced back from a bogey on his first hole to finish in a tie for 14th with a 4-under 66. Todd notched back-to-back birdies on No. 7 and No. 8 before making the turn and collecting three more birdies among the first four holes of the back nine.
Todd appears poised to make the cut at his fourth straight event at the RSM Classic, and he’ll look to track down leader Webb Simpson when he tees off Round 2 at 9:45 a.m. today on hole No. 10 of the newly renovated Plantation Course.
Simpson birdied six times on the back nine of Plantation on Thursday, shaking off a bogey on his second hole to claim lone possession of first place. He’s won just five of the 284 Tour events he’s competed in since 2006, most recently The 2018 Players Championship, though he’s made the cut 220 times in that span.
“The golf course is great. Davis and crew did a great job, you know, with what they had, they made it even better, so it’s a fun golf course,” Simpson said after the round. ”The green complexes can be challenging, but they also can — you know, balls can funnel to the hole and I was able to take advantage of it a few times.
“Like you said, not a great start. Hung in there and made some birdies coming in.”
The trio of Cameron Tringale, Kyoung-Hoon Lee, and Rhein Gibson are tied for second a stroke behind Simpson entering Round 2, and nine other players are tied for fifth at 5 under.