HARTFORD, Conn. – If Tiger Woods wants to add a “Horatio Alger” to his U.S. Presidents Cup team if Brooks Koepka doesn’t recover in time to face the International side next month, he should select Brendon Todd, who rose from the golfing ashes to a second consecutive victory on Monday.
Todd saved par on the final hole to finish off a 3-under 68 for a 20-under total of 264 and a one-stroke victory over hometown favorite Carlos Ortiz, Vaughn Taylor and Adam Long in the Mayakoba Classic at El Camaleon Golf Course in Playa Del Carmen, Mexico.
Todd was tied with Taylor when they were among 12 players who had to return to El Camaleon to complete the rain-delayed event on Monday morning. He made an 18-foot birdie putt on his first hole, No. 15, and missed a 3-foot par putt on the 16th. But Todd parred the last two holes and had another unexpected title when Taylor left a 15-foot birdie putt on the 18th hole one turn short in his bid to force a playoff.
Taylor shot 68 to tie for second with Ortiz (66) and Adam Long (66) as Todd won a week after he captured the Bermuda Championship to end a five-year victory drought and has now accomplished one of the most improbable turnarounds in golf history. Taylor was trying to win for the first time since the AT&T Pebble Beach Pro-Am in 2016, while Ortiz had the best finish by a Mexican in the Mayaboka Classic since it began in 2016. Abraham Ancer tied for eighth, making it two Mexicans in the Top 10. Ancer was one of six players in the field who are in the Presidents Cup on Dec. 12-15 at Royal Melbourne Golf Club in Victoria, Australia.
“It’s just incredible. I’m just overcome with emotion right now,” said Todd, who had to play the final four holes on Monday. “The whole final round was much more nerve-wracking than Bermuda.”
After starting the year 2,006th in the Official World Golf Rankings, Todd is now the first back-to-back winner since Presidents Cup member Bryson DeChambeau captured The Northern Trust and Dell Technologies Championship in 2018. That’s when Todd couldn’t have imagined successive victories when he had full-swing yips, sat down with his adviser and began thinking about another career that possibly could have been buying into a pizza franchise.
From February 2016 through the end of last year, Todd missed 34 of 36 PGA Tour starts but got his game in reasonable shape, regained his card through the Korn Ferry Tour finals. Now he’s the first player to win twice in the fall portion of the schedule in a season since the PGA Tour went to a wraparound season in 2013-14 and is leading the FedExCup as the tour heads to its final event before a short winter break.
Not to mention that before the Bermuda Championship, Todd had opened the 2019-20 season with four consecutive missed cuts and was still 525th in the world. He is now No. 83 after shooting 44-under in his two wins, which was one better than in 16 events to start the season and came after missing all six cuts in 2018 while playing out of Past Champions status.
Todd’s comeback began with reading “The Great Ballstrikers” by Australian Bradley Hughes, a former Farmington resident who played the PGA Tour in 1997-2005 and became his swing coach. Todd also was helped by another book written by Rick Ankiel, a former Major League Baseball pitcher who had battled yips.
“The goal was to go by what he felt in his feet and hands and core,” Hughes said. “He’s hitting fairways and greens again, and his short game has always been there.”
Todd’s many perks from his two victories include qualifying for the Masters in his adopted state of Georgia.
“Super special,” said Todd, who pocketed a career-high $1,296,000 after earning $540,000 the previous week. “This win might honestly mean more to me than the last one, this being a full FedExCup event, full $7.2 million purse and a resort that I just love. It’s just amazing how fast this game can turn. It turned fast in the wrong direction for me in 2015, it turned fast the other direction for me, so I’m enjoying it and I’m just going to keep grinding.”
Todd has already impressed some compatriots.
“It’s unbelievable,” said Harris English, who first met the winner on a recruiting trip to the University of Georgia and finished fifth at 271 on Monday. “This game can go away from you so fast.”
Taylor, who has some serious downs before raising his game in the past year, said, “Not many guys come back from that deep. It’s amazing. I think the whole Tour is in awe. The scars in this game run deep. It’s a testament to his mental game.”
That sure sounds like qualities that have helped make Woods as great as he is and someone whom Tiger or any other captain would want on his team. Todd has one more chance to convince Woods that the U.S. captain should make him the replacement for Koepka if the No. 1-ranked player doesn’t heal enough from knee surgey. Todd is competing in the RSM Classic at the Sea Island Resort in St. Simons Island, Ga., that begins Thursday and then will head to Hawaii in January for the Sentry Tournament of Champions at Kapalua. He would first like to make an appearance in Australia.
Rickie Fowler, who hasn’t played since the Tour Championship due to his marriage and lengthy honeymoon, seemed to be the leading candidate to replace Koepka, the 2019 PGA of America Player of the Year who is a question mark since having stem-cell treatment after the Tour Championship in August after he injured his knee when he slipped on a wet piece of cement at the CJ Cup @ Nine Bridges on Oct. 18. Woods said Koepka told him he’s rehabbing the knee and the focus would be on the 12 players who will try to win the Presidents Cup for the eighth consecutive time.
So what does Todd think about his amazing comeback from the deeps including a call from Tiger?
“It’s so surreal,” Todd said. “Before the Bermuda Championship, I was on the driving range with (Golf Channel analyst) Jerry Foltz and he said something like, ‘Oh, your game looks good, win three in a row and maybe you’ll make the Presidents Cup.’ And then he was like, ‘No, actually if you win three in a row, you still won’t make the Presidents Cup, but go for it anyways.’ ”
A victory in the RSM Classic is probably as improbable as his recent two wins, but as Todd has already emphatically proven, you never say never. And if he does happen to make it a trifecta and Koepka isn’t healthy enough to play in the Presidents Cup, Todd should get that call from Tiger. People often say captains should pick “hot players” and no golfer on the planet is hotter than Brendon Todd.
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