Peters Township native Brendon Todd overcame ‘yips’ to revive PGA Tour career
Rolling Hills Country Club in McMurray is no more. The grounds are being converted into a park.
PGA Tour pro Brendon Todd, a native of Peters Township, went back there recently. In a manner of speaking, at least.
Todd spent his early years learning to play golf at Rolling Hills before his family moved to North Carolina when he was 11. That was more than 20 years ago, but it was those sessions at Rolling Hills that helped to bail Todd out of a prolonged slump.
“The way that I liked to swing the club as a kid is just fine and good enough to play well on the PGA Tour if my short game is sharp,” he said.
The PGA Tour wrapped up the fall portion of its 2019-20 schedule last weekend, and Todd finished with a flourish. After missing the cut in the first four events, he won back-to-back tournaments — the Bermuda Championship and Mayakoba Golf Classic — then finished fourth at the RSM Classic last week.
The win in Bermuda was his first on the PGA Tour in more than five years, and the win at Mayakoba put him in the 2020 Masters and U.S. Open. He entered the break — the tour resumes regular events in January — ranked first in the FedEx Cup standings and No. 72 in the world.
That’s a quantum leap for the 34-year-old Georgia resident, who had been without a PGA Tour card for three years and ended last year ranked No. 2,006 in the world.
“I think it’s remarkable,” Todd’s longtime friend and five-time PGA Tour winner Webb Simpson told the Associated Press during the RSM Classic. “To show the resilience of not playing well, to come back and stay in it and get one win and then two in a row, and now he’s playing great again. I’m really happy for him.”
Todd turned pro in 2008 after an All-American career at Georgia and took six seasons to earn his first PGA Tour win, the 2014 Byron Nelson. He had six other top-10 finishes that year, got as high as No. 40 in the world and made nearly $3.4 million.
But toward the end of 2015, cracks started to appear in his game. He pointed to the third round of the BMW Championship, part of the FedEx Cup playoffs, when he made triple-bogey on the fourth hole en route to a 76. That, he said, was the biggest factor that prevented him from advancing to the Tour Championship.
From that point, he said, his confidence ebbed away, and he struggled to hit woods and long irons off the ground. He had a case of what is known as the “yips.”
He lost full-playing privileges after the 2016 season, and, between ’16 and ’18, he made only five cuts in 44 PGA Tour events. In ’18, he made $0, missing every cut in eight events between the PGA and Korn Ferry (the former Nationwide) tours.
Todd took six weeks off last fall and started working with a new teacher, former PGA Tour player Bradley Hughes. Their work, Todd said, focused less on the minutiae of the golf swing and more on what worked for Todd.
That’s when his experience at Rolling Hills came back: just swing free like he did when he was a kid.
“Really, ever since 2010, I was kind of playing more in the golf swing-focused state,” said Todd, his Pittsburghese long obscured by a slight Southern twang. “That eventually snowballed into making the wrong decisions with my swing and kind of going down the wrong path.
“The beauty of it now is I don’t have to try to improve my swing or become some fancy ball-striker.”
Todd played in 11 PGA Tour events in the 2018-19 season. He made seven cuts, including the RSM Classic, where he shot 61 in the Monday qualifier to get into the field — and begin his turnaround. He didn’t make enough money in those events to regain his PGA Tour card but was able to enter a handful of tournaments late in the Korn Ferry Tour season.
By virtue of his runner-up finish at the Nationwide Children’s Hospital Championship, he earned enough points to regain his PGA Tour card for 2019-20.
Now, after back-to-back wins, he is assured of full-playing privileges on the PGA Tour for at least two more years. A few more high finishes this winter could get Todd into all the majors and World Golf Championship events in 2020.
Todd is back on top of his game. More importantly, he is confident he can sustain his success this time.
“It was a long battle to work through (the struggle) and overcome it,” he said. “I feel like I am playing better than I was in 2014. I think I know my game better … and I think I am in position to have the best year of my career.
“I feel like my game is equipped to play well in all the big events now, which is cool.”
Chuck Curti is a Tribune-Review staff writer. You can contact Chuck by email at [email protected] or via Twitter .