In one of the most stunning developments in recent golf history, Brendon Todd has become the hottest player on the PGA Tour.
A man whose game had fallen to dramatic depths over the past four-plus seasons, the 34-year-old has recently become reborn. Two weeks ago, Todd won the inaugural Bermuda Championship in a four-stroke romp. Then, in his first start since, Todd was able to hold on during a four-hole Monday finish at El Camaleon Golf Club at Playa Del Carmen, Mexico, the host site of this season’s Mayakoba Golf Classic, winning the event by a single stroke over the trio of Adam Long, Vaughn Taylor, and Mexican native Carlos Ortiz.
Back-to-back victories on the PGA Tour is pretty good considering that from the 2016-2018 seasons, Todd had made just five cuts in 44 starts, and began his 2019-20 campaign CUT-CUT-CUT-CUT-CUT-T28 before the Bermuda event.
Todd is the first PGA Tour player to win consecutive events since Bryson DeChambeau won the first two events of the 2018 FedExCup playoffs. Todd’s two victories in the 2019 calendar year matches the totals of Tour stars such as Tiger Woods, Brooks Koepka, Justin Thomas, and Dustin Johnson.
Washout conditions in Playa Del Carmen on Thursday forced this year’s Mayakoba Golf Classic to begin on Friday. That late start necessitated a marathon two-round Sunday, but darkness fell with the lead group having four holes left to play. When play resumed on Monday morning, Todd was tied for the lead at 20-under with Taylor, a 43-year-old Tour vet looking for his first victory since the 2016 season.
A brutal closing stretch, Todd jumped to the early Monday lead when he birdied the first of the four holes, the par-3 15th. He bogeyed the par-4 16th, but stayed one stroke out front after Taylor had done the same thing.
Needing a par on 18 to win, a hole that had yielded almost no birdies over the weekend, Todd missed the green in regulation, but hit a brilliant pitch shot to within three feet that gave him that par he needed.
After a recent history where Todd nearly gave up the game altogether, his back-to-back victories have made him exempt on the world’s premier golf tour for the next four seasons. It has become one heck of a story of resiliency and redemption.
Final Scores: Top 10
Pos-Player-To Par (Final Rd)
1. Brendon Todd -20 (-3)
2. Carlos Ortiz -19 (-5)
2. Adam Long -19 (-5)
2. Vaughn Taylor -19 (-3)
5. Harris English -17 (-1)
6. Joel Dahmen -15 (-6)
6. Robby Shelton -15 (-6)
8. Abraham Ancer -14 (-4)
8. Billy Horschel -14 (-3)
8. Pat Perez -14 (-2)
11. C.T. Pan -13
11. Dylan Frittelli -13
14. Matt Kuchar -12
20. Charles Howell III -10
23. Graeme McDowell -9
23. Zach Johnson -9
26. Maverick McNealy -8
26. Chez Reavie -8
26. Danny Lee -8
33. Cameron Champ -7
33. Rory Sabbatini -7
41. Emiliano Grillo -6
72. Luke Donald E
72. Brian Harman E
76. Kevin Kisner +1
How Brendon Todd Won the Mayakoba
Todd has always been one of the shorter hitters on the PGA Tour, which dramatically hurts his chances in many events, but it definitely has not been a detriment to him over his last two starts. His accuracy has been spot-on, as evidenced by the fact that he was third in the field at the Mayakoba in greens in regulation.
For the week, Todd’s 24 birdies led the field, while he had just four bogeys, which tied for third. Momentum is definitely big on the PGA Tour, and in professional golf in general, but being able to go back-to-back is something that is not done often, and speaks largely to Todd’s current mental state, an incredible improvement after he spent years with the yips, something many athletes never recover from.
Todd’s Winning Numbers
Driving: 271.6 yards (80th)
Fairways: 35/56, 62.5% (26th)
Greens: 57/72, 79.2% (3rd)
Putts/GIR: 96/1.690 (8th)
Scoring: 24 Birdies (1st), 44 Pars, 4 Bogeys (3rd)
What It Means For Brendon Todd
In addition to his secured Tour card and exemptions, this victory cements Todd as a legitimately strong player, and someone to keep an eye on, despite neither of his victories coming in especially strong fields. His win at the Bermuda locked up his spot for next year’s Masters, but even with his second win, he is not yet exempt for the U.S. Open.
With the victory at El Camaleon, though, Todd has jumped to 83rd in the Official World Golf Rankings. He was ranked 522nd just two starts ago, and 2006th at the beginning of the 2019 season.
Todd also takes over the No. 1 spot in the FedExCup standings, despite having missed the cut in five of eight starts. Todd has an excellent chance of holding that position for the remainder of the calendar year, as just one event remains before the Tour goes on its annual winter break.
Todd is currently in the field for that event, next week’s RSM Classic at Sea Island in Georgia, which adds considerable intrigue to a tournament that occasionally lacks it.
Todd’s 2019-20 PGA Tour Season
Cuts Made: 3
Wins: 2 (Bermuda, Mayakoba)
Addtl Top 10s: 0
Money: $1,878,482 (6th)
World Rank Before/After: 185/83
When Matt Kuchar finished at a tournament record 22-under-par in winning last season’s Mayakoba Golf Classic, it was the first victory in a two-win, two-runner-up 2018-19 PGA Tour season that had him in the FedExCup standings lead into late July.
With those good feelings surrounding El Camaleon, it is unsurprising that the 41-year-old 9-time PGA Tour winner would choose the Mayakoba for his season debut. Unfortunately, a comparatively mediocre 69-68-73 start had Kuchar in a surprising tie for 49th place heading into the final round.
However, the former Georgia Tech star caught fire in round 4 and reminded the golf world just how great he can still be when his game is going. Kuchar was 3-under-par for the day when he approached the eighth tee box, and needed just one stroke to conquer the par-3 – the third player of the week to ace the hole.
After opening with four birdies over the first five holes on his back nine, the defending champion was a stunning 9-under through 14 holes, leading to a 9-under 62 that was the low score of the final round, and matched the low score of the week. Kuchar rised a field-high 35 spots on the final leaderboard, finishing in a share of 14th place.
The second-best round of the final 18 holes came courtesy of Brice Garnett, who shot a bogey-free 7-under 64 to jump from 28th place to just barely outside the top 10, a share of 11th place. The 36-year-old from Missouri bagged his best finish of the 2019 season, although he did better a year ago, when he finished solo-fifth at El Camaleon, one of two top-10s in his 2018-19 season.
Among the seven players who shot a 6-under 65 in the final round, perhaps the most popular was the man who jumped the most spaces up the final leaderboard, 24-year-old recent Stanford star Maverick McNealy. The son of a business mogul, McNealy’s 65 moved him 33 spots from T59 to T26, his third straight tournament finishing at 8-under. Playing his first full-time PGA Tour season, McNealy, who began the week ranked 424th in the world, has made his past five cuts.
Harris English, the 2013 Mayakoba Golf Classic champion, seriously threatened to become the first two-time champion in the history of the event when he jumped out to the 36-hole lead, and, playing in the final threesome for the final 36-hole marathon, was just one stroke behind Todd with 18 holes to go.
The 30-year-old, ready to snap a winless streak that dated back to that El Camaleon victory, which technically happened early in the 2014 season, was still within one of Todd when Sunday play was suspended, but did not appear ready to go Monday morning.
English played the difficult final-four hole stretch in 2-over, with three pars and a double-bogey 6 on the par-4 16th hole leading to a pedestrian 1-under 70 for the final round, which dropped him into a share of 5th place.
His 70 tied the worst final-round score among those who finished the week inside the top 19. However, despite the poor finish, English should be happy with how his early season is going: he has four-top 6 finishes in just five starts.
New Zealand’s Danny Lee has admirably pushed past a number of recent personal afflictions to get himself into the mix at several recent PGA Tour events. The Mayakoba Golf Classic began no different when the 29-year-old grabbed the 18-hole lead after a brilliant 9-under 62 in round 1, where he reached 10-under through just 13 holes. However, Lee moved precipitously down the leaderboard after back-to-back 1-under 70s in the mid-rounds, and closed horribly in the final round.
After playing the first 11 holes in bogey-free 3-under, Lee’s final seven holes was something of a circus. He carded two birdies in that finishing stretch, but also zero pars, four bogeys, and a disastrous quadruple-bogey 8 on the par-4 16th hole, on his way to a 3-over 74 that dropped him to T26 on the final leaderboard.
Those paying close attention to the PGA Tour in recent months were not surprised to see 28-year-old native Mexican Carlos Ortiz in the mix at El Camaleon, but what was surprising was the inclusion on the leaderboard of his younger brother, fellow countryman Alvaro Ortiz on the leaderboard, a 23-year-old former Latin America Tour amateur star who has played very little on the PGA Tour so far.
The younger Ortiz, who this past year became the first Mexican native to compete at The Masters since 1979, was in sixth place at Mayakoba through three rounds, but came completely unraveled over the final 18 holes.Alvaro managed just a single birdie in the final round, combined with two bogeys and three doubles to shoot a field-worst 7-over 78, which dropped him to T48 on the final leaderboard.
“It’s incredible. I’m overcome with emotion right now. The final round was much more nerve-racking for me than Bermuda; those guys played great golf and stayed with me the whole time, and I was able to keep fighting back and putting up a birdie here and there. Man, this one is really special!”
– Brendon Todd