It’s hard to get too excited about golf this side of Christmas. It’s more than four months since the season of majors ended at a raucous Royal Portrush, and since then, well, it’s all been a little bit boring.
Ok, there have been moments. The McIlroy versus Koepka showdown at the Tour Championship was one – two big dogs grappling over a truckload of bones is as close to blood sport as golf is likely to come – and Tiger Woods winning in Japan was another, because, well, he’s Tiger Woods. But what else has there been for the non-fanatics to really get excited about? The Race to Dubai, I suppose, but the general apathy of the players is reason enough for my lack of excitement.
And we’ve got distractions all around. With jolly, bearded fat men in red suits coming to town, the faux-outrage and childish squabbling of the British general election, and VAR proving that technologically-armed football referees are equally as incompetent as those in the dark ages, it’s easy to see how golf and the PGA Tour’s fall series in particular, has slipped by like a ship in the night.
And yet, one of the greatest stories of the year was unfolding right under our noses. I’m writing about Brendon Todd, the Cinderella Man of the professional game, who is probably the hottest player on the planet right now. But would you pick him out of a police line-up? Unless he was the only one in a polo-shirt and corporate sponsored ball cap, you probably wouldn’t.
Todd came within a whisker of being the first player to win three consecutive PGA Tour events since Woods’ three-peat in 2006. Ok, so Dustin Johnson and Rory McIlroy may have won three in as many starts, but each of them had taken weeks and tournaments off in the meantime, and what’s more, Woods, McIlroy and Johnson all had the clear distinction of being the best player in the world as they began their streaks.
Todd, a 34-year-old Korn Ferry tour graduate, had been on the verge of packing in tour-life little over a year ago, having struggled incessantly since losing his card in 2016. When people think of life as a tour pro, they think of the money, of staying in fancy hotels, playing great courses and hanging out with your friends in the evening. They don’t see the $0 paycheque that comes with a missed cut, of staying in soulless hotels because they are cheap but still being desperate to spend the weekend there, of spending your evenings trying to fix whatever it is that’s been killing you and the extended torture of not being able to get it right.
Todd did, Todd had, and quite frankly, Todd was fed up of it.
At the Korn Ferry Tour Q-school last November, Todd opened with rounds of 74 and 71 to all but end his chances. But as so often happens, with the bottom looming, Todd found something. The absence of a mid-way cut meant that Todd was able to tee it up for the third round, even though others with similar scores had withdrawn, and shot 68. Still a long way back, only a ridiculously low score could get him back in the mix. With nothing to lose, he shot a final-round 63, which, great as it was, still fell shy of earning him a card.
But it did wonders for his confidence. Playing off sponsor’s exemptions and past-champion status (Todd won the Byron Nelson in 2014) when fortunate enough to get in, he did enough to secure a tour card for the 2020 season.
But life in the big leagues isn’t easy, and few know this better than Todd himself. Four missed cuts to start the year, were followed by a T-28 finish at the Houston Open. Then, as the tour embarked on its Asian swing, limited fields meant Todd was left at home to lick his wounds.
The two weeks’ rest was the ideal tonic, and the Brendon Todd that arrived in Bermuda was a different animal. Ranked 525 in the world entering, three tournaments, two wins and a top-5 later, Todd is up to world number 72, has job security until 2022, an invitation from Augusta National in the post, and over $2 million dollars freshly deposited in his bank account.
Is this really happening, or will the clock strike midnight for golfs Cinderella Man?
Whatever happens, this has been a remarkable story, and Todd, almost singlehandedly, made the Fall Series interesting.
No mean feat, and much better than leaving a glass Footjoy…