“Absolutely not,” Todd says, when asked if he had a premonition that it would be his week.
He had regained his TOUR card through the Korn Ferry Tour Finals but started last season with four straight missed cuts. Then came a T28 at the Houston Open, followed by a two-week break. Little did he know what was just around the corner.
“I did play a really good round at home, shot 65 with Davis Thompson, a really good Georgia player, at UGA the Saturday before (Bermuda),” he says. “But when I flew there, I could only play nine holes in torrential conditions Tuesday, and could only chip and putt Wednesday, so I wasn’t even able to play the whole course. I had no idea how the week was going to go.
“I had confidence,” he adds. “I had had a good year in that I played out of the past champion category, worked my way into the (Korn Ferry Tour) Finals, finished second, got my card back. But I had missed my first four cuts, and when you go to a new country, new golf course, and don’t play every hole in practice, it’s hard to walk out there like, ‘Yep, I’m going to win.’”
The final-round 62 in Bermuda, he says now, was the absolute hottest he’s ever been, and was the lowest final round by a winner since Rory McIlroy at the 2019 RBC Canadian Open.
“I parred the first hole but burned the edge from 15 feet,” he says. Then: seven straight birdies. “Then I lipped out on nine from 15 feet,” he says, “birdied 10 and 11, and on 12 I had 5 feet for birdie, but it horseshoed at me. I felt like through 12 I should have birdied every hole.”
Todd is rarely asked to talk about such glory. With him, people want to hear about the slump.
It started how these things often start, after a win. Upon winning the 2014 AT&T Byron Nelson, Todd decided he had time to retool his swing to create a higher launch angle. Instead he ended up with a big right miss and faded off the TOUR. Total FedExCup points in 2018: zero.
Todd and his wife Rachel considered franchising a Your Pie pizza restaurant – plan B, hold the anchovies – but a book called “The Great Ballstrikers” by Bradley Hughes, an Australian who played the inaugural Presidents Cup and became Todd’s swing coach, provided hope. So did a book by Rick Ankiel, a baseball pitcher who had battled the throwing yips. Todd also called on Ward Jarvis, a caddie on the Korn Ferry Tour who fought and overcame a stuttering problem before becoming a firefighter and performance coach.
Eventually, Todd says, he began to “keep it between the trees” and claw his way back.
“Every interview, I get asked about it,” he says. “And I get calls from other people in slumps, or Instagram messages. I am tired of sharing all the details, that’s for sure. But I’m happy to use it to help people, because everybody who plays golf for a long time is going to have a slump, and probably even go through the yips. It’s nice to be able to share how I worked my way out of it.
“I’ve had some teachers say they’ve been really encouraged by what I did,” he adds.
What he did could have been even better. He held the outright 54-hole lead a TOUR-leading four times last season, not just at Mayakoba but also The RSM Classic, Travelers Championship and World Golf Championships-FedEx St. Jude Invitational. Only in Mexico did he get the win.
“I have no regrets,” he says. “I felt I prepared for each final round well. I didn’t feel nervous or overwhelmed, had a good mentality, and I learned from each one. All three were different.”
At RSM it was a three-quarter 7-iron that found the hazard at the fifth hole, leading to a double-bogey. At the Travelers it was what he calls “one goofy chip” – a bad mistake from a terrible lie that led to a triple. And he just couldn’t make a putt at the WGC-FedEx St. Jude.
“I’m not the longest guy,” he says, “so I definitely rely on my putting to get it under par.”
No, at 187th in driving distance last season, Todd is definitely not the longest even if he might be the longest longshot. Or he was, anyway. Now he’s firmly established among the game’s elite.
“I learned that my natural good ball-striking is good enough to play great out here,” he says. “I think it probably always was; just keep being me, and good things will happen.”
Source: PGA tour