Swing steadied, Todd seeks Texas two-step
FORT WORTH, TEXAS – How did HP Byron Nelson Championship winner Brendon Todd celebrate his first victory? By hanging around and eating free pizza with his wife, Rachel, at the media center. Apparently, that’s how the Todds roll.
It was a week of new experiences for Todd, who never held the lead after a round on the PGA Tour until claiming the 36-hole lead last week at the Nelson and then slept on a share of the lead going into Sunday. He said he didn’t sleep well and he got off to a nervy start, but a holed bunker shot for birdie at the second gave him the feeling it might be his day. Several hours later, Todd sat down in front of the microphone after shooting a final-round 66 to win by two strokes over Mike Weir and said, “So this is where you want to be on Sunday night, huh?”
Finding his way to the winner’s circle was quite a journey for Todd. His wife has been alongside him the entire way. She has missed just one tournament since he turned professional in 2007, passing on a Web.com Tour event in Leon, Mexico. “The area seemed a little sketchy,” she explained.
Rachel even caddied for her husband for seven events until he “fired” her in favor of a more experienced hand. Hey, he won his first title the next week – the Web.com's Utah Championship – so it was all good. But the couple endured a 2010 season in which he went 0-for-13 in cuts on the Web.com Tour and didn’t earn a check. During those lean times, they used to stay in free housing. Now that they’ve cashed a check for $1.242 million, the Todds checked into the Four Seasons on Sunday night.
After the pizza, the Todds did go out for a more fitting celebration with friends who had flown in to watch the final round. And in what must have made for a surreal moment, when Todd and his wife returned to their hotel room they flipped on Golf Channel in time to see the replay of the final few holes.
“Just to enjoy the moment a little more,” he said. “It was nice.”
Todd’s moment was a long time coming. He made the PGA Tour in 2009 but has bounced back and forth between the Tour and Web.com Tour ever since without being able to stick in the big leagues. Seeking a “more repeatable swing,” Todd began working with instructor Scott Hamilton at the 2012 Children’s Miracle Network Classic, and it's made all the difference in his game. Hamilton still remembers that first week together, and the sinking feeling that there was a lot of work on Todd’s swing to be done.
“I went out and watched him play,” Hamilton said, “and thought, ‘Oh, my gosh.’ He drove it all over the lot. I asked Rachel, ‘So is the driving what is holding him back?’ She’s like, ‘Yeah, man.’ ”
Todd’s swing, according to Hamilton, required an overhaul.
“He got the club way behind him,” Hamilton said. “He swung the club up and lifted up the plane and swung it down and either hit across it or hit pulls.”
Rebuilding a golf swing can be dangerous business, and Hamilton had his worries.
“You’re not trying to run a guy off to sell insurance,” he said.
Though Todd might have been crooked off the tee, his short game was sharp. He has that knack for getting the ball in the hole, as exemplified by his left-handed, club-turned-upside-down 4-iron chip to escape danger on the par-3 13th hole in the final round.
“I’m thinking, ‘Man, let’s just make bogey,’ ” Hamilton said. “When you’ve never won before, a couple-shot lead is nothing, especially with some tough closing holes.”
Todd rescued par and avoided any more hiccups, holing a clutch par putt on 17. Speaking of his short game, Todd credited an old drill that he returned to last week, in which he lifts his right leg and stands on one foot, for his touch around the greens.
“It helps my contact become a little more crisp, keeps my shoulder rotating through the shot,” he said. “I can’t tell you how important I think that was for me.”
So was his practice session in Jacksonville a week earlier. Todd was second alternate for The Players Championship, and it was while waiting for his fate that his confidence in his retooled swing took flight.
“He was hitting it so good, I really wanted him to get in,” Hamilton said. “I knew he had got there. We had finally gotten over the mountain with his swing.”
Todd never got the call for The Players, but it all came together at TPC Four Seasons Resort. Todd led the field in driving accuracy, the first Tour winner to do so since Louis Oosthuizen at the 2010 Open Championship, a span of 152 events.
“He got my golf swing on plane, repeatable, and has allowed my short game now to get me under par instead of keep me around par,” Todd said.
For the season, he’s hitting 65 percent of fairways, which ranks 35th on Tour, a big improvement from 59 percent (No. 136th) in 2012, his last full season on Tour. He also led the field in strokes gained-putting and total putts, with 99. If he can continue that deadly combination, Todd could become the 15th player to win the HP Byron Nelson Championship and Crowne Plaza Invitational.
“If you could get both of those in your career, you’d be doing something really special,” Todd said. “But if you can get them back-to-back weeks, that would be probably untouchable. … I spoke with Billy Andrade this week; he’s a good friend of mine. He’s one of only three guys, I believe, to get his second win the week after he won his first time on the PGA Tour. So he encouraged me to get into that rare company.”
If he does, Todd knows where to go on Sunday night. There might even be more pizza.