How Brendon Todd overcame the yips and won in Bermuda

Rob Carr/Getty Images

How Brendon Todd overcame the yips and won in Bermuda

Golf

How Brendon Todd overcame the yips and won in Bermuda

By

Leave it to Brendon Todd to solve the mystery of his missing game in Bermuda of all places.

Planes and ships that famously vanished in the Bermuda Triangle were less lost than Todd, a 34-year-old PGA Tour journeyman, who suffered through a stretch of missing 37 cuts in 41 starts between 2016 and 2018 and plummeted to No. 2006 in the world at the start of the year. But on Nov. 3, Todd capped off a remarkable comeback by playing 9 under in his first 11 holes en route to shooting a final-round 62 to win the Tour’s inaugural Bermuda Championship by four strokes over Henry Higgs.

“I went and found the wrecked ship and put it back together,” Todd said ahead of the Mayakoba Golf Classic, where he makes his first start Thursday since returning to the winner’s circle.

When asked to recall how his game went south, Todd can identify the exact moment it began to spin out of control. He was playing in the final pairing in the third round of the 2015 BMW Championship after shooting 66-63 and on the fourth hole he blocked a 4-iron 50 yards right that landed one hole over in a bush. He took a drop for an unplayable lie, made a triple bogey and shot 76, but that was just the beginning of his travails.

“I started seeing this right shot in my head and I couldn’t shake it,” he said. “The damage to my mind was done.”

Todd developed the nasty affliction known as the yips, an involuntary loss of control that typically affects a player’s nerves on short putts. Todd suffered from the full-swing yips.

“It’s really not using your mind the right way,” Todd explained. “Your fear takes over and blocks your instincts from doing what comes naturally. Once you see the bad result you have a fear of the same outcome until you fix it.”

This wasn’t the first time Todd had endured the loss of his game. In 2010, he missed the cut in all 13 of his starts on the Korn Ferry Tour and didn’t earn a check. But by 2014, Todd won the PGA Tour’s Byron Nelson Championship and climbed into the top 50 in the world. This slump, however, proved to be a longer journey into darkness.

“All of us as pros who knew him felt so bad for the struggles he went through,” said Matt Kuchar, the defending champion of the Mayakoba Golf Classic. “He went down to the bottom. He wasn’t just missing cuts. He was struggling to break 80.”

Todd sought answers from multiple teachers, but nothing seemed to help. That is until David Denham, a teammate from Todd’s 2005 National Championship squad at Georgia, suggested he consider working with Bradley Hughes, an Australian who won seven tournaments around the world as a pro before becoming an instructor. Todd bought Hughes’s $9 instructional e-book “The Victors,” and read it at the beach on family vacation and called him for a lesson.

“He didn’t want a paint-by-numbers (swing,) as he called it,” Hughes said. “He wanted to trust that the club was going to do what it should do.”

Around the same time, caddie Ward Jarvis suggested Todd read another book to help the mental side of his game, “The Phenomenon: Pressure, the Yips, and the Pitch that Changed My Life,” by former pitcher Rick Ankiel.

Brendon Todd finally saw the light at the end of the tunnel after a prolonged slump. Tracy Wilcox/Golfweek

Still, as 2018 neared its end, Todd met with his financial adviser and discussed pursuing other careers. He looked into opening a pizza franchise. In November, he shot 61 to qualify for the RSM Classic and posted four rounds in the 60s. He put the pizza plans on hold. By April, the fog had lifted and Todd’s confidence in his swing reemerged. Regaining his playing privileges through Korn Ferry Tour Finals was big, but Todd had grander ambitions. Hughes recalls Todd looking him in the eye and declaring he was going to win again.

“Mate, I have no doubts,” Hughes said. “There were a lot of doubters but neither of them were us.”

Todd’s victory earned him the security of a two-year exemption, berths in the Sentry Tournament of Champions and Players Championship, but not an upgrade on his flight home.

“I either had a beer or a phone in my hand texting from the minute I won, so all of a sudden I was walking on the airplane and I was like, ‘I wonder what seat I’m in?’ And I looked up and there I was 16E, middle seat. You know what? That stuff matters so little to me. I’ve been flying to and from Monday qualifiers for the past three years. Do you really think I care about sitting in the middle seat on the way home from my second victory?”

Not when his game is flying high again.

Latest

More Golfweek
Home