CHARLOTTE, NORTH CAROLINA | It took a moment to register, like a hazy memory that won’t quite come into focus.
Brendon Todd’s name was on the leaderboard at the Wells Fargo Championship.
Brendon Todd … hmmm, sounds familiar.
Oh yeah, Brendon Todd, won the 2014 Byron Nelson Championship and was ranked among the top 50 in the world for a while. Nice player. Quiet. Unassuming.
What happened to him?
It’s almost too ugly to talk about.
Here’s the short version from the man himself:
“Ball-striking yips. Hitting a 4-iron like 50 yards right out of play every round and I did that for like two years,” Todd said Friday afternoon after opening with rounds of 69-70 at Quail Hollow Club
That’s the short version. Any longer shot – putting doesn’t count – has brought potential disaster.
Todd, 33, knows the moment it began.
“I hit one in the BMW (Championship) in 2015 in the last group on Saturday and I didn’t stop doing it until … I haven’t stopped really, it’s just less,” he said.
Last season, Todd missed the cut in all six PGA Tour starts he made. The year before that, he missed eight cuts in nine starts. Go back one more season and Todd missed 25 cuts in 29 starts.
It reached the point where calling what Todd has been through the previous three years a slump is being generous.
He has been lost in the game’s wilderness, his confidence shaken, his swing a mess, his career having flatlined. Run these numbers around for moment:
Last season, Todd missed the cut in all six PGA Tour starts he made. The year before that, he missed eight cuts in nine starts, scratching out a T70 finish the only weekend he played. Go back one more season and Todd missed 25 cuts in 29 starts, including 15 in a row.
That’s 39 missed cuts in 44 starts by a player who finished 46th in the FedEx Cup playoffs in 2015. Once ranked 42nd in the world, Todd teed it up at Quail Hollow this week at No. 1,562. That’s deep space.
“I would think about this time last year I got a couple sponsor exemptions into some (Web.com Tour) events and played poorly. I mean, I was beat up. I was like considering, you know, am I going to get it back, do I need to look to do something else?” Todd admitted.
Enter Australian-born Bradley Hughes, who had a long playing career on the PGA Tour and the European Tour. Hughes focuses on teaching these days and Todd, looking for anything that might help, called Hughes, who is based near Charlotte.
“He has a book on his website that I read and really loved. It talks a lot about his playing days, the history of the great players, how they swung the club. It has a lot of pictures and drills and models in there,” Todd said.
“That kind of resonated with me as a player, a feel player, somebody who doesn’t really want to go try and paint lines with my golf swing, I want to kind of feel like a pressure or a force and that’s what he teaches. He’s all about ground forces and pressures. So the book really hit home with me, and I went and saw him and it’s just kind of been a home run ever since.”
“He still thinks he can win and that’s half the battle.” – swing coach Bradley Hughes on Brendon Todd
Hughes bases his instruction on ground forces and pressure more than positions in the swing. Hughes told Todd to open the clubface as much as possible – a frightening thought to someone given to hitting it wide right – then club it at the ball.
Through an abundance of drill work, Todd saw results.
“It’s easier to teach good players because there is generally something you can point them back toward,” Hughes said. “When you start seeing better shots, it breeds confidence. He still thinks he can win and that’s half the battle.”
Getting to the weekend at Quail Hollow marked the third made cut in five starts for Todd. Small steps but big progress considering where he’s been for more than three years.
Todd feels like he’s a better player now than he was but his results rendered him irrelevant for years. Working with Hughes, he has begun to draw the ball more, has the ability to hit more shots with his irons and he feels his scoring ability returning. From where Todd has been, it doesn’t come back instantly, as his nerves while finishing the second round in contention reminded him.
He doesn’t have the luxury of picking his spots to play, which is why a sponsor exemption into the Wells Fargo Championship was meaningful. Todd has been through something similar before, working through a significant slump in 2010.
“At the end of the day I’m fortunate to have had enough success out here where I didn’t need to go get a job for money really. So my choice is to play professional golf and keep chasing it, keep competing, so that’s what I’ve done,” Todd said.
“I never really stopped working at it the whole time. I’ve chased Mondays, I’ve chased the Web tour, I’ve played mini-tour events, I’ve practiced, I’ve worked with different teachers. I’ve never really changed my game plan.”
Brendon Todd tees off during the first round of the Wells Fargo Championship in Charlotte, North Carolina. Photo: Jared C. Tilton, Getty Images
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