Brendon Todd wasn’t supposed to be here. The 35-year-old, who entered Friday tied with Jason Day for the lead at -5 at the PGA Championship in San Francisco, was barely on the sport’s radar in 2019. A year ago at this time, he was the world’s 795th-ranked player, which was still a marked improvement from months earlier when he ranked only 2,006th. That latter figure was tied for last among all ranked players.
According to Golfweek’s Adam Shupak, the University of Georgia alum made just four of 41 cuts between 2016-18. Amazingly, that wasn’t even his worst stretch as a professional. Todd entered 13 tournaments on the Web.com Tour in 2010 and missed the cut in all 13. He didn’t earn a single PGA check that year while barely hitting 50 percent of his fairways. Tired of banging his head against the wall, Todd considered hanging up his cleats in 2018. After already losing his PGA Tour card on multiple occasions, it looked like the sport might make that decision for him.
But the former college All-American miraculously overcame his yips, roaring to life with a pair of victories late in the 2019 season. Now ranked an impressive 48th globally, Todd has been among the hottest players in golf of late. Nobody on the tour has led after more rounds (nine including Thursday’s opening 18 at Harding Park) this season than Todd, who held 54-hole leads at both the Travelers Championship and last week’s FedEx St. Jude Invitational in Memphis. He came up short in both those tournaments but that doesn’t make his ascension any less remarkable.
Beginning on the back nine Thursday, Todd opened his round with birdies on 10 and 11, then lost a stroke on the Par-4 14th before rebounding with birdies on 16 and 17. He played bogey-free golf over his final nine holes, heading to the clubhouse with a glistening 65 on his scorecard, the low round among Thursday’s afternoon players (Day teed off in the morning). Currently ninth in the PGA’s FedEx Cup Rankings (he holds a 28-point advantage over 10th-place Jon Rahm), Todd hasn’t made it to the weekend at the PGA Championship since 2014, when he finished 72nd at Valhalla, a distant 25 strokes back of that year’s champion, Rory McIlroy.
Regardless of how the final 54 holes shake out, Todd's inspiring resiliency, returning from the abyss after a crippling, almost career-ending case of the yips, makes him the best story of this year’s PGA Championship.