Brendon Todd entered rich company in more ways than he could have imagined on Sunday after shooting a record-equalling 62 to win the PGA Tour Bermuda Championship by four strokes.
In carding 24 under par to almost lap the field, the 34-year-old Pittsburgh native joined none other than Tiger Woods in becoming the second player in the 2019-20 season to win an inaugural PGA Tour event.
While 80 wins separate men who are miles apart on the order of golfing pedigree, they are united in having overcome great adversity.
Woods’s travails have been well chronicled, the most recent being another knee surgery that preceded victory at the Zozo Championship, which tied him with Sam Snead for the most PGA Tour wins at 82.
But, for Todd, the road back from the yips, a run of 36 missed cuts out of 37 and a return to the lower reaches of professional golf presented a different challenge.
His first tour win at the AT&T Byron Nelson Classic in 2014 had seemed a distant memory, 100 starts ago, and there were genuine thoughts of walking away from the sport to start a business.
The thousands who gathered at Port Royal Golf Course are grateful he found his way back, for they were witnesses to a virtuoso performance that put the tournament to bed before the turn and elicited genuine hope of seeing a magical 59.
A sub-60 round has been achieved only ten times on the PGA Tour, with Jim Furyk’s 58 in the final round at the 2016 Travelers Championship being the record.
Todd needed two birdies on his final three holes to join that illustrious company, but finished par, par, bogey to match the course record set by Scottie Scheffler in the first round on Thursday.
“With two or three to play, I was trying to shoot 59, so I had to play a little more conservatively on 17 just because there’s no reason to give anything back, so I didn’t make birdie there,” he said. “[From there] I pretty much knew 59 was out the window, but I was still playing smart and laid it back off the [par-five 17th] tee. Then I missed the green left and then I’m like, well, I want to shoot a bogey-free 61 today.”
Sole possession of the course record went when a six-footer for par at the last drifted past the hole for his only blemish of the day, but unlike Furyk whose 58 did not come with a winner’s cheque — the 2018 US Ryder Cup captain finishing joint fifth at TPC River Highlands — Todd takes home $540,000.
He also pockets 300 FedEx Cup points, gains exemption on the tour through the 2021-22 season, and has earned a place at the Sentry Tournament of Champions, the PGA Championship, The Players Championship, well established as “the fifth major”, and six other invitational events this season.
He said: “I’m thrilled, over the moon. A year ago, I was talking to my manager about potentially opening up another business and not sure if I was going to keep playing. So to turn it around in one year and regain status and then have a big win like this is just a dream come true and hopefully a springboard to a really long, successful career.”
Other than a pleasing 63 on Friday, there were few signs that Todd would match the consistency of third-round leader Harry Higgs, who did not make bogey until his 50th hole.
But the older man was on fire from the start on Sunday, with both his irons and the putter — nine birdies in his first 11 holes, including seven straight from the 2nd through the 8th, not only overcoming the two-stroke deficit at the start, but quickly establishing a lead that left his rivals scrambling and at one point grew to as large as seven.
“I had probably one of the best range warm-ups I’ve had in a little while,” Todd said. “I think I told my caddie that’s the best my swing’s felt in ten years, but in reality it’s probably the best it’s felt ever because I’m a much better ball-striker than I was ten years ago and in college, and even during the times where I was winning tournaments.
“My goal was just to go out there and play my game, play aggressively and just fire away — try and birdie every hole.”
The friendliest conditions of the week were conducive to low scoring, but not every golfer filled his boots.
Each of the previous eight players this season to hold the 54-hole lead went on to lift the title, and Higgs had expressed his confidence the day before that he could be the ninth. But, on a relatively windless day, the 27-year-old from New Jersey was swept away in the Todd tsunami, his challenge effectively over at the par-five 7th where he took double bogey for a three-shot swing after another straightforward birdie for the runaway champion in waiting.
That Higgs recovered his composure to shoot three-under 68, capturing second place and the $327,000 cheque that came with it, owed much to a scrambling ability that ranked as best of the week — and a lengthy eagle putt at No 17 that got him to 20 under and broke a five-way tie for second.
But that second shot on No 7?
“I hit a good shot there,” said Higgs of the approach that ended long left and down an embankment, where he was blocked out by a tree, had no relief and was forced to play out left-handed. “Looking back on it, I just hit the wrong club. The club that I hit, I thought I was going to end up 25, 30 feet left of [the pin].”
On the green in five, with Todd putting for eagle, the tour rookie was playing for second at best from a long way out.
“I probably could have played a bit more conservative in a way, but it’s hard to do that when someone’s rattling off a million birdies in a row,” he said.
“I turned to Mike [his caddie] after he birdied 11 and said this guy might shoot 56 today. Every shot he hit was just perfect; every putt he hit was perfect. It was fun to watch.
“It was hard to focus because I was almost cheering him on the whole time. Like, I want to see how good this is going to be for him. But then there was the task at hand. I made the goal, maybe when I made the turn, that I want to finish solo second. I was very fortunate to do that.”
The four-way tie for third featured Hank Lebioda, who flew under the radar with a flawless, career-best 63, and two-round leader Scheffler, who bounced back from a disappointing 69 on Saturday to close with 66.
Also on 18 under were Brian Gay (67) and Aaron Wise (65).
Bo Hoag, who was in the final grouping with Todd and Higgs, struggled to a 71 after a difficult day on the greens and slipped eight places to joint eleventh.
Boo Weekley, the 2008 US Ryder Cup star, carded his third 66 of the week, but his chances of contending were scuppered by a three-over 74 on Saturday’s “moving day”.
He finished joint eighteenth at 12 under, as did Lanto Griffin, who did enough to retain a slim, 24-point lead in the FedEx Cup standings over WGC-HSBC Champions winner Rory McIlroy.
• To view the final scores, click on the PDF link under “Related Media”