American Brendon Todd used a bogey-free Sunday to fire 66 and post 14-under-par 266 to win the HP Byron Nelson Championship for his first-career win on TOUR. He defeated Canadian Mike Weir by two shots. Australian Marc Leishman and Yank Charles Howell III were two further shots behind in third place.
The HPBNC has crowned a first-time winner for the fourth time in the last five events on Lord Byron’s Manor, the TPC Four Seasons-Las Colinas. Brendon Todd joined Jason Day, Keegan Bradley and Sang-moon Bae as the first-timers who have raised the trophy at this prestigious event recently. There wasn’t much drama on Sunday as the former Georgia Bulldog went out in 32 to push the lead to 13-under and then came home in 34 to post his total of 14-under, 266. His lead for most of the backside hovered at three shots so there wasn’t any tangible pressure coming from the chase pack. The only pressure was putting his first victory and he was up to the test. He was tested on the two par threes on the back nine and he showed exactly what he was made of as he putted LEFT-HANDED from 60 feet on No. 13 to seven feet and made par. He followed that up with a 14-footer on No. 17 to keep a two-shot lead heading to the final hole. He wouldn’t need it as he made par on that hole as well!
Todd’s first victory came by one of the most traditional routes on TOUR: hit fairways and make putts. He led the week in both stats. He was also SIX-UNDER on the par-3s. If he had any nerves, I didn’t see any as he pulled driver on the final hole with plenty of water in play. For the week he only made THREE bogeys (led the field) and one double as his game was sharp as Bulldog teeth. Todd took advantage of the few greens he did hit by finishing T2 in putts per GIR on top of his No. 1 ranking in strokes gained-putting. When he wasn’t hitting greens, he was getting up-and-down from everywhere and that didn’t hurt either.
After opening with 68, this included a double bogey and a bogey, he fired 64-68-66 to close out the week. Those three rounds included exactly two bogeys. Most of the Georgia boys can bomb and gouge it but Todd was 71st in driving distance on the week. His accuracy off the tee and his excellent putting is the reason he broke through this week. He now joins Chris Kirk, Harris English, Patrick Reed, Bubba Watson and Russell Henley as the boys on TOUR with connections to UGA. He is the only first-time winner of that bunch. All the rest of them have multiple victories. Will he join THAT club next?
The 28-year old started to show up on the radar late last summer as he was cranking out solid results on both the Web.com and PGA TOUR. Funnily enough, his “streak” started at this tournament last year when he finished T17. In his only other six starts on TOUR last year, he made five cuts and finished T18 or better in four of them. His last start, the Wyndham Championship, he was T26. That’s a pretty solid run without having full-time status! The Byron Nelson was his first start after his second victory in his career on the Web.com Tour as he won the Stadion Classic at UGA, his college home course. He played five more Web.com Tour events throughout the summer and had finishes of T19, T15, T15 and T2 in the Web.com Tour Championship that sealed his 2014 card.
This is not his rookie year on TOUR. Todd turned pro in 2007 but it was 2008 where he started to make waves. In 23 Web.com events he racked up 14 cuts which included 11 top 25s, seven top 10s and a victory at the Utah Championship. TOUR card in hand in 2009 saw him only make five cuts from 21 starts and a quick return to the Web.com Tour. Gamers, his only top 25 that season was T12 at FESJC where he closed with 65-68-66. Georgia players love that track!
2010 was an absolute disaster as he missed ALL 13 cuts he played in that season on the Web.com Tour. His 2011 wasn’t much better as he missed 14 of 24 events but he performed a complete 180-degree turn as he won Q-School (remember that?) that December to clinch his TOUR card 2.0. 2012 wasn’t much better as he MC 18 of 29 times but made just enough cash to stay inside the top 150 to gain limited status for 2013.
And then the dam broke open last summer and carried into the 2013-14 season last fall as he went four-for-four with three of those finishes falling inside the top 26. As 2014 began, he found himself in the final group with Patrick Reed at the Humana but tailed off for a T6 finish, his best on TOUR. He returned to the top 10 with T6 at Valero in late March but his form entering this week was hardly eye-opening. In his next three events after Valero, gamers lost track of him because of T43, T38 and MC.
Moving forward, Todd has shown he can play easy courses (Humana) and difficult courses (TPC Oaks, Las Colinas) but with all first-time winners, I’ll patiently wait to see how this affects him. Being on TOUR for the third time should help him adjust because everything isn’t “brand-new” to him. His game is super-steady as he currently sits 25th in the all-around category so that bodes well for season-long investors. His putter is the calling card as he ranks 11th in strokes gained and 28th in total putting. He makes plenty of birdies and is 21st in scoring average. He’s been quietly going about his business but now that he’s won his value will obviously increase in both weekly and season-long games.
With his victory, he collects $1,242,000, 500 FedExCup Points and a two-year exemption on TOUR. He also will play in the WGC-BI, the PGA Championship and the 2015 Masters.
Déjà vu All Over Again?
After winning 31 of 40 tournaments in 2013, the USA has now won 21 of 27 events in 2013-14. Harris English, Jimmy Walker (THREE), Webb Simpson, Ryan Moore, Dustin Johnson, Chris Kirk, Zach Johnson, Patrick Reed (TWO), Scott Stallings, Kevin Stadler, Bubba Watson (TWO), Russell Henley, Chesson Hadley, Matt Every, Matt Kuchar, J.B. Holmes and Brendon Todd have won for the USA.
Matt Jones, Steven Bowditch, John Senden and Jason Day, all Australians, have cashed four victories along with South Korean Seung-yul Noh and German Martin Kaymer. Mike Weir tried to add the Maple Leaf flag to that group this week!
S.Y. Noh, Steven Bowditch, Matt Every, Jimmy Walker, Kevin Stadler, Chesson Hadley Matt Jones and now Todd are the first-time winners this season. There were 12, first-timers in 40 events last year and we’ve had eight in 27 events so far in 2014. #onpace
Only 17 of the 38, 54-hole leaders went on to win last year in full-field, stroke play events. I’m always trying to figure out if this is a trend or not. In 2013-14, 15 of 26 leaders have gone on to win on Sunday as Todd and Louis Oosthuizen were co-leaders. I’ll always give credit to the winner for winning in this stat. Hey, it’s my rule!
Tom Watson is the only player to defend his title at HPBNC. He did it twice as he won three straight from 1978-1980.
Paul Casey tied the TOUR record with 27 on the back nine on Friday. He went on to finish T16.
With the lack of Texas wind this week, Todd joins Rory Sabbatini (2009) and Sang-moon Bae (last year) as the only players to win with all four rounds in the 60s. There were EIGHT players who played all four rounds in the 60s this week!
Jimmy Walker, Patrick Reed and Bubba Watson remain the only players on TOUR with multiple wins this season.
Young Guns Versus Prime Time Versus Old Guys
Jimmy Walker (34) started the season out on the right foot for the Prime Time guys and has since added two more wins to lead the FedExCup standings. He has been joined by Ryan Moore (30) in Malaysia, Zach Johnson (37) at Kapalua, Kevin Stadler (33), at WMPO and Bubba Watson (35), joined them at Riviera. Matt Every (30), Steven Bowditch (30) and Matt Jones (33), all first-timers, flew the flag before Watson picked up victory No. 2 of the year at Augusta. Since the first major, Matt Kuchar (37) and J.B. Holmes (32) have also added to the Prime Timers.
Scott Stallings (28), Patrick Reed TWICE (23), Chris Kirk (28), Webb Simpson (28), Dustin Johnson (29), Harris English (24), Jason Day (26) and Russell Henley (24) Seung-Yul Noh (22), Martin Kaymer (29) and now Brendon Todd, 28, to the twenty-something party!
Australian John Senden, 42, won at Tampa Bay for the only W for the “Old Guys” this season. Canadian Mike Weir, 44, was second. When he briefly led on Sunday, this was the first time since 2007 that he had been in the lead on TOUR. #timeflies