Brendon Todd drove to the golf courses like a man approaching a tax audit.

Putting the car in “park” was the gateway to misery. He knew that he would go to the range and watch an independent-minded ball soar in directions Todd had not intended. He knew that on Friday afternoon he would head to another airport, cut and bleeding.

Todd was already a winner on the PGA Tour and had already put one dogged slump behind him. But this one had stubbornly endured second, third, fourth, fifth opinions.

It was “the yips,” the worst golfing virus, except it was also “the fairway yips,” which attacked Todd’s big clubs. It is difficult to shoot low scores from behind the ropes. At one point Todd missed 37 of 40 cuts.

“You go to the course with bad thoughts before you even start,” Todd said. “Usually, after about six holes, you realize that all the stuff that you’ve been working so hard on is not working.”

The yips finally left in 2019. Todd won a PGA Tour event in Bermuda and then a full-field tournament at Mayakoba, Mexico, getting him back into the Masters and, more critically, letting him plan his schedule for the next two seasons.

Todd used that privilege to skip the past three tournaments. He plays at Riviera in the Genesis Open Thursday, the best field of the season so far, with black tape all over his rear-view mirror.

“I’ve won at every level,” Todd said. “I’ve held two 54-hole leads out here and I’ve converted two of them. I have that pedigree, and I knew I could and I thought I would, but there was certainly no guarantee.”

Todd shot 24-under in Bermuda, 20-under at Mayakoba, and then 16-under at Sea Island, Ga., where he finished fourth. He shot 68 or better in 12 consecutive rounds. Only Todd and Tiger Woods have done that since 1983.

“I was more surprised when I didn’t hit a good shot,” Todd said. “My mental coach talks about getting into a ‘flow state.’ That was the epitome.”

Todd is 34, beat Rickie Fowler in a U.S. Amateur match, beat Webb Simpson twice for North Carolina high school championships, and was a four-year factor at Georgia. In 2010 he didn’t make a cut all year on what was then the Nationwide Tour, but in 2014 he won the Byron Nelson Classic.

When the new yips invaded, Todd quickly disappeared. If you’re not among the Top 50 players, or if you don’t win a Players Championship or win an event every other year, you’re basically a temp. Todd missed 20 of 21 cuts in 2016 and was gone, except for sponsor’s exemptions, or tournaments with such weak fields that he could enter as a former winner.

Meanwhile, the helpers in his world began hindering.

“People don’t talk about it enough, but not every teacher on the range is good for everyone,” Todd said. “I went through four or five. My issue was not being able to square the club. Some teachers convince you that the backswing really matters. The only thing that matters is swinging down and hitting it straight from the top.”

A former Georgia teammate mentioned former tour player Bradey Hughes, an Australian who had written “The Great Shot Makers.” Hughes put a small, round “impact bag” in front of Todd and asked to swing the club with one hand, then two. Slowly Todd worked his back to “square.”

“Nobody else had wanted to address the downswing in the way I’d needed to,” Todd said.

Todd still couldn’t qualify for the Triple-A tour, but at least knew where the ball was, and wasn’t, going. By the middle of 2019 he was making cuts again.

In the meantime, Todd noticed that the tour’s proud, independent-contractor ethic can seem forbidding when the contracts expire.

“You don’t have many guys coming up to you asking about it,” he said, “which is kinda weird. You have your own brain, your coach, your history. We all just try to stick to our little box and hope we can make our box work.

“Nobody wants to come up and say, at random, look, I see you’re struggling, how can i help? I had guys come up and tell me I was better than this. But they didn’t tell me how to get out of it.”


“I had zero confidence and now it’s at 100 percent. It’s just a matter how efficient I am, how many birdies I can get.”

It’s also a matter of how quickly Brendon Todd can get to a golf course, Augusta National in particular.