May 18, 2014

Brendon Todd fires 66 at Nelson for first PGA Tour win

The 28-year-old Georgia alumnus uses a 4-iron backward to escape late trouble and win by two shots over Mike Weir.

A golf professional still as green as the most plush fairway, Brendon Todd now knows PGA triumph backward and forward.

Todd, a vagabond looking for a more permanent home on the PGA Tour, has that security after sealing his first tour victory in his 77th career start. He utilized every tool in his bag, not to mention his imagination, in seizing his moment at the HP Byron Nelson Championship at TPC Las Colinas on Sunday.

Todd, 28, closed with a bogey-free 4-under 66 to very coolly finish off the contenders, who began the day grouped together like the start of a NASCAR race. Twelve players were crowded within two strokes of the leaders, all chasing the coveted $1.2 million winner’s share.

Todd became the eighth first-time winner on tour this season after finishing with a 14-under 266 total to edge long-struggling lefty Mike Weir by two strokes. Charles Howell III and Marc Leishman shared third at 10 under.

Foreshadowing his victory was a birdie from a greenside bunker on No. 2.

But history will most likely recall two crucial par saves. The first was at the par-3 13th, where he turned a 4-iron backward and swung left-handed to get his ball off a tree, Another came at No. 17, where he nailed a 14-footer for the cold-blooded clincher.

With his victory, Todd earned a tour exemption through the 2015-16 season.

“I’m excited about the relief of feeling I finally have a chance to play the PGA Tour for multiple years,” said Todd, a former University of Georgia golfer who won titles on the Nationwide and tours.

“I drew upon all of those experiences, but none of them were as nerve-wracking as this one. I couldn’t even explain how I felt on the back nine today.”

Todd, who had just three bogeys and one double bogey all week, was the steadiest player in the field, finishing first in driving accuracy and putting. He added a solid short game that enabled him to scramble better than anyone on the course.

He appeared composed throughout the day, even when he discovered his tee shot on No. 13 had nuzzled up against the base of a tree, 65 feet from the pin.

Todd turned his 4-iron backward and drew on the experiences of putting with his brother-in-law’s left-handed putter.

“I’m pretty good with it. I tried to use that stroke,” Todd said. “I just wanted it away from the tree.”

When the ball quit rolling downhill, it sat about 7 feet from the hole.

Todd said he never took a peek at the leader board. If he had, he would have seen Weir’s initial Sunday charge stall with three bogeys on his final 13 holes.

Weir, the 2003 Masters champion, jumped out with four birdies on his first five holes.

“It’s the best I’ve played in a long time,” said Weir, who missed 18 consecutive cuts from 2011-13 while recovering from elbow surgery. “In the end, Brendon played a little better. It just wasn’t meant to be.”

Weir lost strokes with bogeys at Nos. 6, 9 and 15, but recovered slightly with birdies at 13 and 16.

He was poised to make one last stand with a good birdie chance at No. 17, which would have put him within one stroke of the rookie contender trying to close for the first time.

The 8-footer slid just past the hole.

“I gave myself a great chance,” Weir said. “Hit it just the line, exactly the speed I wanted ... it just happened not to go in.”

Louis Oosthuizen, the 54-hole co-leader, shot 4-over 74 on Sunday to fall off the pace.

Todd now heads west to Hogan’s Alley, where he seeks to join Ben Hogan as the only other golfer to win both the Nelson and Crowne Plaza Invitational at Colonial.

“Playing on the PGA Tour when you’re young is a dream and to win out here is really special,” Todd said. “I felt I could win. ... It’s taken a little while but now that I’m here, it’s a dream come true.”

Final leader board

-14 Brendon Todd 66—266
-12 Mike Weir 67-268
-10 Charles Howell III 67—270
-10 Marc Leishman 68—270
-9 Boo Weekley 68—271
-9 James Hahn 70—271

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