Opportunity called Brendon Todd at 2 p.m. Monday while he sat in the dining area at Bethesda’s Congressional Country Club.
Justin Rose, winner of the U.S. Open nine days earlier, had withdrawn from this week’s AT&T National. Rose was too exhausted to last four rounds on the Blue Course in 90-degree heat. His place in the 132-man field now belonged to the PGA Tour’s first alternate, a distinction Todd owned for the second straight week.
Todd hung up his phone. “Yeah, let’s go,” he remembered thinking. “Go out and practice and get ready to play.”
Todd is among the dozens of golfers who cycle annually, and sometimes weekly, between the PGA Tour and the developmental Web.com Tour. He is striving to regain the full PGA Tour status he had in 2012 and 2009 — and hold on to it this time.
When a Rose or a Tiger Woods withdraws from a PGA event, as both did prior to the AT&T National, it creates an opportunity near the bottom of the ladder. Todd is the beneficiary this week, and he’s not content with simply being a part of the field.
“A top-10 would be a really positive week for me,” he said Tuesday before going to work on the practice green.
Todd, 27, knows well the hazards that disturb life straddling both tours. He can regain full status on the PGA Tour for next season by being in the top 125 in FedEx Cup standings or by finishing in the top 25 on the Web.com Tour money list. When he has an opportunity to play in a PGA tournament, he must consider whether playing in that or the concurrent Web.com event would most help him achieve that goal.
He arrived in Bethesda feeling confident about his chances for 2014. He’s ninth on the Web.com money list after winning $108,000 for his victory at the Stadion Classic in Athens, Ga., in early May. He can skip a few Web.com events to see if he can climb the FedEx Cup standings, in which he’s 164th.
But that can lead to dead ends.
Last week, Todd wanted to play in the PGA’s Travelers Championship in Connecticut. He was excluded from the field, however, and failed to qualify early in the week by two strokes. He was the first alternate, but no spot came available. He earned jack squat for the weekend.
“That was a bummer,” Todd said.
It’s not a fatal blow to his 2014 status, though, because he is back to the form that helped him earn first-team All-American status at Georgia before graduating in 2007. He can afford to be a bit choosy now that he has rebounded from the nadir of his career.
After Todd first joined the PGA Tour in 2009, he became convinced that he needed to change his game. “Hit the ball more efficiently,” he said. “Sweep it a little more. Hit it a little higher.”
Todd took a few golf lessons he regrets.
“He ended up kind of ruining his game a little bit,” Georgia golf coach Chris Haack said. “What took a year to destroy took three to five years to gain back.”
Todd regained his confidence by working with Bill McInerney, a golf performance coach who runs MyGolfingGoals Academy in Boston. McInerney emphasized the importance of goal-oriented practice. They differentiated between practicing swing mechanics and training for competitive situations.
They also generated a list of long-term improvements needed to establish staying power on the PGA Tour. McInerney worked with Todd on tightening his ball flight and working the ball comfortably in one direction. He had Todd roll shots on the green more instead of always playing a lob wedge that checks.
“I think he’s in a really good place mentally,” McInerney said. “He’s very good now. If he loses it out there, he’s good at understanding why he’s lost it and how to get it back quicker.”
McInerney traveled to events more often last season as Todd tried to rediscover his game. Now, Todd often works on-site with swing coach Scott Hamilton while he exchanges emails with McInerney. They rate his game and establish a plan for the coming week.
Although Todd doesn’t always know where he’ll spend that week, he is confident of his destination.
“Now we’re just fine-tuning,” he said. “Now I know I can go out and compete. I know I’m going to go out and play well this week.”