News & Opinion

It’s a long climb to top of this class

As Brendon Todd chases a 3rd consecutive PGA Tour victory this week, the exploits of Nelson, Hogan, Woods and others put the winning streak in perspective

Let’s face it. You can’t stop Brendon Todd right now; you can only hope to write about him.

In eight days’ time, over two golf tournaments, the 34-year-old Todd made nearly as much money as he made in the past 4½ years. He has climbed the Official World Golf Ranking as if launched from Kennedy Space Center. He now leads a FedEx Cup points board that never knew he existed.

2019 Houston Open
With 2 consecutive victories on the PGA Tour, Brendon Todd stands on the verge of joining some select company should he win this week at Sea Island, Ga.

After missing cuts in 41 of his previous 47 starts, he is making cuts like Sweeney Todd. He is the latest PGA Tour lifer to embolden all of those vagabonds bouncing around bag rooms, running out of money, stressing out their families and refusing to give up the dream.

And now, when you write about Brendon Todd, you have to mention Bryson DeChambeau, the previous stick-swinger to win two PGA Tour events in succession. What’s more, with this week’s RSM Classic at Sea Island (Ga.) Resort, you have to consider the possibility that it’s now Todd as in God, as in he may never lose another golf tournament, as in he could do three in a row.

After all, Charles Howell III is the reigning titleholder at the RSM, with a victory that ended an 11½-year winless drought. Past winners of the RSM also include Ben Crane, Heath Slocum, MacKenzie Hughes, Chris Kirk … a veritable Mount Rushmore of PGA Tour journeymen.

Thus, when you write about Brendon Todd, you must mention his name in the same context as Dustin Johnson, Tiger Woods, Rory McIlroy, Jack Nicklaus, Arnold Palmer, Sam Snead, Ben Hogan, Byron Nelson … and so on. That’s the company you keep if you win as many as three in a row.

Johnson was the last to score a PGA Tour hat trick, doing so in 2017, a year in which he won the Genesis Open before winning consecutive World Golf Championships events. D.J. flirted with a fourth in succession before tying for second at the Wells Fargo, foiled by the 28-foot birdie putt of the immortal Brian Harman.

If not for Harman, Johnson would have joined a more exclusive club of four-straight winners, a group that features Nelson (1945-46), Hogan (1946) and Jackie Burke Jr. (1952). Hogan’s four in ’46 was only part of the story. In all, he won 13 times that year, finished second six times and third three times, all while recording 27 top-10s in 31 starts. For his diligence, he was compensated $42,851 that year, or roughly $1.8 million less than Todd has made over the last two weeks.

The succession society gets more distinctive from there. Woods had a five-win streak in 2007-08, a period in which he also won seven of eight, with a T-2 being the only glitch. Hogan added a five-tournament flush in 1953, which included the “Hogan Slam,” or wins in the Masters, U.S. Open and British Open.

Bare-handed Ben could do even better. In 1948 – a year before his terrible car accident – he claimed six in a row, amid 10 wins, three seconds and two third-place finishes in 21 starts. Woods also had a six-pack (1999-2000), with two WGC titles among the highlights. But TW went one tournament deeper in 2006-07 … at least officially.

Woods captured seven in a row during the trans-calendar trip before falling on his own sword. Failing to notice a ball mark in the line of a 4-foot birdie putt, he missed a chance to close out Nick O’Hern in the third round of the Match Play Championship. O’Hern prevailed over 20 holes, and the streak ended.

For some, the virtue of that Magnificent 7 was a bit suspect, given Woods had failed to win alternative tour events four times in between. More to the point, after seven did not come 11, which leads us to the streak to end all streaks: Nelson’s “Undo-able Undecuple.”

In 1945, Nelson entered 30 golf tournaments and won a record 18, including a record 11 in a row. His average margin of victory was seven shots, and he also had seven second-place finishes. His scoring average of 68.34 was unadjusted, and he had more rounds under 65 than he had above 72. He also finished ’45 with two in a row – after his record surge ended – and began ’46 with two more, producing his aforementioned foursome.

Was it a “war year”? Yes. Were some pros serving in the military, including Hogan? Yes. But you still have to beat the course; you still have to shoot the scores; you still have to maintain the incredible consistency that is so elusive in this game.

Nelson wasn’t in a zone; he was in another stratosphere.

“Winning 11 in a row, do you realize how good you have to play?” Woods once said about Nelson. “You’re going to have one bad week in there somewhere, but his bad week, he still won by probably three, four, five shots.”

Lord Byron’s fabulous ’45 now sits with Cy Young’s 511 wins and 749 complete games, Joe DiMaggio’s 56-game hitting streak, Wayne Gretzky’s 2,857 points, Wilt Chamberlain’s 100 points in a game, Brett Favre’s 297 consecutive games played and – quite possibly – Woods’ “Tiger Slam” of four consecutive majors.

Expand your mind and accept that anything is possible, but it’s hard to imagine those marks ever can be matched or broken.

So, it’s a pleasure to write about Brendon Todd and his remarkable back-to-back wins. And just think … only nine more to go.