Having failed to qualify for the 2012 U.S. Open, Brendon Todd was relaxing with his wife in Atlanta and tuned in to the final-round telecast on NBC.
Todd watched as an old friend from Raleigh, Webb Simpson, became a U.S. Open champion. He watched as a beaming Simpson held up the trophy after a career-defining day at Olympic Club in San Francisco.
“I was thrilled for him,” Todd said Monday.
Todd wasn’t being facetious. While the two competed on the golf course as high school players and in junior tournaments, and while Simpson’s success has come quicker, Todd said he was genuinely happy for Simpson and his family after the Open victory.
“And I think it was a motivator,” Todd said. “It was one of those things that you watch your friend do, and accomplish something so great and you realize, man, I’m glad he pulled it off. I think that means I probably will have a good opportunity to do it myself in my career.”
Todd will have that opportunity this week. Saying he has failed four or five times to qualify for the U.S. Open since 2005, the former standout at Raleigh’s Green Hope High will tee it up in his first Open this week on Pinehurst No. 2.
“First U.S. Open, first major,” he said, smiling.
But Todd said it should be fun, a word not often associated with the Open, where bogeys or worse come often, and both scores and blood pressure tend to run high.
“I think it’s going to be fun to play a different style of golf at a (U.S. Golf Association) event,” he said. “That will be the enjoyable part. It will be fun for me to play in my home state of North Carolina. It will be fun to play in Pinehurst, where I’ve played all the other golf courses, a place I’ve wanted to play for so long.
“I expect it to be really difficult from the standpoint it’s unlike other PGA Tour events, where we’re used to getting under par every round if we’re playing well. In the U.S. Open, you can go 10, 20, 30 holes without making a birdie. We have to adjust our mindset to play that sort of grueling, patient, safe par kind of golf.
Todd, 28, qualified for the Open in impressive fashion. He worked his way into the top 60 in the Official World Golf Ranking, earning a U.S. Open exemption May 26.
His first PGA Tour victory, in the Byron Nelson Championship, came May 18 and bumped him to 63rd in the rankings. More importantly, it gave him a two-year exemption on tour and a spot in next year’s Masters and was enough, he said, to bring “joyful tears.”
Todd followed with a tie for fifth in the Crowne Plaza Invitational at Colonial the next week. Soon, he was checking the World Golf Ranking website for updated rankings. He checked back again.
Then, there it was – 57th. He was in the Open, on No. 2.
“No. 2 is a diamond, a gem, the one Donald Ross put all his time and energy into it,” Todd said. “Just knowing that the greens always set this golf course apart from every other golf course is something I’m excited about, because I’m a good putter and chipper.”
Growing up in Cary, Todd spent a lot of days at Prestonwood Country Club. He recalled being in a junior tournament at Hedingham Golf Club in Raleigh and being beaten by Simpson in the final round. Simson also beat Todd in the finals of the 1999 N.C. Junior at Carmel Country Club in Charlotte.
“We’ve got a long competitive history,” Todd said.
Todd won three state 4A titles for Green Hope – in 2000, 2002 and 2003 – before heading to the University of Georgia. A four-time All-American, he helped the Bulldogs win the 2005 NCAA championship.
But pro golf has been a tougher go. He played on the eGolf Tour, the old Hooters Tour. He was on the Web.com Tour, struggling but also winning twice.
“I went searching for the right (golf) teacher and got lost in the search of a couple of years,” he said.
The search finally landed him with Scott Hamilton and Bill McInerney Jr., and has helped him become a more effective ball-striker, he said. It has made him a PGA Tour winner and in his first major.
Who knows, Simpson might be watching him come Sunday.