The final round of the Byron Nelson Championship began with three major tournament winners within striking distance, including Louis Oosthuizen in the last twosome. Lurking not too much further back were heavyweights Matt Kuchar and Dustin Johnson. But non-winner Brendon Todd had something going for him that none of those others did: He played at the University of Georgia.
Todd won for the first time on the PGA Tour, and became the fifth Georgia Bulldog to win on Tour this season, firing a 4-under 66 on Sunday to edge back-from-the-dead Mike Weir by two strokes at the TPC Four Seasons.
The 2007 Georgia graduate now sits 11th in the point standings. You don't get to that lofty status based on one win, not at this stage of the season. No, Todd has been showing signs of breaking through, with a pair of T6s at the Humana Challenge and the Valero Texas Open. It took perseverance, and not only on Sunday. Twice in the past five years, Todd, 28, had to return to the Web.com Tour to regain his card, leading to this moment in his 77th career PGA start.
Todd was among the leaders all week, shooting 68-64-68 to go along with his Sunday gem, entering the final round tied with Oosthuizen, the 2010 Champion Golfer of the Year who quickly faded. Still, there were others challenging Todd, and he had some dicey moments. None more so than on the 185-yard 13th, where his tee ball lodged next to a tree. Todd chose to swing left-handed with the back of his 4-iron, attaining spectacular results. The ball settled seven feet from the cup, from where Todd sank the putt. A remarkable par.
That was part of Todd's closing string of eight straight pars, never giving his challengers an opening.
Weir, who hasn't won since 2007, birdied four of the first five holes, but he couldn't sustain the momentum. Still, a glorious week for the 44-year-old Canandian, as well.
Todd joins Bubba Watson, Harris English, Chris Kirk and Russell Henley as Bulldogs to have won on Tour this season. He's now 63rd in the OWGR, up from 186 at the start of 2013. And if you like, throw in another Georgian, Patrick Reed, who attended Georgia before transferring to Augusta State. All but Watson are under 30.
Whether Weir can use this week as a start of something good remains to be seen, but this one terrific week -- his best in more than five years -- vaulted him to 87th in the point standings, and from 609th to 238th in the OWGR. The former Masters champion hadn't had so much as a top-25 since 2010. But he turned in four rounds in the 60s, matching his total for the previous 18 tournaments this season. It's still a long way to go before taking a gamble on Weir, but he showed signs two weeks ago at the Wells Fargo Town before imploding on Sunday. Stay tuned.
The big Australian recorded his third top-5 finish of the season by tying for third this week, but that left him only 49th in the point standings. That's because it's been an all-or-nothing campaign for Leishman, who otherwise hasn't notched a top-20. Having made the Presidents Cup roster for the Internationals in 2013, it seems at this stage of his career he should have more than one career win -- at the 2012 Travelers. Despite three bogeys in a five-hole stretch on the back nine on Sunday that killed his chance at victory, maybe the overall showing will catapult Leishman to a strong finish in 2013-14.
Charles Howell III
Howell was going gangbusters at the beginning of the season, with five top-10s by early February. But he had cooled off considerably until tying Leishman for third. He is 20th in the FedEx Cup standings, which, if it holds, would be his top showing since coming in eighth in 2007. It's hard to have great showings week after week, but Howell is playing well enough to secure numerous other top-10s the rest of the way.
Stefani was up against it in April, with only one tournament left on a minor medical extension. He aced the Shell Houston Open with a T5 finish to be able to keep playing the rest of the season on a major medical, and he's made 4-of-5 cuts since. On Sunday, he tied for 11th, and he might not be a bad option if you're in need of some new blood to contribute to your roster.
Senden's renaissance season continues with another strong result, proving his win at the Valspar Championship in mid-March was no fluke. The Aussie added a T8 at the Masters in April and now a T11 at the Nelson. Senden has also made nine straight cuts and 14-of-16 overall. He's 15th in the point standings and speeding toward a deep run in the four-event FedEx Cup playoffs.
The good news is, Oosty made it through four rounds on his balky back. The bad news is, he was the 54-hole co-leader who tumbled to a tie for 11th with a 4-over-74 on Sunday. The South African still has never won a tournament in the United States, and only once on the PGA Tour - the 2010 Open Championship. Oosthuizen is in the field for the upcoming Crowne Plaza Invitational, which is good, because his game still needs fine-tuning.
Twenty-seven on the back nine on Friday -- and, wow, it was still one shot off the all-time record for nine holes. (That would be seven 3s, one 2 and one 4, if you're scoring at home.) But Casey, who's been fighting his way back from injuries and off-course issues, couldn't use that as a springboard to anything more than a T16. Still, he now has three consecutive top 20s, and he's now inside the top 125 in the point standings. Casey is showing repeated signs of making it back. Remarkably, though, he entered the week as the second alternate at Colonial.
Cantlay took his first step back, and it was a good one. Having missed almost a year with a back injury -- last playing in the 2013 Crowne Plaza -- Cantlay made it through all four rounds of the Nelson, albeit fading to a 6-over-76 on Sunday to finish the week at 6-over and in a tie for 71st place. Cantlay is not in the field for this year's upcoming Crowne Plaza, but he of course is worth keeping an eye one. He could be a difference-maker in the second half of your season.
Snedeker's lost 2014 continues. Whether it's because of his late-2013 Segway tumble in China, we don't know. Snedeker missed the cut at the Nelson -- only his third MC in 14 starts -- but he's had only one top-10 and sits 111th in the point standings. It goes without saying that Snedeker owners were expecting a whole lot more - multiple tournament wins, and perhaps even a major.
Miguel Angel Jimenez
At 50 years, 133 days, The Mechanic became the first over-50 winner in European PGA Tour history, capturing the Spanish Open. And it only took him 27 tries to win his country's signature golf event. With his 21st Euro title, following a solo fourth at the Masters, Jimenez has to be considered among the favorites for the Open Championship. If you don't think he can win a major, you haven't been paying attention.