A year ago, Brendon Todd arrived in Bermuda as a down-on-his-luck journeyman PGA Tour pro winless since 2014. By Sunday he had blitzed the field at the Bermuda Championship, victorious by six strokes, won the next event too, and racked up another 10 top-25 finishes last season as he resurrected his career.
When asked how he would have responded if told prior to the start of last year’s tournament that he would improve from outside the top 500 to No. 41 in the Official World Golf Ranking this week and be the highest ranked player in the field, he said, “I probably would have laughed and said, ‘I’ll take it, give me more, right?’ ”
While much attention already is being devoted to the Masters, which begins in two weeks, for the 132-man field this week and next at the Vivint Houston Open, these starts mean everything. Todd, who is making his 200th career Tour start, took advantage last year making seven birdies in a row in the final round, beginning on the second hole, to coast to victory.
“I felt like I was kind of walking on clouds and that’s a really special feeling to have,” he said.
For some of the special invites, this week could change the trajectory of their career. Take Camiko Smith, a 35-year-old native of Bermuda who is making his Tour debut after winning a 36-hole local qualifier played earlier this month. Until Todd came along and shot one of three 62s at last year’s tournament, Smith shared the course record of 64 with Adam Scott. Smith grew up along the fourth hole of Port Royal Golf Club in Southampton, so close to the Robert Trent Jones Sr. design, in fact, that a ball pulled left will end up out of bounds in his family’s yard.
“I actually hop over a fence and I’m right on it,” said Smith, who had been teaching golf in Orlando and Dallas prior to returning to Bermuda and working at a local glass company for the last four months. “I used to get kicked off for doing that, now I’m sitting here playing a PGA Tour event in my backyard, so it’s pretty awesome.”
Danish teen sensation Rasmus Hojgaard has already won twice on the European Tour, becoming its first champion that was born in the 2000s. The 19-year-old, who has PGA Tour aspirations, played in the U.S. Open in September and jumped at the chance to make another PGA Tour start.
“It was a no-brainer for me to come over here and play,” he said.
The Bermuda Championship also has a couple family affairs as 64-year-old former Players Championship winner Fred Funk and son Taylor, 24, are grouped together Thursday (12:15 p.m. ET tee time) while brothers Ollie and Luke Schniederjans, who also benefited from sponsor’s exemptions, will be playing in their first Tour field together. It didn’t hurt the chances for the brothers, who both attended Georgia Tech, that Bermuda Championship tournament director Sean Sovacool is also a fellow Yellow Jackets alum.
Ollie, 27, a former No. 1 in the World Amateur Golf Ranking, lost his Tour privileges after finishing No. 180 in the 2018-19 FedEx Cup point standings and spent last season competing on the Korn Ferry Tour, while younger brother Luke, 22, is making his Tour debut. (Middle brother Ben has caddied for Ollie for the past year.)
“I always dreamed of us playing a PGA Tour event together,” Ollie said. “All three of us brothers out here walking around, it’s pretty incredible.”
Someone will leave Bermuda with a trophy, $720,000 added to their bank account, a two-year Tour exemption and a berth in the 2021 Masters among the spoils.
“There’s probably going to be somebody this week that finishes first or second who is a great player and has shown great form either in the last year or in a previous year that changes the curve of their career,” Todd said. “That’s what’s so cool about some of these events that don’t have the top-ranked guys in them.”