IRVING, Texas (AP) — Brendon Todd was overcome by excitement and relief walking toward the 18th green for the final putts in his first PGA Tour victory.
“Even some joy, some joyful tears,” Todd said.
Closing with bogey-free 4-under 66, Todd won the Byron Nelson Championship. The two-stroke victory Sunday over Mike Weir came with a $1,242,000 check, a PGA Tour exemption through the 2015-16 season and a spot in next year’s Masters.
Sure, the money is great. But being fully exempt for the PGA Tour and guaranteed a spot at Augusta are the biggest prizes for the former Georgia Bulldog who twice in the past five years had to go back to the Web.com Tour to regain his card.
“I’m excited about the relief of feeling like I finally have a chance to play the PGA Tour for multiple years. That’s a huge exemption for winning,” Todd said. “No. 1, going to August for the Masters is a dream come true.”
Weir, the 2003 Masters champion who won the last of his eight PGA Tour titles in 2007, finished with a 67.
Charles Howell III (67) and Marc Leishman (68) tied for third at 10 under, a stroke ahead of Boo Weekley (68) and James Hahn (70). Weekley is the defending champion at the next tournament, the Colonial, about 30 miles away in Fort Worth.
It was the best finish for Weir since being the runner-up to Dustin Johnson at Pebble Beach in 2009. The 44-year-old Canadian left-hander hadn’t had a top-25 finish since 2010, the same year he partially tore a ligament in his right elbow and went on to miss 17 cuts in a row – including all 14 tournaments he started in 2012.
“It just seems like it’s one moment this week that I’m playing great, but I think it’s an accumulation of the work I’ve done in the last couple of years,” Weir said. `I am where I am now and pushing forward. I’m not going to reflect on the past. That’s history now and I’m playing good golf, and I want to keep that going now.”
Weir had birdies on four of the first five holes. He was 13 under and ahead of Todd by two strokes when his tee shot at No. 5 settled 1 1/2 feet from the cup. That came after Weir blindly hit out of a fairway bunker to 3 feet at No. 4.
But Weir missed the fairway and green for a bogey at the 431-yard sixth hole. At the same time Todd, who played his last 31 holes without a bogey, was tapping in at the 181-yard fifth.
Todd is the fifth former Georgia player to win on the PGA Tour this season, joining Masters champion Bubba Watson, Harris English, Russell Henley and Chris Kirk. Todd also is the eighth first-time winner this season.
Todd needed only 99 putts in four rounds at TPC Four Seasons, including a 14-footer at the 165-yard 17th for par. That was among several impressive saves Sunday.
After Todd hit his tee shot at the 195-yard second into a greenside bunker, his shot from the sand landed on the green and rolled in for a birdie. When he knocked in a 14-foot birdie putt at the 181-yard fifth, he tied Weir for the lead at 12 under.
With consecutive birdies midway through the round, a 6-footer at No. 9 and a 24-footer at No. 10, Todd had the lead for good.
But his wayward tee shot at the 185-yard 13th hole settled at the base of a tree, forcing the slender 6-foot-3 Todd to set up left-handed. He struck the ball with the back of his 4-iron and it rolled within 7 feet of the cup to set up a par-saving putt.
“It was a dream week for me on the golf course,” Todd said. “Felt like I absolutely scored my pants off. It was just a short game display. I have a great short game, and even I’ll say it was special this week.”