After years of close calls and near-misses, Andrew Landry now has a signature victory.
Sharing the lead with Zach Johnson through 54 holes, the 30-year-old was hardly considered a favorite heading into the final round of the Valero Texas Open. He certainly lacked the pedigree of a two-time major champion, and the other player in the day’s final group, Trey Mullinax, had just set a new course record at TPC San Antonio the day prior.
But thanks in part to the lessons he learned from close-but-not-quite finishes in the past, Landry got over the finish line in convincing fashion.
“I was playing some good golf, and I knew that I was going to be in good shape this week,” Landry told reporters. “We just came out and had some fun, and that was kind of the strategy this week is just have some fun and be patient, because this golf course can bite you in a hurry.”
Landry didn’t grow up at a country club like many of his PGA Tour peers. He described the rugged nine-hole course where he learned the game in Port Groves, Texas, affectionately known as the “Pea Patch,” as a “goat ranch.” But he displayed plenty of game there, and was a three-time All-American at Arkansas.
It was during his time in Fayetteville that Landry had his first brush with near-greatness. Pitted against Texas A&M’s Bronson Burgoon in a match that would decide the 2009 NCAA title, Landry rallied back from a 4-down deficit to square the match heading to the final hole. But he could only watch as Burgoon stuffed his final approach, sealing a memorable win for the Aggies.
The feelings were similar in January, when Landry believed he had played well enough to earn his maiden victory at the CareerBuilder Challenge. But that week in Palm Springs he ran into a buzzsaw named Jon Rahm, who finally ended things with a birdie on the fourth extra hole to break Landry’s heart as darkness crept over the Coachella Valley.
“We’re all here for reasons, because we worked really hard and we’re really good at what we do,” Landry said. “I think that all of those kinds of things really help every player, whenever you get in a situation and you fail and you continue to fail, you’re learning every single time that you do something.”
Then there was the 2016 U.S. Open, which to date remains Landry’s only start in a major. His opening-round 66 at Oakmont sent reporters shuffling through their media guides to learn more about the unheralded leader. He earned a spot in Sunday’s final pairing alongside Shane Lowry, but tied for 15th after a final-round 78. Another lesson.
According to Landry, his brush with major glory taught him to focus on pace: with his swing, with his stride and with his breathing. Faced with another opportunity Sunday, this time in his home state with plenty of family support, Landry didn’t blink.
He birdied the opening hole, then the next, and the next. Birdies on four of his first six holes proved to be all the margin he needed, as he played the remaining holes in even par but still finished two shots clear of Trey Mullinax and Sean O’Hair.
“I mean, whenever I play good golf, I think I can win out here,” Landry said. “Obviously I just showed that, so it’s fun that I’m in this situation right now.”
Following his playoff loss to Rahm, Landry missed four straight cuts. He then took a break as his wife gave birth to the couple’s first child, Brooks, last month. He didn’t get back to work until last week at the RBC Heritage, where he tied for 42nd after playing his final nine holes in 4 over to tumble out of contention.
This time around, his wife and newborn son were both on hand to watch as he finished the job, making only one bogey over his final 36 holes while playing in the final group both days.
“Andrew played great, specifically the start, and yesterday was obviously very solid, too,” Johnson said. “You have a worthy champion, clearly.”
Despite his stunning performance at Oakmont, Landry wasn’t able to keep his card in 2016 and spent last year back on the Web.com Tour. He quickly earned a promotion back to the big leagues and after a breakthrough performance in San Antonio, he’s exempt through 2020.
That stat of one career major start will soon triple, as he’s exempt into both the 2018 PGA Championship and 2019 Masters. He’s also got spots in The Players, WGC-Bridgestone Invitational and Sentry Tournament of Champions. It’s an impressive haul for a player who can now point to a trophy instead of a string of close calls.
“It just shows that it doesn’t really matter where you come from, it just matters the determination and hard work,” Landry said. “Anything that you put your mind to, you can accomplish.”