By Dan Reardon
In 1990, Mike Donald was one hole shy of completing the tournament of his life, the U.S. Open at Medinah Country Club. Donald needed only a par at the 18th of the Monday playoff to defeat Hale Irwin and find his place in golf history. He bogeyed and lost on the next hole in sudden death. Donald drifted on and off the PGA Tour over the next 15 years, never posting a win.
In 1999, France’s Jean van de Velde stood on the tee of the final hole at Carnoustie with a three-shot lead in the Open Championship. He tripled the hole and lost in a playoff to Paul Lawrie. The Frenchmen did win once more in his golf career in 2005 but largely disappeared as a serious threat to win on the European Tour.
In 2016, Andrew Landry shot 66 in the opening round of the U.S. Open at Oakmont as an Open rookie, ranked 624th in the world. He played well enough over the next two days to be paired in the final group of the day with Dustin Johnson. Johnson gutted his way to his first major win, and Landry soared to a final-day 78. Instead of being the first U.S. Open rookie to win in 102 years, he finished tied for 15th.
He finished the year 178th in the FedExCup standings and back on the developmental Web.Com Tour the following season. On Sunday at the Valero Texas Open, Landry served notice that he intended to stay clear of the ranks of Donald, van de Velde and other players crushed by the disappointment of a failed major opportunity. Landry shot 4-under 68, -17, to win by two shots for his first PGA Tour title.
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“I think that every single player out here is good. Every single player is great. Whenever you get in a situation and you fell and you continue to fall, you’re learning every single time you do something,” he said afterward. “Oakmont definitely helped me. It helped to control my pace and how my swing is, even how I walk and that can lead into my golf swing. It’s accepting that I do have nerves and embrace them.”
Back on Tour after finishing fourth on Web.Com in 2017, Landry has been showing signs that an Oakmont hangover was not in his 2018 profile. He posted three top 10s in his first seven starts of the 2018 season, including a four-hole playoff loss to Jon Rahm at the CareerBuilder Challenge in February. He credited his performance in that loss to the success he enjoyed in San Antonio.
“Losing in that playoff when I was continuing to hit good shot after good shot and just not making any putts, which is usually a strength of my game, it helps because you get yourself in that situation and you continue to learn.”
Hall of Fame Texan Ben Hogan once said about his success, he learned the game in the dirt. For the 30-year-old Landry, the dirt was an hour drive from San Antonio in Port Neches-Groves on a nine-hole golf course called the Pea Patch, a course he lovingly described as a “goat ranch.” A long list of Texans have won a tournament that traces its genealogy to 1922, the most recent being Jimmy Walker in 2015. Landry adds his names to people like Hogan and Byron Nelson as Texas Open winners.
Perhaps it’s the feel of home. Perhaps it’s learning to manage the kind of Texas winds that buffeted the tournament early in the week. For Landry, there was the special comfort of being surrounded by family and friends for his breakthrough moment.
His mother, Patricia, wore a shirt Sunday bearing the logo of that U.S. Open in Oakmont two years prior. His wife, Elizabeth, with their newborn, stood greenside as her husband needed to navigate nearly 50 feet in two putts to secure the win. His father, Dwain, who Landry told on Sunday morning at Oakmont that he was going to win that day, was there when that prediction proved true two years later. And his brother, Adam, who was a constant competitor with him back on that nine-hole course, now in housing development, was there for the dream to become reality.
He told PGA Tour afterward the same thing Andrew talked about in his winning press conference.“I’ve watched all the trials and tribulations, what he’s gone through, the highs and the lows. There was no Plan B for him. There was only this. Stuff like that will cripple people. It’ll make you want to quit, failing back and forth — but he continuously figured out a way to find his way to the top.”
Dan Reardon has covered golf for radio station KMOX in St. Louis for 33 years. In that time, he has covered more than 100 events, including majors and other PGA, LPGA and Champions Tour tournaments. During his broadcast career, Reardon conducted one-on-one interviews with three dozen members of the World Golf of Fame. He has contributed to many publications over the years and co-authored the book Golf’s Greatest Eighteen from Random House. Reardon served as Director of Media relations for LPGA events in both St. Louis and Chicago for 10 years.