After what it took to get here, Landry isn't done

By Ryan LavnerJune 21, 2016, 6:30 pm

OAKMONT, Pa. – The underdog story of the 116th U.S. Open ended abruptly, just like they all do in the game’s most unforgiving major.

By the end of the grueling final rounds, there are no warm, fuzzy feelings, no feel-good long-shots still beaming. It’s why “The Greatest Game Every Played,” the story of amateur Francis Ouimet’s stunning U.S. Open victory, was based on events from 1913 – or before there were claustrophobic fairways, shoe-swallowing rough and pool-table greens. The U.S. Open, and Oakmont in particular, is cruel that way.

Andrew Landry understands that now, of course. Playing in the final group, trying to become the first since Ouimet to win the U.S. Open in his major debut, the 28-year-old Texan closed with a birdie-less 78. It was the second-worst score of any player in the top 58.

Still, Landry said in the locker room later, “It’s obviously one of the greatest moments of my life right now, but I deserve to be here. I feel like I will be here multiple times for the rest of my career, and I feel like I’ll contend again.”

No player in the field epitomized the blue-collar attitude of this city and tournament like Landry, the 624th-ranked player in the world who grew up in Groves, Texas, a small, middle-class suburb of Beaumont. He learned the game at a shoddy nine-hole track four houses down called The Pea Patch, the second-oldest course in the state, described by friends as a goat track with a bar. There was long, gnarly St. Augustine grass and piles of dirt just off the green. Every Tuesday and Saturday, in a game similar to Oakmont’s famed SWAT competition, locals headed out for five holes, scribbled down their scores on a chalkboard, played the last four holes and waited to see how they stacked up. Those games are just memories now: The Pea Patch was shuttered in 2015 and, according to a local news report, will soon be converted into a gated community.

“When you grow up like that, without that country-club lifestyle,” Landry’s college coach, Brad McMakin, said by phone, “he’s had to fight and work and scratch for everything he’s gotten.”

Landry’s father, Dwain, was a courier for FedEx for 30 years, while his mother, Patricia, was a schoolteacher in town. Traveling the country on the AJGA circuit wasn’t an option, so Landry cobbled together a schedule full of junior events within driving distance.

“When his parents showed up, I knew he’d play well,” McMakin said. “They put him first. Their vacations were to go watch him play. They made a commitment to him and his game. It means a lot to Andrew, because he knows everybody has put their life on hold for him.”

And yet, Landry received zero recruiting letters coming out of high school. The only reason he signed with McMakin at Lamar was because Chris Stroud, now a fellow PGA Tour player, knew of him from some of the local tournaments and thought his gritty game would be a good fit.

After one year at Lamar, Landry followed McMakin to Arkansas, where he helped spark a stagnant program. In three seasons in Fayetteville, Landry earned the most top-10s in school history while practicing every day at Blessings Golf Club, a big, brawny track that is widely regarded as one of the most difficult college courses in the country.

“He always played tough courses great,” said PGA Tour winner David Lingmerth, who was teammates with Landry from 2008-10. “Very straight, pure ball-striker. He’s got a lot of game.”

By the end of his senior season, Landry was ranked inside the top 50 in the country. “He was no superstar at all,” McMakin said, “but his golf game caught up to his mindset and attitude. When that happens, you get a complete player.”

Landry and Lingmerth were part of the Razorbacks team that reached the finals of the 2009 NCAA Championship at Inverness. Landry was getting smoked in the anchor match against Texas A&M’s Bronson Burgoon, 4 down with six to play, but he squared the match heading to 18. On the home hole, he could only watch as Burgoon stuffed his approach shot within a foot – one of the most dramatic shots in college golf history – to seal the title for the Aggies.

“There were no tears,” McMakin said. “He told me: ‘That’s part of golf, Coach.’”

Like many college All-Americans, Landry struggled to find his footing in the professional ranks, bouncing around the mini-tours before landing on the circuit.

Said his older brother, Adam: “I always wanted to call up the tournament directors and say, ‘I know you don’t know who he is, but if you let him in the field, he’ll make a name for himself.’”

Last spring, before Landry headed to Cartagena, Columbia, he had only $1,500 in his checking account. He put down $500 on an engagement ring for his longtime girlfriend, Elizabeth, and then won for the first time to clinch his PGA Tour card.

Landry’s first season in the big leagues has been a struggle. Forget about top-10s – he didn’t even have a finish inside the top 40 in 11 starts. With only nine regular-season events remaining, he was in jeopardy of losing his playing privileges; at No. 203 in FedEx Cup points, he was only a few spots higher than 58-year-old Bernhard Langer.

“A lot of people think that if you’re not 22 years old on Tour, you’re nobody,” McMakin said. “But he’s gone the path of a normal kid. He’s on a pretty good pace. A lot of times, it takes time.”

Landry finally arrived at Oakmont, opening with a 4-under 66, the lowest first-round score in an Open here. He followed it up with rounds of 71-70 and showed plenty of perseverance, reversing course after an outward 39 in the second round, then rallying with back-to-back birdies after a slow open following an early-morning restart in the third round. Entering the final round he was in a tie for second, four shots behind Shane Lowry, but Open Sundays tend to chew up and spit out those who aren’t ready.

Jason Gore in 2005.

Aaron Baddeley here in 2007.

Even Dustin Johnson in 2010.

Add Landry’s name to the list, after his swing and body got out of sync, he went out in 42 and he crashed to a tie for 15th.

Walking down the 18th fairway, with Dustin Johnson holing the winning putt up ahead, Landry allowed himself to take in the scene.

“I was like, ‘Man, I wish I could just take a picture of this,’ because it’s the coolest view for a player,” he said. “It was pretty awesome to watch, to be there first-hand be in the moment.”

And though it was, by far, the best finish of his young career – the $152,234 paycheck representing 69 percent of his total earnings this season – it was a costly few hours. He is still ranked 182nd in FedEx Cup points, still well outside the top-125 cut line, still in danger of being sent back to the minor leagues.

Afterward, as he removed his sunglasses, bounded down the steps of the clubhouse and loudly exhaled, it was clear that the U.S. Open and Oakmont hadn’t broken the underdog.

“It’s just been awesome,” Landry said. “I’m taking this as a positive. I’ve been in this situation now, so I’m going to learn from it.”

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Awards season: Handing out the 2017 Rexys

By Rex HoggardDecember 14, 2017, 7:00 pm

After careful consideration and an exhaustive review of 2017 we present The Rexys, a wildly incomplete and arbitrary line up following one of the most eventful years in golf.

 There will be omissions – just keep your calls, concerns and even e-mails to yourself. We appreciate your patronage, but not your feedback.

It’s Not You, It’s Me Award. You know the deal: You can’t be a part of two until you’re a better one; but on this front it’s really just a desire to find a better two.

It was a tough year for caddies, and not just any caddies. In June, Phil Mickelson split with longtime bagman Jim “Bones” Mackay. Both player and caddie cited the need for “change,” but the move reverberated throughout the game.

“The fairytale is over,” mused one caddie when told of the high-profile split.

In the wake of the Lefty/Bones break, Rory McIlroy split with his caddie J.P Fitzgerald, and Jason Day replaced looper/swing coach Colin Swatton on his bag. It all proves yet again that there are only two kinds of caddies, those who have been fired and those who are about to be fired.

Run for the Rose Cup. Sergio Garcia got the green jacket, a lifetime exemption to the game’s most coveted member-member and a long-awaited major, but Justin Rose took home the slightly less prestigious “Rose Cup.”

Following a frenzied afternoon at Augusta National in April, Rose lost to Garcia on the first playoff hole, but he won so much more with his honesty and class.

“You're going to win majors and you're going to lose majors, but you've got to be willing to lose them,” Rose figured following the final round. “You've got to put yourself out there. You've got to hit the top of the leaderboard. There's a lot of pressure out there and if you're not willing to enjoy it, then you're not ready to win these tournaments. I loved it out there.”

Few have made losing look so dignified and fewer still are as easy to root for.

Half-Empty Cup. It was the perfect setting, with sweeping views of the Manhattan skyline and the promise of the Tristate masses descending on this fall’s Presidents Cup.

If only all those rowdy New Yorkers had something to cheer.

For the sixth time in the last seven matches, the U.S. team rolled to a victory of at least three points. This particular edition was even in danger of ending on Saturday afternoon thanks to a particularly dominant performance by a young American squad led by Steve Stricker.

Officials spoke of the purity of the competition and the attention the ’17 cup generated, but however you spin the 19-11 rout, this cup is half empty.

Enigma Award. The actual hardware is simply an oversized question mark and was sent directly to Tiger Woods’ South Florida compound following the most curious of seasons.

While it’s become customary in recent years to consider the uncertain path that awaits the 14-time major winner, this most recent calendar brought an entirely new collection of questions following fusion surgery on his lower back in April, his arrest for DUI on Memorial Day and, finally, a glimmer of hope born from his tie for ninth at the Hero World Challenge earlier this month.

When will he play again? Can he compete against the current generation of world-beaters? Can his body withstand the rigors of a full PGA Tour schedule? Should Jim Furyk make him a captain’s pick now or wait to see if he should be driving a vice captain’s golf cart instead?

Little is certain when it comes to Woods, and the over-sized question mark goes to ... the guy in red and black.

After Further Review Chalice. In April, Lexi Thompson endured a heartbreaking loss at the ANA Inspiration, the byproduct of a surreal ruling that arrived a day late via a viewer e-mail and cost the would-be winner a major championship.

The entire event was so unsavory that the USGA and R&A made not one but two alterations to the rules and created a “working group” to avoid similar snafus in the future.

That working group – it turns out the U.S. Ryder Cup team has some sort of copyright on “task force” – initially issued a decision that introduced a “reasonable judgment” and a “naked eye” standard to video reviews, and last week the rule makers kept the changes coming.

The new protocols on video review will now include an official to monitor tournament broadcasts and ended the practice of allowing fans to call in, or in this case e-mail, possible infractions to officials. The USGA and R&A also eliminated the two-stroke penalty for players who sign incorrect scorecards when the player is unaware of the penalty.

While all this might be a step in the right direction, it does nothing to change Thompson’s fate. The AFR Chalice won’t change the harsh reality, but at least it will serve as a reminder of how she helped altered the rulemaking landscape.

Nothing Runs Like a Deere Award. Nothing gets fans fired up like officials turning fields of fescue rough into hay on the eve of a major championship, and the USGA’s decision to do some 11th-hour trimming at Erin Hills in June certainly caught many by surprise.

Officials said the nip/tuck on four holes was in reaction to a particularly foreboding forecast that never materialized, and the maintenance drew the ire of some players.

“We have 60 yards from left line to right line,” Rory McIlroy said. “You’ve got 156 of the best players in the world here; if we can’t hit it within that avenue, you might as well pack your bags and go home.”

The record low scoring at the U.S. Open – winner Brooks Koepka finished with a 16-under total – didn’t help ease the fervor and had some questioning whether the softer side of the USGA has gone a bit too far?

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Podcast: Daly takes big pride in 'Little John'

By Golf Channel DigitalDecember 14, 2017, 5:28 pm

John Daly is a two-time major champion, but the newest trophy in his household belongs to someone else.

That’s because Daly’s son, 14-year-old Little John “LJ” Daly, rallied to capture an IJGT junior golf event over the weekend. The younger Daly birdied the first extra hole to win a five-person playoff at Harbour Town Golf Links, site of the PGA Tour’s RBC Heritage.

Daly recently sat down for a Golf Channel podcast to describe what it’s like to cheer for his son and PNC Father-Son Challenge partner, share the unique challenge presented by the upcoming Diamond Resorts Invitational and reflect on some of the notable highs of a career that has now spanned more than 25 years.

Sneds starts slowly in Masters invite bid

By Will GrayDecember 14, 2017, 4:22 pm

Brandt Snedeker flew halfway around the world in search of a Masters invite, but after one round of the Indonesian Masters it appears he'll likely return home empty-handed.

Snedeker made only two birdies during his opening round in Indonesia, shooting an even-par 72 that left him in a tie for 77th and 10 shots behind leader Justin Rose. This is the final OWGR-rated event of 2017, and as a result it has drawn several notable entrants, including Snedeker, who hope to crack the top 50 in the world rankings by year's end to secure a trip to Augusta National.

Full-field scores from the Indonesian Masters

Snedeker started the year ranked No. 28, but after missing five months because of injury he entered the week ranked No. 51 and is projected to slip even further by the end of the month. As a result, he likely needs a top-3 finish in order to secure a return to the Masters, which he has missed only once since 2007.

World No. 55 Dylan Frittelli also struggled, shooting a 4-over 76 in the opening round, while No. 56 Kiradech Aphibarnrat is tied for 14th at 4 under. Yusaku Miyazato, currently 58th in the world, is tied for ninth and five shots behind Rose.

Should Snedeker and the other hopefuls fail to crack the top 50 by the end of the year, two paths to the Masters remain: win a full-point event on the PGA Tour in early 2018 or be inside the top 50 in the world rankings when the final cutoff is made on March 25.

Nathaniel Crosby at the 1983 Bing Crosby Pro-Am at Pebble Beach. Getty Images

Crosby selected as 2019 U.S. Walker Cup captain

By Will GrayDecember 14, 2017, 3:19 pm

The USGA announced that former U.S. Amateur champ Nathaniel Crosby will serve as the American captain for the 2019 Walker Cup, which will be played at Royal Liverpool Golf Club in Hoylake, England.

Crosby, 56, is the son of entertainment icon and golf enthusiast Bing Crosby. He won the 1981 U.S. Amateur at The Olympic Club as a teenager and earned low amateur honors at the 1982 U.S. Open at Pebble Beach. He also played in the 1983 Walker Cup, coincidentally held at Royal Liverpool, before embarking on a brief career in professional golf, with his amateur status reinstated in 1994.

"I am thrilled and overwhelmed to be chosen captain of the next USA Walker Cup team," Crosby said in a statement. "Many of my closest friends are former captains who will hopefully take the time to share their approaches in an effort to help me with my new responsibilities."

Crosby takes over the captaincy from John "Spider" Miller, who led the U.S. squad both in 2015 and earlier this year, when the Americans cruised to a 19-7 victory at Los Angeles Country Club.

Crosby is a Florida resident and member at Seminole Golf Club, which will host the 2021 matches. While it remains to be seen if he'll be asked back as captain in 2021, each of the last six American captains have led a team on both home and foreign soil.

Started in 1922, the Walker Cup is a 10-man, amateur match play competition pitting the U.S. against Great Britain and Ireland. The U.S. team holds a 37-9 all-time lead in the biennial matches but has not won in Europe since 2007.