Andrew Landry had just seen his six-shot lead disappear as he stepped on the tee at one of the most intimidating holes on the PGA Tour.
The 166-yard, par-3 17th at PGA West’s Stadium Course is not only longer than its island-green sibling, No. 17 at TPC Sawgrass, but it also features a smaller target.
Landry wasn’t daunted, hitting the shot of the tournament on the way to victory Sunday at The American Express.
“That's a tough shot, especially with the number that we had today,” Landry said. “I knew that it was a touch into the wind, and it was 159 yards down the hill, and I knew 9-iron was just not going to [work]. I would have to flush one to get it to the front edge. And so, having to chip something down, and when there's water completely around the whole entire green, is a tough shot and especially in that moment.
“But I just held on and hit a great golf shot there.”
Landry’s clutch tee ball left him 6 feet, 10 inches for birdie. He sank the putt to go a shot up on clubhouse leader Abraham Ancer, who closed in 9-under 63 – a round that included a huge 25-foot birdie make at No. 17 – to finish at 24 under. Landry then rolled home a 6-foot birdie at the last for good measure and won by two shots.
An hour or so earlier, Landry had just bogeyed three straight holes and was in danger of giving away the tournament. With four holes left, Landry’s potential rout had quickly turned into a nerve-racking fight to the finish.
“I've seen them, but I haven't been a part of them,” Landry said of nail-biting finishes. “I don't like being a part of them, either. I told [my caddie] Terry [Walker] on No. 15, I said, ‘Let's go get this job done,’ like, quit messing around. And, yeah, I don't want to be a part of something like that ever again.”
Two years ago, Landry lost to Jon Rahm in a playoff here in Palm Springs. Later that season he notched his first PGA Tour victory, at the 2018 Valero Texas Open. But last season, Landry took a step back, finishing 96th on the FedExCup points list.
“Last year was the first year at that I've looked back and I've been like, ‘Hey, look, I didn't get better at all,’” Landry said.
After missing six of seven cuts last fall, Landry put in some hard work this winter in an attempt to turn things around. He got sick shortly before last week’s Sony Open and missed another cut, but he hung tough, playing his way into the co-54-hole lead with Scottie Scheffler in the SoCal desert.
And grouped with Scheffler and fan favorite Rickie Fowler on Sunday, Landry reverted to a trusty tactic.
“The fans are going to be against you,” he told himself, “and you've just got to let it all go and just play your own game and play your own way.”
While Fowler shot 71, Landry’s closing 67 was enough to get the job done, even if it wasn’t the prettiest of back nines. Not that Landry cares about appearances. He’s never paid much attention to outside noise.
As a junior player, he was lightly recruited, partly because of his size. Yet the 5-foot-7 Landry became a three-time All-American at the University of Arkansas. During one tournament at UCLA, Landry was paired with Coastal Carolina stud Dustin Johnson.
“He didn’t even know who [Johnson] was, and he didn’t care,” said Landry’s college coach, Brad McMakin.
Years later, Landry found himself grouped with Johnson again, only in the final third-round group at the 2016 U.S. Open at Oakmont, where Landry tied for 15th in his coming-out party on the big stage. A lot has changed for Landry since then, but his chip-on-the-shoulder mettle has remained.
“I don't know, probably because I'm 5-7, 150 pounds and I'm playing up against a lot of 6-2 guys,” Landry said. “No, I don't know. I was kind of tough in my younger days at junior golf. My mom would just kind of [say], ‘You don't want it bad enough.’ It would make me want to go out and show her and prove to her. And so, she still does that to this day and it really pisses me off.”
On Sunday, just when it looked like Landry didn’t want it bad enough, he proved to everyone, with a tough shot on a tough hole, that he did.