Lessons from Oakmont serve Landry well
June 17, 2017
By Jim McCabe, PGATOUR.COM
- Xander Schauffele is following Andrew Landry's lead as 'unknown' players to make an impact at the U.S. Open. (Getty Images)
Before there was Xander Schauffele at Erin Hills, there was Andrew Landry at Oakmont.
Which explains why the 28-year-old Landry can appreciate and speak to what Schauffele – an unheralded name just two off the lead through 36 holes – might be experiencing at the 117th U.S. Open in Wisconsin.
“He can get so much out of it, it might one of the greatest experiences of his life,” said Landry. “I know it was for me.”
Landry? If the name sounds familiar, perhaps you can remember last year’s U.S. Open at mighty Oakmont when in his first major championship the unknown from Port Neches-Groves, Texas, did the unthinkable and pushed aside names like Ben Hogan and Gary Player. Each of those icons had shot the best first-round score in Oakmont’s storied U.S. Open history – until Landry fired 66 to knock ‘em out of the record books, that is.
Bold stuff that grew even more intriguing as Landry followed with 71-70 to get within one of Shane Lowry’s lead. In his first U.S. Open, Landry found himself in the final pairing on Sunday.Andrew Landry struggled in the final round at Oakmont, but the memories from that week will last a lifetime. (Rob Carr/Getty Images)
And, yes, he found it an exhilarating experience, even if he did shoot 78 to tumble into a share of 15th. His television time dwindled quickly that day – his chance at an exemption into the 2017 U.S. Open evaporated, too, when he fell out of the top 10 – but if you’re thinking he was down on himself and looking for a place to hide, think again.
“I got so much out of it, I really did,” said Landry. “Just to be there, just to watch Shane and Dustin (Johnson) play with a chance to win, to watch them duke it out. It was my first taste of it (at the PGA TOUR level) and I learned so much.
“Just seeing it all made me want to be there again and I’m convinced it led to my win in the Bahamas.”
Ah, yes, the victory earlier this year at The Bahamas Great Abaco Classic at The Abaco Club. It’s on the Web.com Tour, which is where Landry finds himself because most of his rookie season on the PGA TOUR did not go as well as it did at Oakmont. He made just nine cuts in 18 starts, finished 178th in the FedExCup standings and … well, it’s all part of the learning experience for a kid who has always been the longest of long shots.Andrew Landry began his ascension into The 25 with a victory at The Bahamas Great Abaco Classic. (Andy Lyons/Getty Images)
Fact is, Landry has a firm grasp of it all, which is why he’s still proud of how he hung in there at Oakmont, even as the bogeys piled up and the chaos surrounding the infamous penalty-stroke ruling swirled around Johnson.
“I played about 60 really good holes at Oakmont,” said Landry. “Actually, I thought I played very well on the back nine (Sunday). But most of all, I learned so much.”
Like how to walk – and, yes, he’s serious. Don’t laugh. He makes a great point.
“I learned the pace at which I walked was important. I learned how to breathe and that I needed to be more aware of the rhythm of my golf swing. I was a little uncomfortable out there, but the nerves never really hit me.”
While there was a bit of a lull after the win in the Bahamas, Landry has pointed things in the right direction. In fact, “it must be that time of year,” he said Friday from Kansas, after posting his second straight 66 at the Air Capital Classic Supporting Wichita’s Youth in Wichita. He was eight off the lead, but with a wider focus employed, Landry is thrilled with the way things are going. His three starts previous to Wichita? A tidy T5, T3, T4 stretch and with $212,854 in earnings, Landry is second on the money list.
Andrew Landry wins the Bahamas Great Abaco Classic
That’s a comfortable position, but Landry didn’t just learn from his Oakmont experience. No, he discovered, too, that “your number” coming off the Web.com Tour is crucial. “I was 21st on the money list, but fell to 43rd,” Landry said. He played in just 18 tournaments and “I know how hard it is to keep your card playing in that number of tournaments. I just never had the opportunity to play a lot. It was a weird year.”
Back on the Web.com Tour for a second time, Landry is not disappointed. Instead, he’s enthused and he’s totally committed. That’s why he made a decision a few weeks ago 17 holes into the U.S. Open qualifier in Memphis. “I was 1-over at the time, but it just hit me. I was mentally out of it.”
The previous day, Landry had grinded to the end of the Rex Hospital Open in Raleigh, North Carolina, and because of travel woes, he had just a few hours of sleep before the Memphis qualifier. Everything about the Oakmont experience had been positive, but Landry was willing to withdraw from his opportunity to do it again at Erin Hills.
“I just didn’t think it was beneficial to stay and grind it out,” he said. “My focus is on the Web.com Tour and I think I made the right decision.”
Hard to argue with him. He went and finished T4 the next week and he’s right back at it in Wichita, playing nicely. The positive season rolls on.
The U.S. Open stage for unheralded names is all yours this year, Mr. Schauffele.