Landry uses clutch finish to capture The American Express
January 19, 2020
By Sean Martin, PGATOUR.COM
Andrew Landry's winning highlights from The American Express
LA QUINTA, Calif. – The players protested when PGA West’s Stadium Course first hosted a PGA TOUR event three decades ago. Pete Dye was trying to embarrass them with his sadistic design, they said.
Dye claimed to have no such intentions. “They’re great players. We’re just giving them the opportunities to hit great golf shots,” Dye said.
The Stadium Course’s penal pair of closing holes did just that for Andrew Landry on Sunday at The American Express. What once looked like a stunning collapse simply set the stage for Landry’s clutch display of shotmaking.
Landry once led by as many as six shots before falling into a tie with Abraham Ancer with three holes remaining. How did Landry respond? By finishing with back-to-back birdies to win his second PGA TOUR title.
A final-round 67 gave him a final score of 262, two shots better than thehard-charging Ancer, who finished second after tying the course record with a final-round 63. Landry leapt from 178th to 17th in the FedExCup with the win.
Landry looked in control after making birdie on the first three holes of the back nine. He followed with three consecutive bogeys, though. Ancer pulled even with a 26-foot birdie putt on 17, his third birdie in the last four holes.
“It’s hard when you have a big lead because then you kind of start playing a little defensive,” Landry said, “and instead of playing defensive you need to be playing more aggressively and just keep hitting the shots that you need to hit.”
That’s what Landry did on the last two holes, knocking his approach shots close to guarantee that that his earlier miscues would quickly be forgotten.
Disaster looms with every swing on the Stadium Course’s last two holes, but Landry didn’t waver. He stuck his tee shot on 17 to 7 feet and made the putt to regain the lead. Water lines the left side of the finishing hole, but Landry intentionally hit a cut driver, starting his ball at the water before watching it curl back to the fairway. With 147 yards remaining, Landry was between a 9-iron and wedge.
“I said just flush the wedge. It will get there,” said his caddie, Terry Walker. “And he hit a great wedge in there.”
Landry, who once looked like he was headed for a heartbreaking collapse, poured in the 6-foot birdie putt for a two-shot win.
Shot of the Day
Andrew Landry's approach at No. 18 is the Shot of the Day
“That’s Andrew Landry. He’s a bulldog,” Walker said. “He’s going to go out and if the chips are down, he’s going to come through.”
Landry was struggling before arriving at The American Express, though. He’d missed seven of eight cuts this season and was a cumulative 5 over par. He shot 13 over in last week’s Sony Open in Hawaii.
His mental fortitude is often the first characteristic that people mention. In today’s game, it’s a necessary trait for someone like Landry who stands 5-foot-7 and finished 159th in driving distance last season.
It’s also a product of his upbringing.
Landry, the son of a teacher and FedEx driver, grew up in the east Texas town of Groves, four houses down from a scruffy course affectionately nicknamed “The Patch”. The nine-hole course, which is now closed, was built on about 50 acres of land where peas used to grow.
“It’s like any typical place in small-town Texas. We have Whataburgers and we have Dairy Queens and we love Friday-night football,” said Korn Ferry Tour player Michael Arnaud, who grew up in nearby Orange, Texas, and is friends with Landry. “We take pride that we come from a smaller area. I think it gives us a lot more determination to go out there and succeed.”
“The Patch” is barely over 3,000 yards long, but it’s defended by small, turtleback greens that got crispy from baking in the hot Texas sun.
“The people there are what made that place,” Landry’s brother, Adam, said. “They instilled a lot of morals and values and work ethic into us. A lot of the older guys, they wouldn’t let us play in their games until we hit so many buckets of balls. We played against those guys as kids growing up. They were going to do anything in their power to kind of get in your head, to challenge you. That’s where (Andrew) got a lot of his tunnel vision growing up.
Landry only weighed about 120 pounds when he entered college but was a three-time All-American by the time he graduated from Arkansas in 2009.
He had to wait six years before becoming a PGA TOUR member, though. He finished 178th in the FedExCup in his first season, but was a better player when he returned to the PGA TOUR for the 2018 season.
At this event two years ago, Landry birdied the Stadium Course’s 18th hole to force a playoff with Jon Rahm. Landry pushed him to four extra holes before Rahm finally prevailed. Landry won later that season at the Valero Texas Open.
Now he’s back in the winner’s circle.
“It feels great,” he said. “Winning out here is hard.”
He showed that Sunday, at least until he made it look easy on the last two holes.