Oakmont, Pa. – Andrew Landry on Thursday provided a reminder of how democratic the U.S. Open is. And as in most democracies, a large percentage of people at Oakmont were unhappy with the way things went.
Many players grimaced their way through a difficult first round that was delayed three times by weather, which prevented all but nine competitors from finishing the first round. Many were upset with the USGA’s handling of the delays, and a lot of fans wound up with saturated socks.
Players wound up taking refuge from the storms in the media center, where a few watched soccer and even took short naps, and a few complained about the inability to warm up after the first delay.
The ugly beginning to the tournament didn’t keep Landry from taking a one-shot lead after 17 holes, although his lead dropped from three shots to one after he bogeyed his last two holes.
He was facing a 10-foot putt for birdie when play was suspended for the final time Thursday. No matter how he plays the final hole of his first round, he can say he once slept with the lead in the Unrelenting Storms Open. And if he sinks the birdie putt on Friday morning, he will have shot the lowest first-round ever at a U.S. Open at Oakmont.
“I’ve hit the ball really well today and just made a bunch of putts and just kept it going,” Landry said.
Landry was a three-time All-America at Arkansas, which means his professional career became only the latest lesson in how difficult is to make a living playing golf. He played on the Adams Pro Tour, a mini-tour, before earning his Web.com Tour card after finishing second in a qualifying tournament.
He made his PGA Tour debut at the 2015 Shell Houston Open as a Monday qualifier. He hasn’t won a tournament since the Web.com Tour’s Cartagena de Indias at Karibana Championship in Colombia in March 2015.
Landry, 28, is 624th in the Official Golf World Rankings, behind even the artist formerly known as Tiger Woods. Landry made it to the Open by surviving local qualifying in North Carolina and sectional qualifying in Tennessee.
If he somehow won the U.S. Open, Landry might do for golf what Steph Curry has done for basketball — prove that slight and skilled athletes can thrive. Landry is listed at 5-7 and 150 pounds. His pants look baggy and his upper body is unadorned with excess muscle. He plays golf the way most people should play — with a simple, short backswing that produces a relatively straight ball flight.
He finished the day one shot ahead of another slight player, Danny Lee, and another skinny player, Bubba Watson, who plays golf as only he can.
Watson’s brand is “Bubba Golf,” which describes a game that includes ridiculously long backswings, dress-shoes-on-ice footwork, nuclear-powered drives and maximum creativity from trouble and around the greens.
Thursday, he parred the first two holes, then went eight holes without a par — producing five birdies and three bogeys. That left him at 2 under when play was suspended. “Obviously, I wish I could have finished so I could watch the basketball game all the way through tonight,” he said. “But it will be good to get some rest and just get ready and play the last few holes, and hopefully we can get the golf in tomorrow as well.”
Golf Channel reporter Tim Rosaforte tweeted that when he covered the Open at Oakmont in 1983, the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette called it “Soakmont.”
Maybe holding the Open anywhere other than California is the equivalent of a rain dance. But it’s the “United States” Open, it belongs anywhere and everywhere in country, and the journeyman pro who holds the best score didn’t seem to mind leaving the course a little early Thursday.
“I was trying to get it in,” Landry said of his last hole. “It’s the U.S. Open. So you’ve just got to stay patient with it.”