Nobody really thought Andrew Landry was going to lead the 2016 U.S. Open at Oakmont despite the fact that he played with Dustin Johnson on the weekend and led after each of the first two days. By contrast, nearly two years later, most folks who watched the 2018 Valero Texas Open thought Landry was going to get his first PGA Tour win.
And then he did by playing strong, steady golf down the stretch to hold off 12-time PGA Tour winner Zach Johnson and upstart Trey Mullinax. Landry went 45 holes from Friday to Sunday without making a bogey and shot a 4-under 68 on Sunday to secure victory No. 1 over Mullinax by two strokes.
Still, it never really felt that close. Mostly because Landry only made a single bogey in his last 53 holes and parred in after that lone bogey at the 11th hole in Round 4 for a fairly stress-free victory in which Mullinax needed to birdie the last just to get within one.
"A lot of hard work obviously," Landry told Amanda Balionis of CBS Sports about the win. "Today was a grind, especially on the back nine."
Landry did it all week by being the best player in the field from tee to green. Throw in the fact that he was also top 10 in putting, and it's easy to see why victory No. 1 came like it did on Sunday. He also set himself up for Sunday. He opened with 69-67-67 and closed when nobody else near him would.
The former Arkansas Razorback has had an odd year. He's missed five cuts, but the six he made have resulted in four top 10s and a win. One of those top 10s was a playoff loss to Jon Rahm at the CareerBuilder Challenge, which means Landry is one stroke from being a two-time winner this season even though he came into this week having missed four of his last five cuts.
"We were trying to get to the Tour Championship this year," Landry added. "That's kind of been my goal still. We still have a lot of work to do, but this will help."
It certainly will. And now the golfer who everyone was Googling at Oakmont two years ago is a PGA Tour champion and will play the 2019 Masters. Grade: A+
Here are the rest of our grades for the 2018 Texas Open.
Trey Mullinax (T2): It's unfortunate that his incredible run ended like it did with a chunked pitch shot on the par-4 17th, but he showed out for 34 holes on the weekend. He played those first 34 holes in a preposterous 14 under before playing the final two in 1 over and proved at this level that he's more than just the longest driver on the PGA Tour.
His 62 on Saturday was special and remains the round of the event by three strokes. He's got some game to back up that thunderstick of his off the tee box. And now he'll take a little juice to the rest of the year with two top 10s in his last three events. Hopefully for him his takeaways from the week are positive and he forgets about that ghastly shot on the 17th as quickly as possible. Grade: A
Zach Johnson (5th): Johnson didn't get the victory on Sunday, but even the idea that he might was a reminder that he's had one of the more underrated careers of the last two decades. Johnson has 12 PGA Tour wins, victories at St. Andrews and Augusta National and could have joined, gulp, a pretty loaded up group with a win in San Antonio. Unfortunately for him, a Sunday close was not in the cards. Grade: A-
Three players have 13 PGA Tour wins including multiple majors since the beginning of the 2004 season: Tiger, Phil and Rory. Zach Johnson becomes the fourth member of that group with a win today.— Justin Ray (@JustinRayGC) April 22, 2018
Joaquin Niemann (6th): The Chilean, playing in his first tournament as a professional, finished birdie-birdie-birdie to get to 12 under and inside the top six. That's significant because he'll now get a free exemption into the next stroke play event (the Wells Fargo Championship in two weeks) and not have to use one of his limited exemptions, as he doesn't currently have any status on the PGA Tour. The pedigree is certainly there for the former amateur world No. 1. The panache is certainly there. And Niemann looks like he's going to have the game at this level to back it all up.
"It's amazing," Niemann told CBS Sports' Amanda Balionis. "It's really nice to be standing with the best players in the world and be at the top of the leaderboard.
And let's cut to me purchasing Niemann stock.
Sergio Garcia (MC): It was a rough week for Garcia, who missed his second straight cut for the first time since 2003 and . I don't really think it's anything to get super fired up about given Garcia's stellar play earlier in the year (top 10 in two stroke play events before the Masters started) and the fact that he only missed the weekend by one stroke. It was a bummer, though, for fans and spectators hoping for more from the best player in the field playing in his newly-adopted home state. Grade: D-