Just when it appeared that Andrew Landry was destined for epic failure, he somehow latched on to epic success.
With birdies on the 17th and 18th holes after throwing away a six-shot lead with six holes to play, Landry shot a stomach-churning five-under-par 67 on Sunday to win the American Express at the PGA West Stadium Course at 26 under.
Abraham Ancer came from back in the pack to shoot a course record-tying, bogey-free 63 to finish in second, at 24 under, and was within earshot of his first PGA Tour victory before Landry’s steely finish.
Landry, who lost a four-hole playoff to Jon Rahm in this event two years ago, had played impeccable golf on a fourth consecutive perfect scoring day in the California desert. He had six birdies, including three in a row on Nos. 10-12 to fashion that six-stroke lead, no bogeys and showed no inclination that there was any wrinkle in his game.
Then not only did the wheels come off, but both axles and the entire undercarriage were cracking. He three-putted the par-three 13th for bogey, bogeyed the short par-four 14th after failing to hit the green from 75 yards, and added a third consecutive bogey after missing the green with his approach shot on the par-four 15th, failing to even find the putting surface on his chip shot from the left of the green.
“That little stretch there with three bogeys in a row, that was me being way too defensive,” Landry said. “So I’m fortunate that it worked out the way that it did, and I wouldn’t have been very, very happy if it didn’t work out that way.”
Ancer, playing two groups ahead of Landry, pulled into a tie for the lead with his eighth and ninth birdies of the day on Nos. 16 and 17.
Landry stood on the 17th tee, staring down at the island green 166 yards away, his lead evaporated and facing two of the three hardest holes on the course; he needed at least one birdie to avoid another playoff.
He hit his tee shot to seven feet, made the putt and was back in the lead by one stroke.
“That was probably the shot of the tournament for me,” Landry said.
“There’s water completely around the whole entire green, it’s a tough shot and especially in that moment. But I just held on and hit a great golf shot there.”
After a perfect drive on the 429-yard 18th, he hit a wedge to six feet, then drained the birdie putt for his two-shot victory.
“Just to be able to get the job done, man, it means a lot to be able to be a winner again,” he said.
Has he experienced a round of golf with the anxious extremes of this one?
“I’ve seen them, but I haven’t been a part of them,” he said. “I don’t like being a part of them either. ... Yeah, I don’t want to be a part of something like that ever again.”
Landry’s playing partners in the final group — Scottie Scheffler, who was tied for the lead at 21 under after the third round, and Rickie Fowler, who started the day four shots back — struggled much of the round. Scheffler wound up third at 23 under after a 70; Fowler shot 71 and finished tied for 10th.
Bud Cauley and Sepp Straka, the only Austrian-born player who has earned a PGA Tour card, were tied for fourth at 20 under. Cauley shot 65, Straka 66.
A stroke of bad luck on Scheffler’s first shot set the tone for his round. His drive on No. 1 found a large mound in the left rough, rolled up, then back down into a deep divot. His ensuing bogey knocked him out of a first-place tie with Landry. He would bogey three of his first six holes.
That was three more bogeys than he had in all of the first three rounds, though he did have a double bogey in his second-round 64.
The bad lie was a clearly different case of luck from his pulled tee shot on No. 18 in the third round Saturday, when his ball headed for the water along the left side of the fairway only to hit a rock and bounce back to the fairway, leading to a par instead of a bogey or worse.
For Scheffler, who enjoys playing pickup basketball, that bad break had the look of a makeup call from the golf gods.
After his final putt, Landry took his almost 2-year-old son Brooks in his arms and carried him through the tunnel under the stands to the scoring tent, his wife Elizabeth following. Brooks’ first tournament was as a 4-month-old at the Valero Texas Open, which was Landry’s only tour victory until now.
“He put us through a bit of a heart attack out there for a while,” Elizabeth said as she chased after Brooks on the putting green. “But it’s all good now.”