OAKMONT, Pa. – At 3:07 a.m. Thursday, a thunderstorm arrived. It never left. By the afternoon, iPhones in the U.S. Open media tent buzzed: “EMERGENCY ALERT, Flash Flood Warning…”
You ever gone over Niagara Falls in a barrel? Me, neither. But I’ve now heard God’s own waterfall against a media tent roof. Close enough.
Around 4 o’clock, they stopped the first round at Oakmont Country Club for the third time. The thunder had moved from a rolling bass melody to a sharp heavy-metal crackling that suggested lightning warming up in the bullpen. Satellite transmission of the Fox TV broadcast was interrupted by the storm, rendering silent all the talking heads that all day had nothing to talk about except that there was nothing to talk about. Kinda like typists typing about nothing. Then, just when I began to imagine typing something about somebody named Andrew Landry . . ..
At 4:29 p.m., a lightning strike somewhere near this tent interrupted my typing because it is impossible to type while you’re diving under a desk, or, as my pal John Feinstein said while trying to rise from his knees . . .
And, to be precise, “HOLY SH*T!”
At 4:34, as every Caddyshackophile scribe under the tent channeled Carl Spackler – “I don’t think the hard stuff's going to come down for quite a while” – an official of the USGA announced, “Play has been suspended for the day.”
It was either that or issue rowboats.
Only nine players completed the first round; the first of those started at 6:45 a.m., meaning a guy likely left bed at, oh, 4 a.m., if in fact he slept through that 3:07 wake-up thunder. As it happened, the leader in the clubhouse was in the day’s first group off the 10th tee – an amateur, a junior from the University of Texas, Scottie Scheffler, who “kind of rushed” to beat the storm in and finished at one-under-par 69.
Chances are, Scheffler’s lead will be short-lived because the aforementioned somebody named Andrew Landry at one point had a three-shot lead on the field and has only to come back Friday morning and finish up his final hole (Updated: Landry made his birdie putt on his 18th hole Friday morning to shoot 66). Not being unkind to Landry. It’s always a “somebody named” player who gets unexpected attention in an Open’s first round. And if any somebody should get noticed on a frog-strangler kind of day, seems about right that it’s a Texan whose PGA Tour media page lists “Duck Dynasty” as a favorite TV show, “crawfish and oysters” as a favorite meal, and reports that if he couldn’t be a professional golfer, he’d be a fishing guide.
Landry is 5-foot-7, 150 pounds. He’s 28 years old. He’s a Web.com Tour nomad whose only professional victory came last year in South America. That victory helped him move up to the PGA Tour for the first time. In 11 events, he has earned $69,000. After early struggles, he made the cut in five of his next six events with a best finish of T-41 in last week’s FedEx St. Jude Classic.
Anyway, starting at 6:56 a.m., Landry birdied his first hole, the 10th, and added a birdie at the 17th before going on a three-birdie run at the second, third, and fourth that put him three shots up on Bubba Watson. At that point, Landry had made as many birdies on the Open’s toughest course as he had made cuts this season. Bogeys at the seventh and eighth brought him back to the field, and he now will sleep on a 10-footer for a birdie and 66.
One more thing. For a day, anyway, Andrew Landry is somebody; a 66 or 67 leading the U.S. Open does that for you. It’s also true that in the Official World Golf rankings, Andrew Landry is in Tiger Woods’ neighborhood. He’s number 624, Tiger is 569.