The Valero Texas Open wrapped up today. It’s not exactly a glamorous stop on the PGA Tour schedule; Sergio Garcia was the only player in the top 20 of the world rankings to make the trip, and he missed the cut.
There are a few reasons more pros don’t play the Texas Open, with one being the course design, as Sergio himself served as a consultant for Greg Norman during construction. A lot of players don’t like it, finding it too penal. Ironically, Serigo himself was pretty frustrated at one point this week.
BAD SERGIO! pic.twitter.com/TYgC223VVF
— SI Golf (@SI_Golf) April 20, 2018
There are a few reasons more pros don’t play the Texas Open, with one ironically being the course design, as Sergio himself served as a consultant for Greg Norman during construction. A lot of players don’t like it, finding it too penal.
It also falls in an odd spot of the calendar, in between the Masters and the Players, two tournaments the top players want to play. That means they use one or two of the weeks in between for rest, and with next week’s Zurich Classic of New Orleans building some momentum with a team format, the Texas Open has taken a bit of a hit.
(Next year it’s moving to the week ahead of the Masters, which will likely mean a few bigger names, but at the expense of a few others who like to rest the week ahead of a major.)
All of those factors combined for a somewhat quiet leaderboard today for most of the final round. The biggest names at the top were Masters and British Open champion Zach Johnson, PGA champ Jimmy Walker, and perpetually underrated five-time Tour winner Ryan Moore. But for most of the day, relative unknown Andrew Landry (ranked 114th in the world) seemed poised to notch his first PGA Tour win in comfortable fashion in his home state of Texas.
Landry opened the day tied with Johnson, but Landry grabbed three straight birdies to start his round, and added another one at the sixth hole. Another birdie at the 10th meant he was five under on his round, and looked to be on his way. But another lesser-known player, big-hitting 25-year-old Trey Mullinax, was heating up at the right time, and after he birdied the 11th and Landry made his first bogey in more than 40 holes, the margin was just one shot.
And that’s where it stayed, as both players made par after par, no easy feat given the course and the circumstances, and the margin remained one all the way to the 17th hole, a short, risk/reward par 4.
Mullinax pulled driver, which was an aggressive play, though he certainly has the length to reach most drivable par 4s. Unfortunately he overcooked his draw a bit:
So it wasn’t an eagle putt, but it’s not the worst spot to leave it, either. Landry was in perfect position having laid up, but then he did this:
That seemed like an open door for Mullinax; Landry was facing a difficult up-and-down for par, while he still had the chance to pitch it close for birdie. Except that’s not what happened:
That, friends, is a chunk. It was hard to watch, so of course CBS showed it a few more times, including a close-up version:
Not good. Mullinax ended up with a very poorly-timed bogey, while Landry rescued himself for a par. That meant he had a two-shot lead heading to the 18th, where Mullinax once again put himself in a position to at least exert some pressure.
Landry’s approach ended up fifty feet away on the very back of the green (understandable with water in front) while Mullinax stuck his close. If Mullinax were to make his putt, Landry would have to two-putt to avoid the playoff. Landry clearly felt that pressure on his initial lag, too:
So Mullinax, if he made his birdie, would force Landry to make an 8-footer to avoid a playoff. And then, well:
For the second time in as many holes, Mullinax clearly felt the weight of the moment, although it should be noted that putts around the hole on 18 were not that easy. With the pressure off, Landry rolled his par putt in for his first win:
So at least Mullinax won’t be quite so haunted by that missed birdie, although we’ll never know if Landry would have sank his own putt if the situation were different. This whole post isn’t to make Trey Mullinax look like a choker. He’ll likely win multiple times, he’s just too talented not to. It’s also not to take anything away from Landry, a deserving winner who was just about lights-out all week, making just two bogeys over his final three rounds.
But it is a great example of how tournament pressure impacts performance, and a great reminder that the hardest part of golf is that you have plenty of time to think.