Ask Andrew Landry to describe his perfect day, and he probably wouldn’t start with a 5 a.m. alarm followed by an hour of putting practice — stroking the same right-to-left 10-footer — and end the sequence by executing a pressure-packed birdie putt before an audience of none.
But Landry’s perfect day had all that and bore.
Shortly after 7:30 a.m. Friday, with spectator gates still closed at Oakmont Country Club as grounds keepers spread mulch over muddy walkways, Landry sank the shot to finish a rain-delayed first round he had begun more than 24 hours earlier. He stepped into the clubhouse as the 18-hole leader at the 116th U.S. Open, with a 4-under 66 opening round.
The PGA Tour rookie’s 66 was the lowest opening-round score in nine U.S. Opens at Oakmont. An incomplete list of golfers who never shot a round so low at Oakmont: Jack Nicklaus, Arnold Palmer, Tiger Woods, Sam Snead, Ben Hogan, Tom Watson and Gary Player.
By the way, the last to win in his first U.S. Open appearance was Francis Ouimet in 1913.
“Just one of those rounds that comes to you not once in a lifetime, but it comes to you once or twice, three times a month,” Landry said. “I’m lucky it was in the first round of the U.S. Open.”
Surely Landry had never dropped a putt on the 18th hole before and heard nothing, right?
“Many times,” Landry said, with a smile. “It’s called the mini tours.”
One putt was all Landry played Friday. The rest of the day, the 156-player field played catch-up. At this point, it is all square: the weather won the first day, and free-flowing golf the second.
It was a bizarre day for spectators. Gates opened at 8 a.m., a short delay caused by overnight storms that had swept through the area. Once inside, ticket-holders didn’t see Landry, who already was in the clubhouse, and caught no more than a brief glimpse of fan favorites Jordan Spieth, Rickie Fowler and Rory McIlroy before they finished their rounds, and their work days.
Since tee times are flip-flopped the first two days — those who tee off first in the opening round start last in the second round — spectators saw the back half of the field twice instead of getting a chance to watch every golfer at some point during the day. So, they saw a lot of Phil Mickelson, Dustin Johnson, Sergio Garcia and Jason Day, the world’s top-ranked golfer, who struggled.
It was bizarre for players, too. Those who waited through three rain delays Thursday were in and out quickly Friday morning, while others spent almost all day on the course, walking 36 holes.
Early on, USGA officials hoped to get the entire field to tee off before nightfall. Facing the prospects of twilight golf, a challenge he hasn’t undertaken in years, Bubba Watson, who shot a 1-under 69, considered his options: “I have to decide if I’m going to eat dinner before I play or after, because they haven’t announced it yet, but they’re definitely going to tee off early the next day. I need 12 hours of sleep. I get cranky. I’m not going to get my 12 hours of sleep tonight.”
By mid-afternoon, the USGA had announced all originally scheduled Friday afternoon tee times would be pushed to early Saturday morning. So Watson made his move. He posted a photo on Twitter of him, his son, Caleb, and Day’s 3-year-old son, Dash, at the movies. Dash’s dad had two rounds to play, and Watson had a free afternoon, so they roamed off-campus.
The colorful Rickie Fowler, impatiently waiting for a chance to bounce back from his 6-over first round, replied to the photo of the threesome at the theater, “Where was my invite?”
The Oakmont golf course grew tougher and faster as the sun beat down Friday. Players debated whether the Friday field had gotten off easier, since they weren’t interrupted by storms and were playing on a cleaner, more predictable surface — albeit one of the hardest in the world.
Perhaps it was a perfect day for some, and not others.
But who expects perfect at the U.S. Open?
Stephen J. Nesbitt: email@example.com and Twitter @stephenjnesbitt.