Arkansas alums Cook, Landry eye victory from final group at CareerBuilder

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Arkansas alums Cook, Landry eye victory from final group at CareerBuilder

PGA Tour

Arkansas alums Cook, Landry eye victory from final group at CareerBuilder

LA QUINTA, Calif. – When Andrew Landry was a senior at the University of Arkansas, a Class of 2009 recruit from Jonesboro, Ark., by the name of Austin Cook visited campus. Landry called Cook his mini-me.

“Very similar golf swings, we’re the same height (5 feet, 7 inches) and all our specs and shafts are the same,” Landry said.

Added Arkansas head coach Brad McMakin: “I actually recruited Austin because of the similarities he had with Andrew’s golf swing – strong grip, a lot of rotation, the face doesn’t roll over, they both hit little cuts. … They are as two similar of players as I’ve ever seen.”

At 10:45 a.m. local time Sunday at PGA West’s Stadium Course, Cook and Landry will both tee off in the final group alongside Martin Piller in the final round of the CareerBuilder Challenge. Cook leads at 19 under while Landry shares second with Piller, a shot back.

“It’s going to be a great day for them,” McMakin said. “Honestly, I think one of them is going to win the tournament.”

It’s hard to argue. Cook hit every fairway during a first-round 63 Thursday around PGA West’s Nicklaus Tournament Course. On Saturday, he added a 64 at La Quinta Country Club to grab the 54-hole lead. (The only other time he’s led after 54 holes in a PGA Tour event was last fall when he captured his first Tour title at the RSM Classic.) Landry, who shot 2-under 70 on the Stadium on Saturday (Cook shot 70 there on Friday), is the only player in the field this week who hasn’t made a bogey.

It’s no secret that the Stadium favors straight-hitters like Cook and Landry, especially in windy conditions like the players saw Saturday and should see again Sunday.

“There are a few holes out there that can get a little scary for somebody who doesn’t hit it straight,” Cook said. Cook isn’t afraid, which is why he texted McMakin after his round and told him: “There won’t be anybody hitting more fairways and greens than us tomorrow.”

Said Landry: “When we both are driving it well, it’s pretty hard to beat us.”

But hitting balls on a string won’t be the only thing that could help either Cook or Landry prevail on Sunday in La Quinta. McMakin calls the two players “really tough competitors.” Neither had any other offers when they signed with the Razorbacks, but they each got better every year. (Landry was a three-time All-American by the time he left Fayetteville.)

McMakin recalls one time Landry played with Dustin Johnson during a tournament hosted by UCLA, “and he didn’t even know who he was – and he didn’t care,” McMakin said. Several years later, Landry found himself in the final group with Johnson for the third round of the 2016 U.S. Open at Oakmont. Landry shot 66 in the first round that week, the lowest opening-round score in U.S. Open history on the course.

Landry ended up T-15 at Oakmont, but learned much about his game under pressure. (He also played in the final group Sunday at Oakmont alongside Shane Lowry.) The key for this Sunday: keep a good walking pace.

“I’ve really had control of it all week,” Landry said.

Before he was a winner at Sea Island, Cook showed his toughness in Monday qualifiers. In 2014, he Monday-qualified for the FedEx St. Jude Classic and tied for 13th. A year later, he qualified for four Tour starts via Monday qualifiers and turned two of those starts into top-11 finishes. His T-6 finish at the 2015 Barbasol Championship got him into the following week’s RBC Canadian Open, where he tied for seventh to set up a T-22 week at the Barracuda Championship.

“Coming into this year, I felt like I had an advantage over all the other rookies because of my 2015 season,” said Cook, who is a rookie along with Landry this season.

Cook proved it by winning the RSM in impressive fashion. He didn’t just hang on for victory; he went out and got it, shooting 67 in the final round and winning by four.

“I think that tonight the nerves, the butterflies, all that will kind of be a little less.” Cook said. “Being comfortable, I’ve been in the situation before and I was able to finish the job on Sunday.”

Landry, who was T-4 that week at Sea Island, said Cook’s win has motivated him.

“It pushed me definitely to try and get a victory,” Landry said.

Should Landry do so Sunday in La Quinta, it will be yet another thing that he and Cook have in common.

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