- Associated Press - Saturday, June 18, 2016

OAKMONT, Pa. (AP) - All it took was three holes for Andrew Landry to tumble down the leaderboard Saturday at the U.S. Open.

He didn’t crack.

Landry closed with two birdies in his second round to stay right in the mix. Nearly five hours later, he was in the last group of the third round of his first U.S. Open, being announced alongside powerful Dustin Johnson.

He didn’t get rattled.

The long shot of this U.S. Open is playing like that dream start might have a fairy tale ending.

Landry was at 3-under par, just two shots behind leader Shane Lowry, when darkness suspended the third round with five holes still to play. He was ready for some sleep, and he sounded ready for the biggest day of his golf life.

“Just go and hit a bunch of greens and maybe the putts go in, maybe they don’t,” he said. “So we’ll see.”

At No. 624 in the world ranking, Landry has never been on a stage like this.

As if the U.S. Open weren’t enough pressure, he had plenty of time to think about his 66 in the opening round, the best start in 10 majors at Oakmont, breaking the mark held by Ben Hogan and Tom Watson.

He finished that off with one putt - a 10-foot birdie - Friday morning and had to wait until Saturday morning to start the second round.

For a brief moment, it looked like he would be an afterthought by the end of the week. Landry blasted out of a bunker on the par-3 sixth hole across to the fringe and made bogey. He dropped another shot on the seventh. And then he ran into big trouble on the par-3 eighth hole when he blasted out a bunker and over the green into deep rough. From there, he could only hack it out of the gnarly rough to some 30 feet from the pin, and he did well to two-putt four a double bogey.

Just like that, he was back to even par for the tournament. He lost the lead.

He just didn’t lose his head.

“I made good swings. The only bad shot I hit was the bunker shot on 8 and I left myself in a bad situation,” Landry said. “I was trying to hack it out on the green and two-putt. That’s what I did. I didn’t really do anything that bad besides just not hitting fairways.”

Landry made birdie on the par-3 13th and then finished with a flourish. He drove into deep rough but in a manageable spot short of the par-4 17th, chipped to 20 feet and holed it for birdie. From the first cut of rough on the 18th, his approach came off the slope to 3 feet for another birdie to put him 3-under 137.

His name was high on the leaderboard. The only difference was the names around it.

That’s why he’s trying to avoid the distractions of a U.S. Open by keeping his mind off golf during his day off Friday.

“Just hanging out, keeping my mind off of it and eating and drinking waters - not cold beer,” he said. “Obviously, my name was mentioned quite a bit. It’s definitely very pressured, especially when you have guys like Dustin Johnson and Sergio Garcia at the top of the leaderboard. So I just spent time with them, did a little laundry and slept.”

Majors are filled with stories of unheralded players who start fast and fade just as quickly. Landry didn’t want to be one of those. Asked if he were comfortable seeing his name atop the leaderboard, he replied, “Sure. Should be there. I hope it stays there for a long time.”

So far, it has.

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