April 22, 2018: Entering this week, Zach Johnson had made 371 starts in his PGA TOUR career. That’s 300 more than the combined starts of his final-round playing partners at the Valero Texas Open, Andrew Landry and Trey Mullinax. Anirban Lahiri shot one over 73 through an eventful round on Saturday. The 30 year old needed to play with enormous patience, nearly offsetting five bogeys with four birdies as he toiled with all his heart. Anirban conceded 18 spots, ending the day lying in T66.
Johnson has 12 wins, including two majors, with 77 top 10s. Four of those wins have come in Texas, two of those in this city. Landry and Mullinax have yet to break through in any state and have combined for six top 10s.
Johnson, at age 42, will seek to continue the recent resurgence of 40-something winners on TOUR – three in the last eight events. Landry is 30, Mullinax is 25 – and either one would be quite satisfied to win one for the younger crowd.
That’s how it sets up in the final threesome that tees off at 12:25 p.m. ET Sunday at TPC San Antonio. Johnson and Landry are the co-leaders at 13 under, with Mullinax one shot back in solo third after setting the course record with a 62 on Saturday. No guarantees that any of the three will emerge as the winner – Ryan Moore is just two shots back, and 2015 Valero champ Jimmy Wallker, leads the pack tied for fifth at 9 under – but if it comes down to the final group, there’s no doubt who has the experience edge.
“Honestly, I think we’re all out here for a reason and we’re all out here to win and we’re all out here because we’re good,” said Landry, who had one of eight, bogey-free rounds Saturday in shooting 4-under 68. “Zach’s had some success and we’ll just continue to go out and play fiery.
“That’s how those Web.com guys come out, and so we’re just going to go put the gas pedal down and just try to win.”
Landry almost did that at the CareerBuilder Challenge, losing in a playoff to Jon Rahm. Mullinax has never been in this position, and now he’ll likely have to back up his record round with another low one.
“I’m sure I’ll be nervous,” he said. “… To have a chance to win or just go play good golf is what I came here for, so that’s what I’m going to do.”
As for Johnson … well, he’s won Valero twice, but on a different course. Should he happen to win for a third time, he’d join Arnold Palmer and Justin Leonard as the only three-time winners of this event.
“I’ve got 18 holes to get to that point,” he said. “So a lot of work still left, but a lot of work I’m going to enjoy. You mentioned two names that I hold in the highest regard. Obviously, the King is the King and Justin is a very, very good friend, so two of my favorites that ever played the game.”