Moore Seeks to Make This Trip Home the Best One Yet
By David Shefter, USGA
UNIVERSITY PLACE, Wash. – An odd feeling overcame Ryan Moore as he made the 10-minute drive to Chambers Bay on Monday.
It’s a road he had navigated many times before, but this week, the familiar surroundings felt different. The first U.S. Open in the Pacific Northwest has produced a buzz, and as a native of Pierce County, Moore senses the surreal nature and magnitude of the championship.
Combine that with a homecoming and there is good reason why the 32-year-old is a bit giddy. Moore, who now lives in Las Vegas, owns a home close to Chambers Bay and is one of the more decorated golfers from the region. He is a three-time USGA champion, a past USA Walker Cup competitor and an NCAA champion. Since turning professional, he has won four times on the PGA Tour.
And now he gets the rare opportunity to compete for a U.S. Open title in his backyard.
“There’s certainly extra motivation,” said Moore, who claimed the U.S. Amateur Public Links and U.S. Amateur in 2004, one of only seven golfers to win multiple USGA titles in the same year. “I’d love to play well here, but I also really want to enjoy this week. This could be the one time in my entire life I get to play a tournament in my backyard, where I grew up.”
Moore was still a burgeoning junior golfer in 1998 when the PGA Championship was conducted at Sahalee Country Club, about 45 minutes northeast of Chambers Bay. Twelve years later, Chambers Bay hosted the U.S. Amateur, but Moore had since turned pro. When the USGA announced it was bringing its flagship championship to the Robert Trent Jones Jr. design, he couldn’t contain his excitement.
It’s something Moore never anticipated, but as the event drew closer, Moore became the PGA Tour’s ambassador for all questions related to Chambers Bay: What is the course like? Can I stay in Seattle and commute? Will I need multiple rain suits?
Nothing was too out of the ordinary, but with Chambers Bay being a new U.S. Open venue, a sense of mystery existed. Only 11 players in this week’s field competed in the U.S. Amateur here five years ago. So for virtually everyone, the course was an unknown.
“These guys are really good at figuring out golf courses really fast and getting comfortable with them,” said Moore, downplaying any possible home-course advantage.
Of course, most of the players don’t have the same ticket demands, and Moore has asked his fellow professionals if they have any to spare. It is one reason why he decided to skip last week’s FedEx St. Jude Classic in Memphis, Tenn., to focus on preparing for the Open. For starters, he could quietly reacquaint himself with the course without outside distractions. While he grew up in the area, he had only played the layout a handful of times and never in a major competition.
“I knew the course had changed,” said Moore, referring to some tweaks made since the 2010 U.S. Amateur. “I just wanted to see it and get comfortable with it. I was out here Wednesday and I was not the only person on the golf course. Anytime you have a completely new golf course that no one’s played, there’s definitely going to be guys coming quite a bit earlier. And then with some of [USGA Executive Director] Mike Davis’ comments about the golf course … I’m sure that convinced a few more people that they probably needed to come out, at least a little bit early.”
Scheduling early practice also enabled Moore to enjoy a few things outside the ropes. On Sunday, he threw out the first pitch at the Triple-A Tacoma Rainiers game. Last Tuesday, he taped a special segment with Fox Sports that will provide a behind-the-scenes view of Moore and his family, most of whom still live within 20 minutes of the course. And as the most high-profile local player in the field, requests for media interviews have reached triple digits.
Not that Moore minds the extra attention. Most weeks on the PGA Tour, he toils in relative anonymity behind superstars such as nine-time USGA champion Tiger Woods, world No. 1 Rory McIlroy, Phil Mickelson and wunderkind Jordan Spieth, the reigning Masters champion whose caddie, Michael Greller, once looped at Chambers Bay and has himself been in high demand leading up to the U.S. Open.
This week, Moore is local-boy-turned-hero.
Consider what he has accomplished in the game. He was the runner-up in the 2000 U.S. Junior Amateur and then an All-American at the University of Nevada-Las Vegas. In 2002, he won the U.S. Amateur Public Links, a month after he qualified for his first U.S. Open. Two years later, he had one of the best amateur seasons in history, winning not only the APL and U.S. Amateur, but also the NCAA title and Western Amateur. He also led the USA to victory in the World Amateur Team Championship in Puerto Rico and was the low amateur at the Masters.
He turned pro a year later and has earned more than $20 million thus far, but a major title is still missing from the portfolio. In fact, he only has two top-10s in 28 appearances: a tie for ninth at the 2006 PGA Championship and a T-10 at the 2009 U.S. Open.
This week, however, has more of a British Open look and feel. It’s a style of golf Moore has recently come to embrace. In his last three British Opens, he has finished T-12, T-32 and T-28.
“As far as the golf course and the way it bounces, it’s something I actually enjoy,” said Moore. “It’s not what we play week in and week out. It’s a very different type of golf. I remember playing Muirfield [two] years ago where it got so firm and fast over the weekend, I was hitting sand wedges from 190 yards. It would roll 80 yards, even with a sand wedge.
“But that’s the nature of this kind of golf. You have to let the golf course dictate what you can do. You can’t force your will on the golf course.”
Come Sunday, Moore would love nothing more than to be in contention. If that includes hoisting the U.S. Open Trophy in front of scores of family and friends, there is no telling what kind of celebration might take place along Puget Sound.
David Shefter is a senior staff writer for the USGA. Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.