Moore says bye-bye to US Open birdies

Puyallup product hopes approach can help him beat Pinehurst No. 2’s humpback greens

todd.milles@thenewstribune.comJune 11, 2014 

PINEHURST, N.C. — All major-championship golf venues are not regarded equally.

Some get Puyallup’s Ryan Moore really excited to prepare for and play — such as perfectly manicured Augusta National Golf Club in Georgia.

Others simply get under his skin — such as Oakmont Country Club in Pennsylvania and the slopes of its ridiculously severe greens.

The site of the 114th U.S. Open this week — famous Pinehurst No. 2 — does a bit of everything to Moore. It is challenging. Many parts are harrowing.

And all of it makes players constantly think — and re-think — strategy.

Moore insists that is the biggest reason he changed his preparation for what will be career major No. 25.

The day after the Wells Fargo Championship finished in early May in Charlotte, Moore sneaked north to visit Pinehurst for the first time since 2005, when he played his final major there as an amateur at the U.S. Open.

And for two days last week after the Memorial Tournament, he played a couple of practice

rounds at Pinehurst No. 2.

“I felt like this course deserved a little more attention — time around the greens, which are so severe,” Moore said.

Of course, the casual critic could point to Moore’s moderate success at majors — he has top-10 finishes at the 2006 PGA Championship and the 2009 U.S. Open but has never threatened to contend — and suggest he could have used a shake-up in his approach.

Moore scoffed at that notion Tuesday, but he did point out that breaking up this week’s preparation into smaller bites could be beneficial.

“I just wanted to make sure I showed up on Monday being comfortable with the golf course, and not necessarily feeling I had to press and go do a lot of practice,” Moore said. “You want to make the tournament week as less stressful as possible. For me, that was a big part of it — just show up, take my time, play nine (holes) Tuesday, play nine Wednesday and go.”

It was June 3, when he received a valuable tip about Pinehurst No. 2’s humpback greens from reigning British Open champion Phil Mickelson, who was playing a practice round in the group ahead of him.

“He said the pin has no bearing on where you are trying to hit it to these greens,” Moore said. “It is almost like you have to pretend there is no pin — ever.”

That point led to a strategy Moore said he will follow this week: not thinking about making birdies.

“The best way I can put it for myself is pretty much dismissing the thought of making a birdie standing in a fairway — ever,” Moore said. “It doesn’t matter if I have a sand wedge in my hand, a 9-iron or a 5-iron. It is about getting it on the green where I need to get it.”

At 31, Moore is old enough to start a second rotation at some of the U.S. Open venues, continuing this week at Pinehurst No. 2.

He arrived there in 2005 as one of the most-decorated amateurs in golf history, having swept all the previous summer’s biggest events, including the NCAA Division I men’s championships, Western Amateur, U.S. Amateur Public Links and U.S. Amateur.

But at the 2005 U.S. Open, Moore was preparing to say goodbye to amateur golf and hello to turning professional, which he did the following week at The Barclays at Westchester Country Club in New York.

The week of Moore’s final U.S. Open as an amateur was a crazy one. His game was not sharp, and he barely made the cut before finishing tied for 57th.

It also was when he first felt a tinge of pain in his left wrist, which was later discovered to be a broken hamate (“hook”) bone. He underwent surgery to repair it the following season.

“That whole transition process, looking back at it now, you probably see it more for what it is, and how crazy it really was,” said Moore, who has earned $17.7 million for his career.

“In the moment, it is what you are dealing with, and I have always been pretty good at doing what I’ve got to do, and being where I have to be in that moment. It has served me well in golf, in general.”

Todd Milles: 253-597-8442 @ManyHatsMilles

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