PINEHURST, N.C. — There are the times Puyallup’s Ryan Moore is easy-going and approachable off the golf course, ready to enjoy a few laughs with his family and caddie.
And there are the times when Moore prefers to be left alone to gather his thoughts and self-evaluate – like Thursday afternoon after he opened the 114th U.S. Open at Pinehurst Resort and Country Club No. 2 Course in poor fashion with a 6-over-par 76.
Making a slight body set-up adjustment to the golf ball, Moore was on the attack Friday, saving his tournament life with a 2-under 68.
No golfer made up more ground than Moore, who climbed 78 spots on the leaderboard. His two-round 4-over 144 total leaves him tied for 44th in the tournament.
Not only did he make the cut after exiting early at his past two U.S. Opens at Congressional Country Club (2011) and Merion East (last year), he also snapped his string of 11 consecutive over-par rounds in this major championship.
“A little different golfer,” said Moore with a smile, obviously proud of his bounce-back effort. “I took the whole afternoon off (Thursday) and did nothing. I sat and thought about it a little bit and had a couple of good ideas on things to work on this morning. And it clicked a little bit.”
The highlight – the shot that really carried him forward Friday – came at the par-5 fifth hole.
Facing a treacherous back-left pin location with a steep embankment behind it, Moore hit a 45-yard pitch shot low and with a lot of pace.
His golf ball took one hop and disappeared in the hole for his first career eagle at a U.S. Open, putting him at 3-under for his round.
“That was pretty fantastic,” Moore said. “It had a lot of spin on it, so it is hard to say if it would have gone (off the back of the green). But I clipped that as clean as I can hit a wedge shot … so it could have one-hopped and come back.”
Moore stumbled at the ninth hole where his bump-and-run shot from off the green at the par 3 came back to his feet, leading to his first bogey.
And two holes later, his drive landed in the thick sandy wire grass, leading to his other bogey.
But at the 12th hole, a scenic dogleg-right par 4, Moore took on a risky pin location with his 7-iron approach shot from 187 yards. He got it to stay on a back plateau, and coaxed in a 14-footer for birdie to get back to 2-under for the day – and 4-over for the tournament.
“I knew 4-over was fine. I thought 5-over had about a 60 percent chance to get in,” Moore said. “I did not want to mess with it. In the end, I wanted to post 4-over and know I was comfortable the rest of the night.”
But he still had to make two remarkable up-and-down saves for par to stay at 4-over.
Short-siding himself in the bunker, and the slope on the green running away from him, Moore delicately landed his golf ball on the fringe and watched as it trickled just inches from the cup.
“I hit it that close one out of 20 times,” he said.
His approach shot at the finishing hole landed in a sandy divot on the left fringe of the green. He tried using his putter, but his golf ball immediately bounced and stopped 10 feet short.
Calmly, Moore stepped up and canned the putt to finish off his score of 68.
“It was nice to feel good today,” Moore said. “Now I feel like I have a chance to play solid golf this weekend and try to move up the leaderboard a little bit more.”
Todd Milles: 253-597-8442