Moore Earns 2006 Card Bypasses Dreaded Q-School
Sure, he became the first player since Tiger Woods to skip Q-school and go straight from college to the PGA Tour. But that was only a small part of what he wanted to achieve.
He wanted to do at least as much as Tiger.
And after Moore tied for 13th at Disney to secure his tour card, he even sounded like a young Tiger.
``For how I've been playing, for how I've felt the last few months on the golf course, yes, I'm very proud of myself,'' Moore said. ``This is, probably if not the best, one of the best accomplishments I've ever done. I definitely didn't have my A-game out there. I was just able to get it around the best I could.''
Without his A-game, all he did was shoot 18 under and finish five shots behind Lucas Glover.
It brought back memories of Woods, the youngest Masters champion at age 21, taking three weeks off and then winning the '97 Byron Nelson Classic. He didn't have his A-game that week in Dallas. No, he told reporters, it was more like a C-plus, a comment that didn't go over well with his peers.
Moore also rubs some people the wrong way, straddling the line between being confident and cocky.
But that's why he might be worth watching.
After talking about a swing that deserted him and a putter that saved him in a final round of 68, Moore was asked whether the last four months allowed him to appreciate what Woods did in 1996.
Woods won in his fifth start as a pro by beating Davis Love III in a playoff at Las Vegas. Three weeks later, he outlasted the late Payne Stewart in a final-round duel at Disney. Not only did he earn his card, Woods made enough to finish in the top 30 on the money list and qualify for the Tour Championship.
``I never thought it was going to be easy,'' Moore said. ``That would be very, very impressive. I just didn't make enough birdies the last two weeks to get myself high enough.''
High enough for what?
Turns out Moore wanted more than just his card. He wanted to get into the Tour Championship.
``Absolutely,'' he said, slightly indignant. ``I wasn't trying to get in the top 125. That was never my goal. I'm trying to win. I was trying to get myself in the Tour Championship. That's been my goal the whole year. If you shoot for that stuff, everything falls in place after it. I've never been one to 'settle,' and I never will.''
Which is not to suggest he settled for a job next year.
``No, not at all,'' he said. ``This was a battle to get to this point, and I'm very happy to be here.''
Moore comes to the PGA Tour with a sterling record as an amateur.
A year ago, he had an amateur season that rivaled what Vijay Singh did as a pro. His nine victories included the U.S. Amateur, U.S. Amateur Public Links, Western Amateur and the individual NCAA title as a junior at UNLV. Once he turned pro, all it took was a tie for second in the Canadian Open to get him pointed in the right direction.
Where he goes from here, even with what Moore already has achieved, is anyone's guess. He isn't the first young American to come along with a strong record and big dreams.
Matt Kuchar won the next U.S. Amateur after Woods turned pro, dazzled at the Masters and U.S. Open, and eventually turned pro. But he has only one win, and at No. 157 on the money list this year, he's headed back to Q-school.
Charles Howell III won the NCAA title in record fashion and has never finished lower than 33rd on the money list. Still, he has only one victory.
Zach Johnson took the Nationwide Tour route, and won as a rookie last year.
Jonathan Byrd and Ben Crane, two other players in their 20s, have two victories each.
Glover took a while to get on tour, but the 25-year-old golfer broke through Sunday with birdies on his last two holes to win at Disney.
``There's so many great players over here, it's hard to succeed,'' Glover said. ``You've got to get in line. That's why you don't see many guys out of college. It's hard to get out there. There's a couple hundred guys just as good as you.''
All have had their moments, and perhaps it's unfair to judge them against the ridiculous standard set by Woods, who won the career Grand Slam at age 24 and already has 10 majors among his 46 victories.
He turns 30 in December.
Then again, maybe the best measure of young American stars is that Howell is the only U.S. teammate younger than Woods to have played on a Presidents Cup or Ryder Cup team since 1997.
Maybe Moore, 22, is next in line.
He is somewhat of a novelty, far from the cookie-cutter mold of young talent. He cares more about having control of his ball than bashing it, and he doesn't have a swing coach, a psychologist, a nutritionist or even a trainer.
And he sure doesn't need a media consultant. Moore speaks freely, not the least bit worried if it sounds brash.
Asked if Woods' mercurial start on the PGA Tour set the bar too high for generations to come, Moore thought for only a second and slowly shook his head.
``Not necessarily,'' he said. ``It's doable. You've just got to play good golf.''
It has worked so far for Moore, even without his A-game.
Copyright 2005 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.
Top-ranked amateur Niemann one back at LAAC in Chile
Argentina’s Jaime Lopez Rivarola leads the Latin America Amateur Championship at 5 under par following a round of 3-under 68 Saturday in Chile.
The former Georgia Bulldog is now 36 holes from a trip to Augusta.
He is followed on the leaderboard by the three players who competed in the playoff that decided last year’s LAAC in Panama: Joaquin Niemann (-4), Toto Gana (-4), and Alvaro Ortiz (-3).
Chile’s Niemann is the top-ranked amateur in the world who currently holds conditional status on the Web.com Tour and is poised to begin his career as a professional, unless of course he takes the title this week. After a disappointing 74 in Round 1, Niemann was 10 shots better in Round 2, rocketing up the leaderboard with a 7-under 64.
Niemann’s fellow Chilean and best friend Gana is the defending champion who missed the cut at the Masters last year and is now a freshman at Lynn University. His second-round 70 was a roller coaster, complete with six birdies, three eagles and a double.
Mexico’s Ortiz, the brother of three-time Web.com Tour winner Carlos, was 6 under for the week before three back-nine bogeys dropped him off the pace.
Two past champions, Matias Dominguez and Paul Chaplet, sit 5 over and 7 over, respectively.
The winner of the Latin America Amateur Championship earns an invite to this year’s Masters. He is also exempt into the The Amateur Championship, the U.S. Amateur, U.S. Open sectional qualifying, and Open Championship final qualifying.
McIlroy gets back on track
There’s only one way to view Rory McIlroy’s performance at the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship:
He is well ahead of schedule.
Sure, McIlroy is probably disappointed that he couldn’t chase down Ross Fisher (and then Tommy Fleetwood) on the final day at Abu Dhabi Golf Club. But against a recent backdrop of injuries and apathy, his tie for third was a resounding success. He reasserted himself, quickly, and emerged 100 percent healthy.
“Overall, I’m happy,” he said after finishing at 18-under 270, four back of Fleetwood. “I saw some really, really positive signs. My attitude, patience and comfort level were really good all week.”
To fully appreciate McIlroy’s auspicious 2018 debut, consider his state of disarray just four months ago. He was newly married. Nursing a rib injury. Breaking in new equipment. Testing another caddie. His only constant was change. “Mentally, I wasn’t in a great place,” he said, “and that was because of where I was physically.”
And so he hit the reset button, taking the longest sabbatical of his career, a three-and-a-half-month break that was as much psychological as physical. He healed his body and met with a dietician, packing five pounds of muscle onto his already cut frame. He dialed in his TaylorMade equipment, shoring up a putting stroke and wedge game that was shockingly poor for a player of his caliber. Perhaps most importantly, he cleared his cluttered mind, cruising around Italy with wife Erica in a 1950s Mercedes convertible.
After an intense buildup to his season debut, McIlroy was curious about the true state of his game, about how he’d stack up when he finally put a scorecard in his hand. It didn’t take him long to find out.
Playing the first two rounds alongside Dustin Johnson – the undisputed world No. 1 who was fresh off a blowout victory at Kapalua – McIlroy beat him by a shot. Despite a 103-day competitive layoff, he played bogey-free for 52 holes. And he put himself in position to win, trailing by one heading into the final round. Though Fleetwood blew away the field with a back-nine 30 to defend his title, McIlroy collected his eighth top-5 in his last nine appearances in Abu Dhabi.
“I know it’s only three months,” he said, “but things change, and I felt like maybe I needed a couple of weeks to get back into the thought process that you need to get into for competitive golf. I got into that pretty quickly this week, so that was the most pleasing thing.”
The sense of relief afterward was palpable. McIlroy is entering his 11th full year as a pro, and deep down he likely realizes 2018 is shaping up as his most important yet.
The former Boy Wonder is all grown up, and his main challengers now are a freakish athlete (DJ) and a trio of players under 25 (Jordan Spieth, Justin Thomas, Jon Rahm) who don’t lack for motivation or confidence. The landscape has changed significantly since McIlroy’s last major victory, in August 2014, and the only way he’ll be able to return to world No. 1 is to produce a sustained period of exceptional golf, like the rest of the game’s elite. (Based on average points, McIlroy, now ranked 11th, is closer to the bottom of the rankings, No. 1928, than to Johnson.)
But after years of near-constant turmoil, McIlroy, 28, finally seems ready to pursue that goal again. He is planning the heaviest workload of his career – as many as 30 events, including seven more starts before the Masters – and appears refreshed and reenergized, perhaps because this year, for the first time in a while, he is playing without distractions.
Not his relationships or his health. Not his equipment or his caddie or his off-course dealings.
Everything in his life is lined up.
Drama tends to follow one of the sport’s most captivating characters, but for now he can just play golf – lots and lots of golf. How liberating.
Crocker among quartet of Open qualifiers in Singapore
Former amateur standout Sean Crocker was among four players who qualified for the 147th Open via top-12 finishes this week at the Asian Tour's SMBC Singapore Open as part of the Open Qualifying Series.
Crocker had a strong college career at USC before turning pro late last year. The 21-year-old received an invitation into this event shortly thereafter, and he made the most of his appearance with a T-6 finish to net his first career major championship berth.
There were four spots available to those not otherwise exempt among the top 12 in Singapore, but winner Sergio Garcia and runners-up Shaun Norris and Satoshi Kodaira had already booked their tickets for Carnoustie. That meant that Thailand's Danthai Boonma and Jazz Janewattanond both qualified thanks to T-4 finishes.
Crocker nabbed the third available qualifying spot, while the final berth went to Australia's Lucas Herbert. Herbert entered the week ranked No. 274 in the world and was the highest-ranked of the three otherwise unqualified players who ended the week in a tie for eighth.
The next event in the Open Qualifying Series will be in Japan at the Mizuno Open in May, when four more spots at Carnoustie will be up for grabs. The 147th Open will be held July 19-22 in Carnoustie, Scotland.
Got a second? Fisher a bridesmaid again
Ross Fisher is in the midst of a career resurgence - he just doesn't have the hardware to prove it.
Fisher entered the final round of the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship with a share of the lead, and as he made the turn he appeared in position to claim his first European Tour victory since March 2014. But he slowed just as Tommy Fleetwood caught fire, and when the final putt fell Fisher ended up alone in second place, two shots behind his fellow Englishman.
It continues a promising trend for Fisher, who at age 37 now has 14 career runner-up finishes and three in his last six starts dating back to October. He was edged by Tyrrell Hatton both at the Italian Open and the Alfred Dunhill Links Championship in the fall, and now has amassed nine worldwide top-10 finishes since March.
Fisher took a big step toward ending his winless drought with an eagle on the par-5 second followed by a pair of birdies, and he stood five shots clear of Fleetwood with only nine holes to go. But while Fleetwood played Nos. 10-15 in 4 under, Fisher played the same stretch in 2 over and was unable to eagle the closing hole to force a playoff.
While Fisher remains in search of an elusive trophy, his world ranking has benefited from his recent play. The veteran was ranked outside the top 100 in the world as recently as September 2016, but his Abu Dhabi runner-up result is expected to move him inside the top 30 when the new rankings are published.