Moore Thinks He Can Compete at Augusta

RSS

AUGUSTA, Ga. -- Jack Nicklaus, Gary Player and Charles Coody walked up the 15th fairway at Augusta National together, three former Masters winners with 10 titles between them.
 
And there, at Nicklaus' side, was Ryan Moore. Pretty impressive company for a college senior, even one who made the best run in amateur history since the days of Bobby Jones.
 
'I was thinking, 'I don't quite fit in this picture,'' Moore said after his practice round with the three champions Wednesday. 'Hopefully I'll fit in the picture someday.'
 
If he keeps playing the way he did last year, that day might come sooner than expected.
 
The 22-year-old won nine tournaments last year -- the same number as Vijay Singh -- and captured virtually every major amateur title. He won the NCAA title by six strokes, earned his second U.S. Public Links title in three years, and then birdied three of the last four holes to beat Luke List at the U.S. Amateur. He also won the Sahalee Players Championship, and helped the United States keep the team title in the World Amateur.
 
He's the first ever to win the U.S. Public Links and U.S. Amateur in the same year, and joined Nicklaus as the only players to win the U.S. Amateur, Western Amateur and NCAA title in the same season. Moore also joined Jones, Chick Evans, Jay Sigel and Pearl Sinn as the only players to win two USGA championships in the same year.
 
'It was a great year. I enjoyed every bit of it,' Moore said. 'But the year is over, and I'm looking forward. I'm trying to focus on this week.'
 
Moore has played at the Masters before, finishing in a tie for 45th with a 13-over-301 in 2003. But the experience this week is sure to be far different, and not just because he now knows where everything is.
 
Two years ago, no one besides his family could pick him out as he walked the course. He didn't get quite the same reception as Nicklaus on Wednesday, but there were plenty of fans in the gallery who knew who he was.
 
'I'm a lot more confident in my game,' he said. 'I'm playing a lot better now. I think there's a better chance. I still have to go play great.'
 
Moore isn't trying to be cocky when he says this. He was a good player when he was here in 2003, having won his first Public Links title, but golf was more work than fun back then.
 
Sometime that summer, his attitude changed.
 
'There was no exact moment when the light bulb went off,' he said. 'I just started enjoying it again. I got a whole new perspective on playing, and it kind of carried me through. Then I started winning.'
 
And the more he won, the more his confidence grew. He finished 16-under at Sahalee, even though the course was set up using some of the hardest pins from the 1998 PGA Championship. He won the Western Am by holing a 33-foot putt. At the Tucker Intercollegiate, he came back from four down to win by two.
 
He could have turned pro last summer, leaving college early like so many other promising young golfers do now. But he opted to stay at UNLV for his senior year instead.
 
'I haven't had second thoughts,' he said. 'My whole theory with golf is being patient, and that's the approach I wanted to take. There was no rush, feeling like my game was going to disappear or anything. My golf game is my golf game, and it's going to be that way ... hopefully just getting better.'
 
He's already won three individual titles this year, and last month became UNLV's winningest golfer.
 
'He has some specific goals he's trying to achieve,' said Dwaine McKnight, his coach at UNLV, 'so it's never a matter of looking back.'
 
One of his goals is to be up there with Nicklaus, Player and Coody -- whether it's this year or a few years from now.
 
'Why go to a tournament if you don't think you can win?' said Tiger Woods, who was on the leaderboard Saturday morning in 1995, the first year he played, before shooting a 77.
 
'You have to have that belief,' Woods said. 'I knew if I played my best I should have a chance. Am I going to play my best for four rounds? That's unlikely.'
 
But Moore is going to try.
 
'It still has to be an amazing week for anyone to win this,' he said. 'Things have to go your way, you have to hit some great shots and get some breaks. That's what it takes to win a major, as far as I've seen, no matter who wins it.
 
'You just have to play as good as you possibly can,' he added. 'That's what I'm going to do.'
 
Related Links:
  • Masters Photo Gallery
  • Full Coverage - The Masters Tournament
     
    Copyright 2005 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.