CHASKA, Minn. – When Ryan Moore bolted East Lake on Sunday his travel plans were best described as open ended.
“Well, I was going to play Napa,” Moore said of his next planned PGA Tour start in California in two weeks, “but we’ll see.”
The call came at about 7:30 p.m. (ET) as he loaded his courtesy card.
“Hey, you want to go to Minnesota next week?” Love asked.
Perhaps Phil Mickelson was correct when he suggested a few weeks back that the team, and pairings, were all but set for the U.S. team; but Moore’s play at East Lake – where he dueled Europe’s top player, Rory McIlroy, to a draw for 21 holes – and selection has made the U.S. side alter that script.
“We obviously had a group of guys that we were plugging in and out of the lineups, and that's what Phil was saying when we were finally going to get to go play golf today,” Love said.
Moore is quiet, quirky even, and doesn’t spend much time on Tour mixing with the frat brothers; which isn’t a bad thing but it does create a challenge when it’s time to start partnering up at golf’s most intense team event.
On Tuesday at Hazeltine, Moore played with Brandt Snedeker, Brooks Koepka and J.B. Holmes, although Wednesday’s practice session will likely give a clearer picture of what Love & Co. are thinking regarding pairings.
What did emerge on a cold and windy day outside Minneapolis was something of a myth buster.
Throughout Tuesday’s abbreviated practice round Moore mixed and mingled with ease, trading a laugh with Koepka as the group teed off on the fourth hole, talking strategy with Snedeker at the sixth and generally easing his way into the Ryder Cup experience.
“I met him in the hall last night at 4 [p.m.], and we're just guiding him to where he's supposed to be and what he's supposed to be doing next, breaking him in,” Love said. “Obviously last night in the team room, Ryan Moore and Steve Stricker weren't saying a whole lot. It was mostly Phil. That’s the way it should be, and they will both have their time to speak up.”
But then letting Moore find his place in the U.S. team room may not be as much of a challenge as finding a partner for him.
Love referred to Moore as “Sleepy,” another Tour type went so far as to call the 33-year-old, “boring,” but his match play resume is best described as moxie.
His amateur record in match play events is a testament to whatever gene makes a good head-to-head competitor. In 2004, he won the U.S. Amateur, U.S. Public Links, NCAA Championship and Western Amateur; the single-season Grand Slam of amateur golf.
But that singular focus is born from a fierce independence and an indifference to everything and everyone around him while he’s on the clock. While those traits have served Moore well in a career that includes five Tour titles it’s not exactly a recipe for inclusion in the game’s most exclusive locker room.
“I'm not really sure how to put it. I'm anti-social, maybe,” Moore said. “I don't play golf to be best buddies and hang out and all that kind of stuff. Now, I do enjoy playing golf with people and I'm not a jerk or anything, I don't think. Well, maybe I am, I don't know.”
If all this paints a picture of a self-absorbed loner it should be noted that making a U.S. team, any U.S. team, has been a priority for Moore for years. But each year the selections came and went and he found himself watching the action from his couch.
“I've wanted to be a part of one of these events, was beginning to think it might not happen,” he said.
With so many missed opportunities Moore would be forgiven if he viewed this current cup cycle with a dollop of cynicism. He wasn’t invited to the team bonding dinner at Jack Nicklaus’ home during the Honda Classic, wasn’t on Love’s short list of potential picks until winning the John Deere Classic in August and wasn’t even fitted for a team uniform, which in a twisted way was fine with Moore.
“I’ve been fitted for every team event, I think, for about the last 10 years,” he laughed. “Every single one until this year, I had done the fitting. So I did not do the fitting this year. So apparently I'm not going to do it from now on, ever.”
In recent weeks as the pressure built, Moore seemed uninterested in the selection process and declined Love’s invitation last week to play a practice round at Hazeltine before heading to the Tour Championship. He said he needed rest, not face time with the captain and his potential teammates.
Moore was excited when he got the call from Love on Sunday night, although he did miss the captain’s first attempt to call him, and even though he hasn’t played with a partner since the 2004 Palmer Cup he largely dismissed any concerns as only he can.
“It's different than what we do. But I don't think it will be a crazy adjustment,” he shrugged. “It's different having someone be dependent on you a little bit, especially if you're playing alternate shot, wanting to get up and hit good shots. But the most important thing is that it's a golf shot.”
Moore will be a rookie this week at Hazeltine, a curiosity for a number of reasons, a teammate for the first time in more than a decade and, if Tuesday’s press conference was any indication, a breath of fresh air for Team USA.