Moore enjoys yearly home game in Vegas

Ryan Moore left Puyallup, Wash., in 2001 and headed for Las Vegas to play golf for UNLV.

He still feels right at home in Sin City.

Moore will be the hometown favorite this week in the Shriners Hospitals for Children Open at TPC Summerlin on the outskirts of Las Vegas.

“I mean, obviously it’s one I look forward to a lot every single year, my one opportunity to be at home,” said Moore, who is playing in the tournament for the 12th time. “I’ve had some success here, having won the event (in 2012) and had a few other decent finishes here.

“This is the one tournament I would’ve played forever until I won it, the one I wanted to win almost as much as any other. I think any of us UNLV guys feel that way about it.”

Moore, 34, has five victories on the PGA Tour, including the CIMB Classic in Malaysia in 2013 and 2014, with his last title coming in the 2016 John Deere Classic.

Perhaps his career highlight was scoring the winning point for the United States in the Ryder Cup last year at Hazeltine Golf Club in Chaska, Minn. He came from behind with birdie-eagle-par on the last three holes to beat Lee Westwood of England, 1 up.

Moore did not know he scored the clincher until his wife, Nicole, told him right before he was mobbed by his American teammates. He gave the U.S. team its first victory in the biennial event since 2008 at Valhalla in Louisville, Ky.

“I was not paying attention at all to that being the clinching point,” Moore said at the time after being one of three captain’s picks by Davis Love III. “I didn’t want to get distracted. I thought, ‘Oh, really? That’s pretty cool.’ …

“I don’t even know. I mean, this is unbelievable right now. To actually get the point that clinched it for us. Obviously, we had some great play going on behind me. I was able to relax and play those last couple of holes and able to sneak a win out there.”

None of his teammates, several of whom lobbied Love to pick Moore, were surprised.

Neither were the Europeans, especially Rory McIlroy of Northern Ireland, who only two weeks earlier had to go four playoff holes before shaking off Moore and winning the Tour Championship and the FedExCup with a birdie.

“He’s a fantastic player,” McIlroy said after winning the season finale at East Lake Golf Club in Atlanta. “He’s been playing well for a long time. He’s just such a gritty competitor. He even showed with the putts he held coming down the stretch. That putt he holed on the fourth playoff hole to at least make me hole mine. …

“You look at his match-play record in amateur golf as well and some of the stuff he’s done and he’s accomplished, I mean, he’s a great player. He’s gritty. He’s a competitor. He doesn’t quite have the length that some of us do, but he definitely makes up for it in different areas of his game. I was really impressed with him today.”

Moore came out of UNLV with superstar written all over him in 2004 after he captured the U.S. Amateur, the Western Amateur, the U.S. Amateur Public Links, the Sahalee Players Championship and the NCAA Championship in addition to earning the Ben Hogan Award as College Player of the Year.

The only other players to win the U.S. Amateur and the NCAA individual title in the same year were Jack Nicklaus, Phil Mickelson, Tiger Woods and Bryson DeChambeau.

“It’s kind of funny in that I played with Tiger at the final round of the (2013 Deutsche Bank Championship) and he was asking about my amateur days,” said Moore, who opened the 2017-18 season with a tie for 17th in the Safeway Open last month.

“‘Man, did you win this one? Did you win that one, too?’ To have someone like that who noticed and remembers that 10 years later, that means you had a pretty spectacular year. Obviously, it’s hard for me to live up to it professionally, unless I have a year in which I win a couple of majors and a few other tournaments.”

Moore understands that even though he is enjoying a solid pro career, he hasn’t lived up to the promise of his amateur days, in part because of wrist and shoulder injuries.

After his big finish to 2016, it was thought he might be ready for a really big year, but a shoulder injury hampered him for part of the season. He had to miss the U.S. Open at Erin Hills because of the injury last June after tying for ninth in the Masters.

Healthy again, Moore will have positive memories this week at TPC Summerlin, where he shot 10-under-par 61 in the first round five years ago and made a birdie on the 16th hole of the final round to beat Brendon de Jonge of Zimbabwe by one stroke.

He knows the value of home cookin’.

–Story courtesy of The Sports Xchange, TSX Golf Editor Tom LaMarre

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