No major-championship venue brings Puyallup golfer Ryan Moore more comfort and familiarity than Augusta National Golf Club — site of the annual Masters Tournament.
Since his first appearance in 2003 as an amateur, he has played roughly 50 practice or competitive rounds there.
That is nearly 280 miles of walking Augusta National’s tee boxes, fairways and greens.
“I would say I got comfortable with the course pretty fast,” said Moore, who will tee it up Thursday for his eighth Masters. “It’s not one of those courses that has changed a whole lot, except for being lengthened. But the visuals are still very familiar.”
As most golf fans know, the par-5 holes at Augusta National not only have been the sites of some of the tournament’s most memorable drama, they give the golfers the best opportunity to make quick and drastic moves up and down the leaderboard.
In short, you’d better make hay at the reachable par-5 second, eighth, 13th and 15th holes to have a chance to win the Masters.
“It is a great group of par 5s,” Moore said. “They require a lot of different shots.”
The past decade’s champions have done well on the par 5s. Eight of the winners have been at least 8 under par for the week.
Last year, Jordan Spieth’s winning score was 16-under 272. He was 12 under on the par 5s.
In the six times Moore has made the Masters cut, his best collective par-5 scoring has been 11 under, in 2010, when he tied for 14th.
Last year, Moore recorded his best finish — tied for 12th — after being 7 under on the par 5s for the week.
Par-5 scoring hasn’t been Moore’s greatest strength — especially this year. He ranks 181st on the PGA Tour (4.75 strokes).
Why? For one, he is a medium-length hitter off the tee. And two, if he doesn’t feel comfortable over any lengthy approach shot at a par 5, he tends to lay up, yielding instead to one of his biggest strengths — wedge play.
And even though Augusta National’s par-5 holes offer the ultimate risk-reward scoring opportunities, Moore says he never succumbs to a grip-it-and-rip-it, always-go-for-broke mentality.
“I always analyze all the (yardage) numbers, the lie and all the trouble ahead,” he said.
Assuming the usual dry conditions, Moore offered hole-by-hole strategy he takes at the par 5s at Augusta National:
▪ No. 2, 575 yards: The dogleg-left hole goes severely downhill the final 225 yards. Moore said because he plays a left-to-right cut, this is the most uncomfortable tee shot he has on any of the par 5s.
“For me, I am trying to miss it down to the right, or near the right bunker,” Moore said. “And if I am close enough to reach the front end of the green, I will go for it (in two shots).
▪ No. 8, 570 yards: This is a tougher tee shot than most realize because the right-hand fairway bunker pinches the landing area.
Yet, Moore has hit some of his best tee shots on this hole.
“Visually it is more of a fade tee shot, and after coming off a bunch of (right-to-left) draw tee shots, it just looks right to me,” Moore said.
But this has also been the most difficult green to hit in two shots. Ideally if he misses it, he aims to stay right, hoping to catch the ninth-hole fairway.
“From that angle, the green is more downgrain, and you can spin it a lot more,” Moore said.
▪ No. 13, 510 yards: This is almost always a 3-wood off the tee for Moore to shape it around the corner — but not always a go-for-the-green second shot.
“I have hit anywhere from hybrid to 6-iron into that green,” Moore said. “It isn’t the hardest shot in the world, but if … I have any questions whether I can put it on the green, I will lay it up to a 50- to 60-yard pitch shot, especially to a back-pin location.”
It isn’t difficult to see why Moore does this — from his “go” wedge yardage between 60-80 yards, he ranks sixth on the PGA Tour in proximity from the hole (7 feet, 8 inches).
▪ No. 15, 530 yards: Since this straightaway hole often plays into a wind, unless Moore busts off a long drive, more often than not he lays up short of the green on his second shot.
But what makes the third shot so difficult is that the fairway has enough downhill turn over the 80 yards to make it an uneven lie.
In fact, over the years, Moore has plopped a couple of those wedge shots at No. 15 into Rae’s Creek, which lurks in front of the green.
“The wedge shot at No. 15 can be uncomfortable — almost as uncomfortable as hitting a 5-iron,” he said.
Yet, of all the par 5s, Moore has birdied the 15th hole most often — 13 times.
Overall for his career, Moore is 32 under on the par 5s in 26 rounds played at the Masters.
“I just make birdies where I make birdies,” he said.