The last time Puyallup’s Ryan Moore stepped foot in the state of Georgia, he nearly won the season-ending Tour Championship in Atlanta, losing in a sudden-death playoff to Rory McIlroy.
Not all was lost. Moore clinched the final spot on the U.S. Ryder Cup squad and later tallied the winning point for the Americans against the European team.
So how would his Ryder Cup experience shape how he approached his next visit to Georgia for the year’s first major championship at the Masters Tournament this week?
At the outset of the season, Moore had no idea, but added “it definitely helps to have played under that kind of pressure.”
Indeed, it has.
For the first time in his career, the 34-year-old Moore has a realistic chance to win a major. After his second consecutive 3-under-par 69 Saturday at Augusta National Golf Club, Moore is tied for fourth at 4-under 212 with Charley Hoffman and Jordan Spieth.
Trailing co-leaders Sergio Garcia and Justin Rose by two strokes, this is the closest to the lead of a major Moore has ever been heading into a final round. He tees off at 11:40 a.m. (PDT) Sunday with Hoffman.
Moore admitted he has drawn upon a lot of past high-pressure experiences this week to get in contention, including the Ryder Cup last October at Hazeltine National Golf Club in Minnesota.
“You take little pieces of all those things and kind of carry them with you, and just hope something along the line helps and makes a difference,” Moore said.
Moore started quickly Saturday by making a birdie on the second hole, getting up-and-down from the front bunker at the par 5. He made a 5-foot putt.
Once again, the third hole gave Moore fits. His approach shot from 125 yards backed off the front of the green, and he failed to get up-and-down for par to a tough right-side pin.
The Cascade Christian graduate feasted on the par-5 holes, making birdie on all four of them for the first time in nine Masters trips.
But the putt that Moore will remember most happened at the uphill par-4 ninth hole.
His second shot to a back pin came up well short. From nearly 40 feet, a two-putt for par would have been acceptable.
But Moore canned the 37-footer for birdie, then birdied No. 11 for a third birdie in four holes.
Not only was this easily Moore’s best third-round score at the Masters, it was the first time he ever broke par on a Saturday at Augusta National Golf Club.
“I wasn’t really that nervous today,” Moore said. “I was kind of surprised. … I’ve been pretty calm all week, for one reason or another. Hopefully, that’s the same thing (Sunday).”