Ryan Moore Does His Own Thing

By: Blaine Newnham

What's new about Ryan Moore? What isn't? He admits that for the first time he is playing as well as he did when he was an amateur, when in 2004 he won the U.S. Amateur, the U.S. Public Links, the Western Amateur, the NCAA Championship and the Sahalee Players Championship.

But the story is far more interesting than Moore, 27, finally realizing his potential, although three top-10 finishes to end the year and one to start it isn't bad.

Look out for this guy. Like Tiger Woods and precious few others, Moore didn't have to go to Q School when he joined the tour in 2005, able to make enough in those tournaments that gave him an exemption to play the next. It compared him historically to Bobby Jones and contemporarily to Woods.

In the years since then, he had to change his game after breaking the hamate bone in his left hand and looked fairly run-of-the-mill, if winning $1 million a year was run-of-the-mill.

But before he found his game, he found his voice. He had always been different, an iconoclast from the Pacific Northwest, who coveted his homemade swing and his family-run business. Brother Jeremy is his agent, brother Jason a caddie, and his father, Mike, oversees everything.

Last year he stretched sensibilities by being the only player on tour to tote a bag and wear a hat without a logo. He declined to continue his relationship with PING. He paid for his bag and played whatever clubs he wanted.

Beyond just the logo-less look, he took on his own look - beard, long hair under a squarish painter's cap, at times a vest and tie, shoes that looked as if were taking a walk on the beach.

"I knew," he said, "that in the long run I would be successful not because of what I wore or how much money I got for an endorsement, but because of how well I played."

Simply, he's comfortable with himself now even though he will look very different than he did last year. "Clean and classic," he said in a recent interview in the clubhouse of the course his dad owns near Tacoma, called the Classic.

Moore was clean-shaven, had his hair cut and wore a cap with the logo of an upstart, high-end manufacturer of forged irons, Scratch Golf of Chattanooga, Tenn. "We're a fit," said Moore. "I really feel comfortable with their wedges and irons. They didn't want to pay players to endorse their clubs and I didn't want to get paid. We settled on me becoming an equity owner in the business."

Moore said he would never sign an equipment contract that required him to play a company's driver or putter. "I play by feel," he said. "I walked through the garage the other day and saw an old Titleist putter I wanted to try." Now he can.

He's hitting an Adams driver these days because he wants to. His irons, by design, have no number on them. He simply wants them five degrees apart.

Ryan won for the first time on tour last August at the Wyndham in North Carolina. But it wasn't until a few weeks later that he really felt back on his game. He missed the cut the week following his win. "I putted well, that's why I won, but something was missing," he said.

He put a call into an old friend, Troy Denton, with whom he had played college golf at UNLV. "He knew my swing," said Moore. "I needed another pair of eyes."

Denton had Moore start chipping with only his left hand on the club. "All of a sudden," said Moore, "the chips started stopping 2 feet from the hole, not 8 feet. I had gotten my right hand out of the swing. Soon I was able to transfer the feel to my full swing."

He finished third in the World Championships in China to close the year, beating Woods.

Moore said he will play less this year and enjoy it more. Last year I was just trying to qualify when I could," he said. "This year I've planned to take time off. I've already qualified for just about everything but the British Open."

He made more than $2 million last year and finished with a ranking of No. 51 in the world. Nearly as important to the swing change, or maybe even more important, he has a serious relationship with a woman, Serena Solomon of New York, an Australian he met while she was attending grad school at the University of Washington in Seattle.

Moore is healthy and happy. And, as usual, doing it his way.

Blaine Newnham has covered golf for 50 years. He still cherishes the memory of following Ben Hogan for 18 holes during the first round of the 1966 U.S. Open at the Olympic Club in San Francisco. He worked then for the Oakland Tribune, where he covered the Oakland Raiders during the first three seasons of head coach John Madden. Blaine moved on to Eugene, Ore., in 1971 as sports editor and columnist, covering the 1972 Olympic Games in Munich. He covered five Olympics all together - Mexico City, Munich, Los Angeles, Seoul, and Athens - before retiring in early 2005 from the Seattle Times. He covered his first Masters in 1987 when Larry Mize chipped in to beat Greg Norman, and his last in 2005 when Tiger Woods chip dramatically teetered on the lip at No. 16 and rolled in. He saw Woods' four straight major wins in 2000 and 2001, and Payne Stewart's birdie putt to win the U.S. Open at Pinehurst. Blaine now plays golf at Wing Point Golf and Country Club on Bainbridge Island, Wash., where his current index is 12.6. In 2005, Blaine received the Northwest Golf Media Association's Distinguished Service Award. He and his wife, Joanna, live in Indianola, Wash., where the Dungeness crabs outnumber the people.