Ryan Moore had just placed second in the Tour Championship, capping a strong weekend in Atlanta with a narrow playoff loss to Rory McIlroy , when he began to load up his gear in the parking lot about 45 minutes later, a flight home to Las Vegas with his family fast approaching.
Moore figured Ryder Cup team captain Davis Love III would try to reach him, but he wasn't exactly expecting to hear he'd been added as the final pick for the prestigious 12-man squad. There were other candidates on the short list, of course, including Bubba Watson with his No. 7 world ranking and two green jackets.
"I've wanted to be a part of one of these events, was beginning to think it might not happen," Moore said.
The 33-year-old has finished the season strong. He has a solid resume in match play, too, but none of his five career victories include a major tournament. He's not one of the heavy hitters off the tee. He wasn't even asked in advance for his measurements in case he was chosen for the squad and needed the requisite clothing.
"I've been fitted for every team event, I think, for about the last 10 years," Moore said. "Every single one until this year, I had done the fitting."
Sure enough, the call from Love went unanswered and on to voicemail.
"I was like, 'Whoops,'" Moore said. "I meant to be paying closer attention."
He quickly called back and immediately sensed the upbeat tone in Love's voice. After his conversation with the captain, Moore proceeded as planned and dropped his family off in Nevada before heading for Minnesota the following morning to join the U.S. team.
"He and I had a couple emotional, frank conversations over the last few weeks, you know, as I had with several other players," Love said. "So it was exciting to get to give him that news, because I know he's been on the bad end of that a few times."
Moore, who is 31st in the world rankings, declined an invitation from Love to play the course at Hazeltine National Golf Club southwest of Minneapolis last week. His reasoning was that rest and focus for the Tour Championship was the way for him to make the team, rather than impressing Love with a practice round.
Sure enough, Moore's final-day score of 64 at East Lake Golf Club put him in a sudden-death situation with McIlroy, taking him to a fourth playoff hole before faltering. The tense finish kept Love and his advisers glued to the television and forced them to hold off on the decision until Sunday night.
Losers of three straight Ryder Cups and eight of the last 10 biennial events to the Europeans, the Americans this time wanted to avoid missing out on a streaking player, and Moore is precisely that. He finished seventh in the FedEx Cup standings.
"He's going to be very tough," teammate Jordan Spieth said. "He's in every hole."
Moore isn't one of the in-crowd guys on the PGA circuit. Asked Tuesday after his practice round at Hazeltine which of his teammates he's closest to, Moore had a hard time answering.
"I'm not really sure how to put it. I'm anti-social maybe. Is that a nice way of putting it, or a bad way? I don't even know," Moore said, laughing. "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."
Camaraderie is important, but success boils down to how the balls are flying, bouncing and rolling on the course. Moore's approach game and putting prowess ought to be assets to the U.S. team, even though as one of two Ryder Cup rookies on the squad, he hasn't played with a partner since 2004 at the Palmer Cup, the amateur version of the Ryder Cup.
That year, before he became a senior at UNLV, Moore won the U.S. Amateur, U.S. Amateur Public Links and the NCAA championship.
"I'm comfortable with the formats and understand how that works," Moore said, "but still until you've experienced it, there's nothing quite like it."
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