AUGUSTA, Ga. — Ryan Moore has had a thing for Augusta National Golf Club for some time now. Back when he won the U.S. Amateur in 2004, the then 22-year-old had the audacity to think he could actually win the Masters the next April.
Twelve years later, the five-time PGA Tour winner and recently minted U.S. Ryder Cup hero isn’t any less confident. But with the experience of eight previous Masters starts under his belt, he’s got a reserve of local knowledge to lean on.
It served him well Friday when Moore shot a bogey-free three-under 69, to get to one-under 143, three back of clubhouse leaders Charley Hoffman, Sergio Garcia, Thomas Pieters and Rickie Fowler.
“My goal starting the day, I knew it was tough, but I felt like I could go shoot a couple under and let’s get back to even or kind of get into an interesting place going into the weekend,” Moore said. “I knew it was going to be a tough day, and I bettered that by one. So, all in all, it was a great, successful round of golf and honestly couldn’t play much more solid than I did.”
Moore has had three top-15 finishes at Augusta (including a T-13 as an amateur in 2005), but has never managed to crack the top 10. Two of the last three years he has missed the cut. And yet, he remains steadfast in thinking that this is a course that suits his game.
Even a fully confident Moore, though, knew that Friday would be a challenge. The same wind gusts that ballooned him to an opening 74 returned. So what was the difference?
“I actually controlled the ball really well yesterday, I didn’t putt particularly well,” Moore said. “Today I just got my iron shots a little bit closer to the hole it felt like. I had a few better opportunities to make birdie and less opportunities to make bogey, which was the most important thing.”
The stats, however, suggest Moore’s ball-striking was more efficient on Friday as he hit 14 of 18 greens in regulation compared to nine on Thursday.
Moore also credits a switch in his golf ball, going to the 2017 version of Titleist’s Pro V1 for the first time in competition at the WGC-Dell Technologies Match Play, as a key to handling the breezy conditions. He further tested the ball in the wind back home in Las Vegas, knowing the forecast for Augusta called for more of the same.
For Moore to have a serious shot at winning the Masters, however, he’ll have to keep the momentum he’s built going into Saturday, something he’s struggled with in the past. Of the six times he’s previously made the cut at the Masters, Moore has never once improved his position on the leader board from the second to the third round, with a 74.83 Round 3 scoring average.