Ryan Moore was so focused on doing his job—winning his Ryder Cup singles match two Sundays ago at Hazeltine National—that he didn’t realize what it meant.
“I was not paying attention at all to that being the clinching point,” Moore told me from his home in Las Vegas last week. “I didn’t want to get distracted.”
It was Moore’s wife, Nicole, who told Moore that his victory over Lee Westwood gave the United States its first victory in the biennial matches in eight years.
His reaction was typical Ryan Moore. “I thought, Oh, really? That’s pretty cool,” the low-key native of Puyallup, Wash., said. “I’m pretty sure that was my exact response to it.”
But after Moore shook Westwood’s hand, he was greeted to the biggest collection of hugs given any member of Davis Love III’s team. There was so much euphoria that Moore forgot to pick his ball out of the cup.
Love remembered how he had forgotten to retrieve his ball after recording the winning point in America’s victory at The Belfry in 1993. “He went out of his way to grab it,” Moore recalled.
As the excitement of the moment wore off, Moore realized the mantra for the week was “team,” and he wouldn’t have been on this team if Love hadn’t made him his last captain’s pick after Moore’s playoff loss to Rory McIlroy in the Tour Championship. At the closing ceremony, Moore presented the ball to Love.
Moore remembered, “I just went over and handed it to him and said, ‘Hey, I want you to have this. This was your team. You’re the only reason I’m on this team. You deserve this more than I do. I’d love you to have it.’ ”
Love texted me, “I can’t get a better memory than that.”
The gritty Moore left us with some memories, too. In his opening news conference, he admitted to being a lone wolf.
“As far as the people I’m closest with, I honestly don’t really know the answer to that,” he said after joining the team a day after the Tour Championship. “I’m not really sure how to put it. I’m antisocial, maybe. Is that a nice way of putting it, or a bad way? I don’t even know. I don’t play golf to be best buddies and hang out.”
That’s why the group hug was a touchstone, too. Moore was the 12th man, but he wasn’t treated like it. As he learned, this was a different culture than the week-to-week PGA Tour locker room. Going forward, the five-time tour winner believes dealing with Ryder Cup pressure will help him in “immeasurable amounts."
“It was like [Brandt] Snedeker told me, ‘That’s why you got picked, man. What you did today, that’s why we wanted you on our team,’ ” Moore said. “Hearing stuff like that is pretty cool. All of us players aren’t generally all that nice and telling each other encouraging things all the time.”
This was a perception changer for Moore and those who remember his summer of 2004, when he won the NCAA title, the U.S. Public Links, the Western Amateur and the U.S. Amateur. His win against Westwood, after being 2 down with three holes to play, was reminiscent of his comeback over Luke List in the final of the U.S. Amateur at Winged Foot, when Moore birdied three of the last four holes for a 2-up win.
“I guess I have a little bit of history waiting for last moments,” Moore said. “I like to be dramatic, I guess.”
Editor's Note: This story first appeared in the Oct. 10, 2016 issue of Golf World.