U.S. Open has a hometown favorite

Tim Booth

AP Sports Writer

UNIVERSITY PLACE, Wash. — Ryan Moore drove to the golf course earlier this week to continue preparing for the U.S. Open and could not shake how different it felt.

He’s played in countless major championships, finishing in the top 20 six times at the four biggest events in golf. Yet this morning’s arrival at Chambers Bay had an odd feeling because the previous majors hadn’t been a mere 15 or so miles from where Moore grew up.

“I mean, it really does feel like I’m at home when I’m here, which is great,” Moore said on Monday. “It’s actually a little bit odd feeling.”

While Michael Putnam is truly the hometown kid for this week’s U.S. Open, living just a few miles from Chambers Bay, Moore is the local favorite. At age 32, Moore is arguably the most successful golfer from the Seattle region since Fred Couples. He’s a decorated amateur champion and a four-time winner on the PGA Tour. The only thing missing from his resume — aside from making a Ryder Cup or Presidents Cup team — is a major championship.

All of those factors could bring a certain amount of pressure and expectation no matter where the U.S. Open was being played.

Put the tournament in Moore’s backyard — the first time the Open is being played in the Pacific Northwest — and it makes for a unique mix of pride and pressure that has left him trying to find a balance between the enjoyment of playing at home and not trying to put undue expectations on his performance.

“To win any major would be incredible, but to be able to do it potentially where you’re born and raised and in front of a local crowd and your family and friends, it would be — it would be incredible,” Moore said. “I don’t want to get too much ahead of myself and really start thinking about it too much. There’s a lot of golf ahead of me. So I’m just trying to go out there and just play golf and just kind of see what happens.”

The Pacific Northwest is far from being considered a golfing hotbed, but Moore’s career was buoyed by the fact his father Mike, owned The Classic, a golf course about 20 miles from Chambers Bay. Moore learned to value of the few sunny days in late fall, winter and early spring in the Northwest and how to practice with efficiency.

“I wasn’t spoiled with perfect weather every single day. I didn’t know it was going to be sunny and nice and perfect. So in February, March, April, if there was a nice day, I got a lot out of it, and then you might not be able to practice for the next four or five days unless you wanted to go play in 40 degrees and rain, which I would do if I needed to or had to, preparing for a tournament,” Moore said. “I think it just kind of prepared me, obviously to be a little bit tougher golfer, conditions-wise and playing in a lot of stuff.”

Moore has never finished higher at the U.S. Open than a tie for 10th in 2009 at Bethpage Black, but he’s a fan of the unique layout and the similarity to British Open courses. Moore finished tied for 12th in the British Open last year at Royal Liverpool.

Moore played Chambers Bay a handful of times in its infancy, including a small tournament he hosted in 2007-08. But when it came time to prepare for this championship, Moore waited until last week before really beginning his study. Moore wanted to finally see Chambers Bay in its most difficult state.

“Honestly, I think it’s one of those courses, the more you play it, the more you get to enjoy it, the more you get to know it,” Moore said. “It’s a fun golf course. It’s a very challenging, it’s very tough. But I feel like it kind of gives you — it gives you a chance, even when you miss it in certain areas, depending obviously on where they’re going to put the pins.”

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