Ryan Moore describes himself as anti-social. He’s not one of the longer-hitting players on tour. He never has finished higher than ninth in a major. He’s anonymous enough that a cluster of fans at Hazeltine National on Tuesday couldn’t remember his first name.
Measured by résumé, Moore would seem to be the opposite of what the U.S. would want for the last player on their 12-man roster. Picking him meant spurning Bubba Watson, a two-time major winner who ranks seventh in the world and is 5-5-1 in the Ryder Cup.
This is where the Americans’ futility can become dangerous. Instead of picking the 12 most proven players, they formed a task force and adopted what has become known as the “Billy Horschel Rule.”
In 2014, the U.S. team filled its roster before Horschel won the last two tournaments before the Ryder Cup. Horschel was not selected, and the U.S. lost to the Europeans, 16 ½-11 ½ at Gleneagles.
So this year, with the Horschel Rule in place, U.S. captain Davis Love III had little choice but to reward Moore for his excellent play over the past two months, especially when he pushed Euro star Rory McIlroy to four playoff holes to finish as the runner-up at the Tour Championship.
Moore had proven himself to be the hottest American player, and the task force had created an opportunity to take the hottest player. What else could Love have done without calling into question the purpose of the task force?
Even Moore wondered all season whether he had a chance to make the team. He didn’t get invited to Jack Nicklaus’ house for a Ryder Cup party. He wasn’t among the players fitted for a uniform. He even missed an important call from Love on Sunday night.
“I was like, ‘Whoops,’ ” Moore said on Tuesday. “I meant to be paying closer attention.’’
Love told Moore that he had made the team. Moore, in a parking lot in Atlanta, headed to the airport, flew to his home in Las Vegas, slept a bit and then flew to Minnesota, where he sat next to Watson at a team dinner on Monday night.
“I think I knew pretty well what I needed to do last week,’’ Moore said. “And I kind of did it. I did it, but I didn’t do it. At least getting into a playoff and showing the form of where my game is right now and showing that I can make some putts when it matters.’’
That’s why the illogic of ignoring the seventh-ranked player in the world, and the most creative ball striker, could work. Watson’s length would have played well at Hazeltine, which is long but this week does not feature punitive rough. But if talent, pedigree and power determined Ryder Cup success, the U.S. would not have lost six of the past seven matches.
Pressure putting decides a lot of matches. Moore is a better putter than Watson, and of late has been the better iron player.
“Ryan obviously, week after week after week after week was the hottest player since the PGA Championship, and even before he’s been the most consistent in all of the statistics,” Love said.
Love described the decision as “a painful process,’’ saying “every shot, every putt’’ made him reconsider.
That seems a strange way to make a decision, but logic, in the Ryder Cup, may be overrated. The last time the Americans won, 16 ½-11 ½ at Valhalla, they were lacking the best player in the world (Tiger Woods) and were led in points by Hunter Mahan, Boo Weekley, Kenny Perry, Justin Leonard, Anthony Kim, J.B. Holmes and Jim Furyk.
Moore lacks Watson’s pedigree, but if the Ryder Cup was about past majors, the Americans would be taking on the entire world by now, instead of losing regularly to a portion of Europe.
Jim Souhan’s podcast can be heard at MalePatternPodcasts.com. On