UNLV product Moore in sync for home win


There is that thinking that high achievement always exists within the framework of high expectation, that you can't have one without the other. Ryan Moore seems to have reached that point in his career where the professional golfer everyone expected him to be has shown his face.

Not to mention his boundless talent.

The local PGA Tour event finally has a champion that once called UNLV home, as Moore became the first former Rebel to hoist a trophy for winning the Justin Timberlake Shriners Hospitals for Children Open at TPC Summerlin on Sunday.

Moore shot a tournament-record 24-under par 260 for his second PGA win.

Or, as I like to describe it, 35 shots better than John Daly.

"I had some tough stuff happen early in my career with a couple injuries that derailed me and slowed me down a little bit," Moore said. "But I don't think I had unrealistic expectations. I've won golf tournaments all my life at every level I have been at, so to expect to go out and play well and win, that's a normal position to be in.

"Of course, I would have liked it to come sooner and a little bit more often."

This is why expectations soared from the beginning: The two things I know about Bobby Jones is that Joel Gretsch did a fine job portraying him in "The Legend of Bagger Vance," and Jones produced the best amateur career in history.

Moore, however, had the best amateur season.

He won five major titles in 2004, including the U.S. Amateur, NCAA individual championship and U.S. Publinks. He was a four-time All-American at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas and didn't finish lower than sixth in any tournament as a senior. For that magical season, he was Bobby Jones.

Consider: He is now a multiple winner on tour with nearly $14 million in career earnings since 2005, despite having dealt with a wrist injury that required surgery in '06 and shoulder ailments that caused him to take breaks from playing in '08.

But his now seems a different sort of perfect storm, a good one, a fusion of all that is positive, a tempest prepared to produce Moore's best golf yet.

He played 24 events this season, made the cut 21 times, managed eight Top 10s, a third-place finish at the Tour Championship and now this victory. Just a few months from turning 30, he appears healthy from those injuries that led to inconsistent results early in his career.

There is also this: Moore and wife Nichole are expecting their first child, a son, later this month.

"The future looks very bright for Ryan on and off the course," said UNLV coach Dwaine Knight, speaking from Ohio, where the Rebels play a tournament this week. "We've always wanted to see a Rebel win the (local PGA event), so this is very cool. It's so hard to win on tour. You have to be your very best and if you're not, it's almost impossible.

"Ryan is one of the best competitors I have ever been around. I've always felt he has the game to win a major championship and I believe he will one day. He has a special knack for getting things done on hard courses."

You can't with a straight face describe TPC Summerlin as such, unless you are Daly and played the final two rounds at 21-over, proving true the notion there really were scores out there uglier than his pants.

But you also can't undersell how good Moore played this week, how special he must have felt walking up the 18th fairway to the welcoming chants of UNLV fans and the smiles of 35 or so friends and family members.

When he won his first tour event at the Wyndham Championship in 2009, there was no one with him to celebrate. On Sunday, he prepared to pick up the dinner tab for a very large but ecstatic group.

He hit the pin four times over four days and had enough putts lip out and come up just short to think 30-under par wasn't an unreachable number.

He was superb, which goes to show you how incredibly difficult it is to win any event, given Moore beat runner-up Brendon de Jonge by just one shot.

"Oh, my (appreciation for winning) has grown immensely," Moore said. "Somebody else is always right there. I've been close quite a few times and had people make pretty ridiculous putts on me and get up and down from all sorts of places to hold me off.

"It was nice to be on the other side of it."

Las Vegas Review-Journal sports columnist Ed Graney can be reached at egraney@reviewjournal.com or 702-383-4618. He can be heard from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. Monday through Friday on "Gridlock," ESPN 1100 and 98.9 FM. Follow him on Twitter: @edgraney.

 

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