It had to be Ryan Moore as the 12th and final choice to the 2016 U.S. Ryder Cup team.
U.S. captain Davis Love III made it official during halftime of NBC’s broadcast of Sunday Night Football.
But it had to be Moore, who lost to Rory McIlroy in a four-hole playoff at the Tour Championship after shooting 64 in the final round at East Lake. Though Moore, a five-time Tour winner, fell short in lifting the trophy, he became the very definition of the hot hand that the Ryder Cup Task Force was looking to add to the team when it decided to save one of four captain’s pick to be announced just four days before the competition begins.
It didn’t matter that Moore, 33, had finished 20th in the U.S. Ryder Cup points standings or had opted not to play in the team practice session at Hazeltine National, site of the competition, on Monday.
All that mattered is his recent performance since the PGA Championship had outshined any of the remaining contenders – whether it be Bubba Watson, who was ninth in the point standing and ranked No. 7 in the world, or a pair of talented 23-year-olds in Daniel Berger and Justin Thomas, or a wily veteran like Jim Furyk. And what a run of good form it has been. It had to be Moore because he won the John Deere Classic, and finished in the top 10 in three of the four FedEx Cup playoff events.
“Ryan fits so well with what we have in place,” Love said. “He’s an easy-going, thoughtful guy, but don’t be fooled, Ryan’s a great match-play player with an incredible match-play record. He has guts and determination, and everyone saw that today. We are thrilled to have him with us.”
Moore said he thought he had to win to get picked, but the grit and fight he showed in battling McIlroy proved Moore has what it takes to go toe-to-toe with Europe’s best. If there was any doubt who Love was going to choose, it was erased during an entertaining playoff. Even McIlroy was impressed.
“He’s a fantastic player. He’s been playing well for a long time, for a few months now. He’s just such a gritty competitor,” McIlroy said.
Moore made it to the quarterfinals of the WGC Dell Match Play in March, and had an outstanding amateur record, winning the 2004 U.S. Amateur and the U.S. Amateur Public Links twice. Moore is a Ryder Cup rookie, but he is no stranger to representing his country, having competed in the Walker Cup, Palmer Cup and World Amateur Team Championship during his career.
Sure Watson is a two-time Masters champ, but he hadn’t recorded a top-10 finish since March. Sure, Berger oozes confidence and Thomas is an immense talent, but none of them brought the most desirable intangible of all: playing at his best at the right time of year.
“Great last few months here,” Moore said. “I just like that my game is trending the right direction.”
So debate it all you want, but Love’s pick had to be Moore. And wisely, it was.