SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. (AP) — One little change can make all the difference for a PGA pro. Take Ryan Moore, for example.
Moore had struggled with his consistency after surgery on his left hand a year ago, but an epiphany last week led to a slight change in his hand position on the club.
Suddenly, he’s on a roll and has a three-stroke lead halfway through the Fry’s Electronics Open at Grayhawk Golf Club.
“My hand wasn’t really strong enough at the beginning of this year to be able to do what I’m doing now,” Moore said, “and it was just a minor hand position thing at address. It was nothing big.”
The bearded 24-year-old former U.S. Amateur champion, a three-time runner-up but never a winner on the PGA Tour, matched his career low round with a 7-under 63 on Friday for an 11-under 129 through 36 holes.
“I just felt comfortable out there,” he said. “I’ve played well on this golf course before. I actually won a tournament (Thunderbird International Junior) here when I was 18. I just struck the ball well and gave myself a lot of chances.”
Australian Mark Hensby was one of three tied at 8-under 132 after a career-low round of 61. Ben Crane and Daisuke Maruyama also were at 132. Canadian Mike Weir, the 2003 Masters champion, joined Carl Pettersson and Nick Watney four shots back at 7-under 133.
The event’s biggest name, Phil Mickelson, shot 70 for a 1-over 141 and missed the cut.
Moore was at 12 under after his eighth birdie of the day, on the par-4, 332-yard 15th, before losing a stroke with a bogey on the 17th.
His turnaround came after an awful third round a week ago in Las Vegas.
“Something just kind of clicked and made sense to me after the round Saturday,” Moore said. “I played absolutely terrible on Saturday. I just was so frustrated, I went and sat down for about 30 minutes, just had a Coke and sat there and was like, ‘All right, I can’t take this anymore, shooting 76s on Saturday. It’s just driving me crazy.”‘
Then he thought of a minor adjustment to his hand position he might make.
“Something started making a little bit of sense to me,” he said, “and I went out on the range and tried it and it’s exactly what I’ve been missing for the last, you know, year, really.”
Hensby said this is his first time playing the 7,125-yard Raptor course at the Grayhawk Golf Club in north Scottsdale, where it was sunny and the temperature reached 90 degrees.
“I went to Geoff Ogilvy’s wedding here,” he said. “That was the only time.”
The tournament, in its first year, is part of the PGA Tour Fall Series. The purse is $5 million, with $900,000 going to the winner. It’s an event that could make or break players scrambling to finish in the top 125 on the money list to keep their tour card.
Hensby entered the tournament ranked 151st.
“That’s why it’s exciting,” he said, “because a guy can be having the worst year of his life, and win, and all of a sudden he’s having a great year.”
Hensby was 5 over after 10 holes on Thursday but birdied 14 of the next 26 holes to bolt into contention.
With so many PGA Tours pros living in the Scottsdale area, the field was the strongest of the seven Fall Series events, led by Mickelson, the No. 2 tour’s money winner behind Tiger Woods and a Grayhawk member.
But three weeks after his strong performance in the Presidents Cup, Mickelson missed the cut by a stroke on a course he has played hundreds of times.
“I didn’t think I played that poorly, I just scored terribly,” he said. “Every time I made a birdie, I followed it with a bogey and never got anything going.”
It was a bad year for Mickelson in his former home state. He also missed the cut in the FBR Open, held just down the road at TPC Scottsdale in early February.
“Missing a cut is just missing a cut,” he said. “It’s just frustrating every way you look at it, whether it’s a major, whether it’s a tour event or your home course like Grayhawk, it’s always frustrating.”
Among other notables who missed the cut were FBR winner Aaron Baddeley (141), John Daly (141) and David Duval (144).