Moore, Piercy punch tickets to Tour Championship
CARMEL, Ind. – Talk about two guys on a roll heading to Las Vegas. Scott Piercy and Ryan Moore picked an opportune time to share a flight back home, because they had a story to tell as they rode through the night hours after the BMW Championship had ended.
Having ridden the emotional roller coaster that is the FedEx Cup playoffs, Piercy and Moore concluded the championship at a peak, their play having earned them spots into the Tour Championship.
For Moore, it’s nothing new. He also qualified in 2010, so he knows about the 30-player, no-cut tournament at East Lake GC, and the exemptions you earn into the next year’s first three major championships.
“Getting to the Tour Championship . . . just what it does for you the next year, getting you in the (majors) and World Golf Championships, all that kind of stuff,” Moore said.
The seventh-year PGA Tour member was in and out of the top 30 most of the tournament, so little surprise that when he bogeyed the par-3 17th at Crooked Stick GC, Moore fell into a projected 30th position. The thing is, Bill Haas and Kyle Stanley had bogeyed the 18th just ahead of him to knock themselves out of a Tour Championship spot and for the field, the final hole was playing to a 4.286 average, fourth-toughest.
So what did the 29-year-old Moore do? Merely split the fairway and slam a 6-iron from 187 yards to 8 feet.
“It was actually a pretty simple putt,” Moore said and, indeed, he made it look that way. Pouring it dead center for one of seven birdies at the hole that day, he pushed himself into 28th place.
Dramatic stuff and as it unfolded, Moore’s plane-mate watched intently from the players’ dining room inside the clubhouse. Not that Piercy isn’t used to waiting and watching scores, because he said “I’ve been doing that my whole golf career – just not for the Tour Championship.”
At 33, Piercy is in just his fourth year on tour and never has the FedEx Cup finale been within reach. But having entered the playoffs in 15th place, Piercy has remained in the top 30 despite pedestrian performances at The Barclays and Deutsche Bank Championship.
Yet with rounds of 72-71-72, Piercy was projected to finish in 32nd place.
It was time to board that fourth-round roller-coaster through Pete Dye’s demanding Crooked Stick.
Out in a blistering 31? Piercy was back inside the top 30.
But a string of pars then a double-bogey at 14? He was back on the wrong side of the Tour Championship cutoff.
A birdie at 15 helped and then a scintillating 4-iron to 2 feet to make one of six birdies at the 224-yard 17th? Piercy was Bubble Boy.
But when he bogeyed 18? He dropped to 33rd.
He also could only shake his head and talk in soft tones. The experience might have been new to him, but he’s waited out Monday qualifiers and Q-School efforts and too many cut-watches not to appreciate the patience that is required. Piercy also wasn’t going to fret and ponder a two-stroke penalty he had received in Saturday’s third round, for removing an out-of-bounds stake at the par-4 14th.
“You can never pinpoint one thing,” Piercy said. “It didn’t help that I three-putted for bogey at the 18th. Or that I made an eight on a par 3 the week before (at the Deutsche Bank Championship) or that I missed the cut at Barclays.
“So I wasn’t thinking about how important those two shots might have been.”
Instead, Piercy sat quietly and watched others control of his fate. “It’s one of those things. I needed help from about five guys. You don’t wish bad upon anyone, but at the same time, I wanted to be in the Tour Championship.”
The first help came from Bill Haas, last year’s FEC champion who came into the week in 28th place and was seemingly in great position – at least until he bogeyed the 14th hole, then each of the last three, the one at 18 being a three-putt from 50 feet.
In the very next group, Kyle Stanley was inside the top 30 when he stepped on the 18th tee. When he three-putted from 42 feet, he had fallen to 32nd.
At this point, Piercy was still on the outside looking in – figuratively, of course, because literally he was inside the clubhouse looking at a TV. He knew that Moore had not helped him, but that was fine. At least one of them would be in a good mood back to Las Vegas.
“But Vijay (Singh) was the key,” Piercy said, conceding it was an awkward position. One, “he’s such a great player, we all respect and look up to him,” and two, “he’s been very nice to me.”
As the day wore on, Singh got even nicer to Piercy, because needing to finish solo fifth or better, the big Fijian struggled. From a share of the lead at the start, he fell behind first Phil Mickelson, then Rory McIlroy. But out in 1-under 35 and still 17 under for his tournament through 13 holes, Singh looked like he was in great shape until he pulled his tee shot into water and bogeyed the 14th. Then he bogeyed 16 and 18 and even with birdies sandwiched in at 15 and 17, the damage had been done.
From projected to be in the top five based on his first three days, Singh closed with a 73, finished eighth in the tournament and 33rd in the FEC standings.
Piercy was in – and no one was left on the course to knock him out. In addition to his first Masters, he could start to dream about a third U.S. Open and a first Open Championship.
“Doors are being opened,” Piercy said. “There are opportunities and it’s nice to have options.”
Of course, up front there is no option – the Tour Championship won’t begin until Sept. 20, a week from Thursday. That will give Piercy plenty of time to kick up his feet and get some much-deserved rest.
And nothing would help help more than a plane ride alongside another guy who couldn’t wait to sit and savor his stirring accomlishment.