Charles Rex Arbogast / AP
Published Thursday, Oct. 4, 2012 | 12:21 p.m.
Updated Thursday, Oct. 4, 2012 | 2:12 p.m.
Ryan Moore is playing some of his best golf of the year.
The former UNLV all-American and 2004 individual NCAA champion continued the strong play Thursday during the opening round of the Justin Timberlake Shiners Hospitals for Children Open at TPC Summerlin, carding a 10-under-par 61 at the TPC Summerlin’s 7,223-yard course to equal the course record and grab an early lead in the event’s 30th year in Las Vegas.
No UNLV golfer has won on the PGA Tour stop in Las Vegas. Moore took a big step to changing that history Thursday, only bogeying one hole and recording his 21st consecutive round of under-par golf.
He equaled Davis Love III’s course record set during the 2001 tournament. The tournament record is 59.
“I had no idea that was the course record, so that’s nice,” Moore said. “I’ve just been playing good, solid golf lately. Just kind of keep hitting the ball solid and giving myself opportunities.”
Moore’s group started play at 7:23 a.m. on the back nine and several other golfers could still overtake him atop the leaderboard. As of 2 p.m., he’s one shot ahead of Brendon de Jonge and two in front of Tim Herron and John Huh, and several others are expected to post low numbers on the shooter-friendly layout.
Moore, a Las Vegas resident who has seven top-10 finishes this year, missed the cut in mid-August at the PGA Championship. But he hasn’t suffered through many bad performances since.
The transformation started over Labor Day weekend at the Deutsche Bank Championship in Boston. Moore was struggling with his putting and called his younger brother, who is also his former caddy, to help with his approach.
He wound up 10th at the tournament and finished 10th again the following week at the BMW Championships. Then, at the Tour Championship two weeks ago, he finished third to win $468,000.
“I had gotten a little off,” Moore said. “He caddied for me for years and always just had a good eye. He’s watched me play a lot. So, you know, I just had him come out and look at my lines and see.
“Just my alignment was a little off mostly, which if you’re starting with your alignment off you're compensating,” he continued. “My stroke doesn’t really change that much, so if I get a little off my line, I miss a lot of putts.”
Moore returned to Las Vegas after the Tour Championship and has been practicing at the TPC Summerlin since. UNLV golfers, despite never winning in Las Vegas, always have a leg up on the competition because of their familiarity with the course.
That was obvious during Moore’s round.
The highlight came on the par-4 15 hole. He drilled his first shot 284 yards onto the green and followed with a 12-foot putt for birdie in recording the lone eagle of his round.
Moore only bogeyed one hole, carding a four on the par-3 eighth after missing a 12-foot birdie putt. He started on the back nine holes, birding five of the first nine holes in addition to the eagle on No. 15 to make the turn at 7-under-par.
“For me, it’s just a comfort thing,” Moore said. “Comfortable with the tee shots and the lines and where you can hit it through or what you can carry. Just all the little things. The more you play a golf course, the more it becomes second nature, which is nice.”
He hit 10 of 14 greens and 16 of 18 fairways to put himself in great position to post a favorable score. It also put him in solid position to challenge for the title — it would be the second of his professional career.
“You know, it didn’t feel like a great round early,” said Moore, who has $13 million in career winnings and is 11th this year in the FedEx Cup standings with more than $2 million in earnings. “I did get off to a nice start. I birdied 11, 12, 13, and then eagled 15. But it wasn’t like just perfect, you know perfectly sharp, hitting it right where I’m trying to every single time. I just kind of was hitting good, solid shots and converting. You know, making my nice 10 , 12 footers.”