- The Washington Times - Sunday, July 8, 2007

Ryan Moore appeared destined for an early conclusion with 10 holes left on Friday.

He was 7-over, well beyond the cut line at the AT&T; National at Bethesda’s Congressional Country Club. Yet a week that already featured a solid highlight took another fortuitous turn.

Moore rallied to make the cut Friday — including a tricky 8-footer at the 18th just to make the cut — then fired a 66 early yesterday to reach even for the tournament. He also vaulted from a tie for 61st to a share of 21st entering today’s final round.

“The ball-striking was there, solid putting,” Moore said. “There were a couple missed greens. I was able to get it up there to good par putts instead of leaving myself eight-to-10-footers. It was just a nice, comfortable, solid round.”

It probably won’t place the former amateur star in line to contend for the lead today, but it could be just another step for Moore as he chases his first professional title, which almost seems inevitable. He produced a superlative amateur career, winning the U.S. Amateur, Western Amateur, U.S. Public Links and the NCAA championship in 2004. He turned pro in 2005, and has a runner-up each year since.

The latest came last month at the Memorial when K.J. Choi edged him by a shot. But even then, Moore didn’t think his swing was quite in place.

That changed this week when he shot 67 during British Open qualifying at Oakland Hills, a course used in the past for U.S. Opens and a Ryder Cup. His quality play has transferred to Congressional, where he had only one bogey in his last 29 holes.

“It was probably the best round I played in a long time,” Moore said of his trip to Oakland Hills. “That first round [here] I just started out a little slow and just couldn’t get anything going and yesterday kind of happened the same way and the today I just had that good solid start and just let things kind of tumble along and go the right direction.”

He rolled along the front nine yesterday, collecting pars after a birdie at No. 3 before he arrived at the par-5 ninth. It has played as one of the tournament’s easiest holes, but eagles have remained scarce at a hole listed at a monstrous 602 yards.

Moore bounced his approach shot from about 280 yards within 11 feet of the pin, then turned to his typically reliable putting to secure the days only eagle at No. 9.

“That eagle on [No.] 9 was great,” Moore said. “That’s not something you ever expect and thats a shot thats hard to gauge what its going to do around the green. I was just trying to get it up there close and leave myself a little chip, and as soft as the greens are it just got the perfect bounce.”

He added a birdie at the 12th, then salvaged a bogey at No. 16 with some solid work around the green. However, he rebounded with a birdie at the 17th to get back to level par.

Moore’s improvement this week is consistent. He started with a 74 before working his way to a 70 yesterday. Yesterday’s 66 temporarily matched the round of the tournament (Shigeki Maruyama’s 65 later eclipsed it).

It at least gives him a chance to make an even greater push in the final round.

“My swing keeps feeling better and better and hopefully Ill go four better tomorrow and make things interesting,” Moore said.