Ryan Moore on Scratch Golf, Grooves and His Secret to Relaxing on the Road
By Stephanie Wei under General

I chatted with PGA Tour player Ryan Moore earlier this week. This interview has been edited for clarity and brevity (yes, I know it’s still long, but I think it’s all interesting).

You signed an equipment deal with Scratch Golf at the end of last year. How did it come about?

They sent me some clubs in the beginning of the year, but I didn’t have an opportunity early on to put them in play. Every time I went home, I thought, oh those look so great, but I didn’t have enough time off to figure out distances and stuff like that. Once the end of the year came around, they sent me another set of clubs because I’d taken a look to see what I’d liked — those ended up being the clubs I played in the Fall Series and in China and I just loved them. I started playing great with them in Las Vegas [at the JT Shriners Open] and Phoenix [at the Frys.com Open]. Then I took them to China for the HSBC Champions, had a great tournament, where I was hitting my irons better or as good as I’d hit them all year.

So it was really a easy decision, but initially, I didn’t want to make a commitment. We weren’t talking any business at first because I wanted to know I liked them. Then we we able to land on something more interesting, which to me, was equity ownership in the company rather than getting money upfront to represent them, like in a traditional sponsorship deal. So, I have part ownership interest in the company. It’s a five-year deal, where I use their clubs and wear the logo on my hat and bag.

When we started talking with them, I think we told them we were interested in doing something more creative, which they were excited about because they’re a smaller company and can’t just be handing out hundreds of thousands of dollars in endorsements. So for them to work something out with a Tour player, they were really excited and I think I fit the mold of someone they were looking for to represent them. To be honest, they weren’t actively looking to get a player on Tour, it just kind of fell into both of our laps somehow.

What makes signing a nontraditional contract most appealing to you?

I was happy to do it because I really like the company, I like the guys, I like how they did things, and the quality of equipment that they make is far superior to anything I’d hit in a really long time — and in the end it could be far more than what I would have received in a traditional deal. So, that’s what made it interesting for me. It’s a long-term view of things instead of what can I get now; it’s sort of looking down the road and seeing that this company has potential to grow a lot, being a corner of the marketplace that’s been untapped.

What’s in your bag now?

Adams driver, Adams 3 wood, Adams 5 wood, and Scratch Golf irons, hybrid, wedges and a putter they made for me, too, which is awesome.

How do you feel about the change to the new grooves?

I’m really happy with the change. I like it better. For me, I switched clubs and I actually spin these more because they’re forged so they’re way softer and hitting the ground better because I got them really custom made to fit me. So I’m spinning them more than anything I’ve played in the last five years and it’s hardly been an adjustment. I actually prefer it because I think it’s a little more consistent when you’re hitting out of the rough. Now you know it’s not going to spin and you can just play for it. You know, because with the old grooves, sometimes it’d spin like crazy and other times it wouldn’t.

So is this better for the game and the Tour?

Yeah, I think so. It makes it more of a position game and you have to play a lot smarter now. You can’t miss on the wrong side or else you can’t recover because of the groove. So that’s really the difference.

Do you think it’s going to hurt some players?

I think you’ll see that there are certain players that it will hurt and they’ll eventually stand out. It’s more of a style of play — it’s the bomb-and-gauge guys who just try to hit a bunch of drivers as close as they could get to the green. They won’t be able to get away with just ripping it up there as far as they can. With the old grooves, they know they could spin it out of the rough with a lob wedge. Well, that’s not going to work anymore because if you get tucked into a tight pin, there’s going to be no way to stop the ball. So I think it’s going to change the style in which people play a little bit more than anything — you’ll see guys hitting a lot more 3 woods and irons from the tee just to make sure they’re in the fairway. But the premium ballstrikers — who have had the advantage taken away from them because of the grooves — are going to start winning a lot more tournaments.

What do you think about the loophole with the PING Eye2 V-groove wedges?

Yeah, I heard about that back at the US Open — you can play with the old Eye2’s, if you want. They were grandfathered in because of a lawsuit. I remember it was actually the CEO of PING, John Solheim, who told me about it because I was playing with an old Eye2 sand wedge for a while. He said, “You know, you won’t have to change that one when they change the grooves next year.” I thought, “Huh! That’s good to know.” But I don’t know…I think…it’s a bit ridiculous if people are really going to do that. I mean, that’s fine — it’s a loophole and if they want to do that, then I have no problem with it.

Talk about your great start this season at the SBS Championship.

I’d never played the event before, so it was just a great way to start off the year. Having [my girlfriend] Serena there was great, too, and my whole family came. And I really didn’t take much time off this year. I stayed in Phoenix all winter to practice. I was just so excited about how I was playing at the end of the year that I wanted to keep it going. For me, I felt like I hadn’t even broken stride. So, it wasn’t like a first-tournament-of-year jitters. But yeah, I played great — I finished with the highest percentage of greens in regulation in my career. So that was pretty huge for my first week with these new set of irons and the new grooves. I hit over 90% of greens for the week. I was ranked first in greens and second in fairway accuracy for the week. So that just means I have to make a few more putts. Obviously I didn’t make enough of those.

I noticed you cut your hair and shaved at the SBS Championship. What was that about?

I just decided to clean myself up — at least for one tournament. It might not last that long, but we’ll see. I can’t take it too much.

I understand you started working with a swing coach for the first time. What factored into your decision?

I started working with Troy Denton, my best friend, during the week before Turning Stone last fall. He’s caddied for me in the past, but I’d never had him work on my golf swing before. I decided I needed someone to help me with my swing. It was just a logical choice. I really trust his opinion and I played with him just about every day my last three years in college. I thought what better person to help get me back to where I’ve been and someone who’s seen it when it was at its best. It’s simple stuff — we didn’t go changing my swing; rather making it more efficient.

Jack Nicklaus turned 70 this week. Do you have any poignant memories of him?

I got to play in a practice round at The Masters in 2005. Not many people, especially my age, can say they’ve played with Jack Nicklaus, let alone at Augusta. It was just incredible. He was really friendly. It was one of my most enjoyable golfing moments. He just impresses me. After being a professional for five years, I realize how impressive he is — just him as a person and the the way he’s carried himself his whole life and the way he’s handled his career. To do everything he did as far as golf is concerned, he still seems to be a great family man and down-to-earth guy. Playing with him just confirmed those things.

You watch a lot of movies. Is it like a hobby for you?

On the road I just get tired of being in hotel rooms, to be honest, and I pretty much avoid them as much as I can. I think that’s where it came from. During tournaments — especially when you’re in hot weather — there’s nothing better after a round of golf than to go and sit in a dark, cold, air-conditioned room, have a little candy and go off into another world for a couple hours. Golf is so mentally straining that it’s so great to sit and unwind that way and let your mind go a bit. And if I don’t do something like that, then my mind is racing about what I need to work on and troubling over my game. That’s the one thing I can do that completely takes my mind away from golf for a while. I think that’s what keeps me sane a little bit.

So you need to go to movie-watching rehab.

Yeah, exactly.

What’s the best movie you’ve seen lately?

I think Sherlock. I really enjoyed it. It was clever, well written, kind of a fun pace, and I like Robert Downey Jr. and Jude Law, who were both great in it.

You know, I noticed Rachel McAdams looks kind of like your girlfriend.

You’re right, she does, especially in that movie.

Maybe that’s why you liked the movie so much.

Maybe that’s why I like Serena so much. Oh wait, shoot, this is getting recorded.