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Ryan Moore joins elite group

Ryan Moore has played the golf courses used in the Funai Classic at Disney World, although never with as much at stake as there was this past week.

As a teenager, he played junior tournaments at Disney. After finishing his spectacular amateur career at UNLV, he spent last week playing for a job on the 2006 PGA Tour.

Moore closed with a 68 on Sunday and tied for 13th, earning $88,000. That puts him the equivalent of 113th on the PGA Tour money list, and will make him the first player since Tiger Woods in 1996 to advance from college directly to the PGA Tour without ever going to Q-School.

''I have never had any doubts about my skill level,'' Moore said. ''Winning golf tournaments is pretty much the same thing. You have to play well, but you also have to think well.''

Moore, the former U.S. Amateur and NCAA champion, had played well enough on sponsor's exemptions since turning pro in late June to give himself that chance, and he became only the fifth player since 1980 to take the high-pressure express route to the PGA Tour. Along with Woods, the only other players to do so were Gary Hallberg, Phil Mickelson and Justin Leonard.

Moore tied for second place in the Canadian Open for his biggest paycheck ($440,000), and overcame a quadruple-bogey 9 in the third round in Las Vegas a week ago to tie for 16th. He entered the Funai Classic with $598,249, which was equal to 120th place on the PGA Tour money list. With three tournaments left, Moore had to earn the equivalent of No. 125 to get his card, but wrapped it up on Sunday.

''Every tournament means so much,'' said Moore at the beginning of the week. ''Every tournament means I can get it done with that one tournament. There are some things I can't control. All I can do is go out and play the best I can.''

Woods made it look easy when he earned his PGA Tour card as a 20-year-old fresh off winning his third U.S. Amateur. He won Las Vegas in his fifth start for a two-year exemption, then won at Disney a few weeks later and wound up playing his way into the Tour Championship.

But those stories are limited.

Justin Leonard and Phil Mickelson are the only others in the last 20 years to go from college to the pros without having to experience the dreaded Q-School in between.

Moore wasn't afraid of qualifying school, which many regard the toughest week in golf. And if anyone thinks this is the easy way to the PGA Tour, he only points to the limited number of guys before him who have pulled it off.

''I love a challenge,'' he said.

Moore no longer feels as stressed about where he'll play next year.

Even if he had dipped below the equivalent of No. 125 on the money list, he still would have conditional status and probably could have gotten at least 20 starts next year on tour.

October 24, 2005

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