Moore's Open snub stuns St Andrews

As golf snubs go, turning down the chance to play in the Open Championship, at St Andrews, as an amateur, for Jack Nicklaus's grand farewell, is in the realms of Marlon Brando turning down that Oscar. Except the great contender snubbed out of principle. Ryan Moore yesterday confessed he is doing so because of money.

As golf snubs go, turning down the chance to play in the Open Championship, at St Andrews, as an amateur, for Jack Nicklaus's grand farewell, is in the realms of Marlon Brando turning down that Oscar. Except the great contender snubbed out of principle. Ryan Moore yesterday confessed he is doing so because of money.

By accepting the sponsor's invitation for next week's Barclays Classic and by declaring that the event at Westchester would be his first as a professional, the 22-year-old from Washington State baffled almost everyone here in the countdown to this week's US Open.

As the reigning US Amateur champion, the Royal and Ancient had kept the traditional berth aside for Moore, until, that is, he rang to tell a disbelieving ear last week that no, he would not be taking up their kind offer, thank you very much.

"They were quite good about it really," Moore said on the practice grounds yesterday, seemingly unaware at the shaking heads all around him from senior players who could not quite believe what he was passing up. "I think the R&A understood my reasons."

Like hell they did. A contact at the R&A yesterday revealed they were as stunned as everyone else and a quick scour through the record books for at least the last few decades showed that the only other US Amateur champion not to take up this golden option was one Tiger Woods in 1997 - and he had already played in the Open twice, and was to make the Troon field anyway after turning professional in 1996.

"That's too bad," said Moore, when told that some British golf fans might find it odd, as well as disrespectful, that he is bypassing "the home of golf". "My priority is winning my PGA Tour card and after getting a few invites for the next few weeks it was a really tough decision to make. But there'll be other Opens and it's just that this year it would have been a luxury for me. But there is nothing in the world I would rather do than play at St Andrews." Except, it seems, win pots load of money.

An on-the-record reaction to Moore's withdrawal was hard to find, chiefly because of the reluctance to open up the old scars of the Americans not valuing the "British" Open as highly as their own majors, as well as all the recent bad publicity generated by Paul Casey and his "narrow-minded Yanks" remarks.

One veteran American professional, who himself has shown an unashamed reticence to traverse the Atlantic in the past, said: "It's a long way to go and a lot of money to spend when you could be kickstarting your pro career with a big cheque."

Although this response was in marked contrast to the overwhelming feeling of total bemusement. "It's St Andrews and it's The Open for Pete's sake," said one high-profile European. "Tell me, what's four weeks to wait?"

Obviously, four weeks too long, not to mention a few hundred grand too short, for Moore, who made such an impression at Augusta in April when he tied for 13th.

If that was an indication of the huge talent of this young man then there was just as telling a one concerning his confidence when on the eve of the first major he asserted, "I can win this damn thing".

Just what Padraig Harrington would do for such a mindset at the start of major week. Yesterday, the Dubliner who is playing at his eighth US Open, was as pessimistic as ever when describing the state of his game.

"Pretty shabby," the 33-year-old said. "But then it's Tuesday and I'm the sort of person that always looks to my weaknesses before I start a tournament and try and get them up to strength.

"On a practice day I'm focused on the weakest part of my game and that's why I would look and say 'Well, I'm not quite ready yet.' There's always the same feeling every tournament, certainly every major, that I'd like another week. It was always the same whenever you were doing an exam, wasn't it?

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