SAINT-QUENTIN-EN-YVELINES, France — Earlier this year during a practice round at the British Open, Justin Rose approached golf-impressionist extraordinaire Conor Moore and began mimicking Moore’s impression of Moore doing Rose. (Are you still with us?)
“There’s a lot ebbs and flows, peaks and valleys on this course,” Rose began, squinting his eyes, tipping his head from side to side and invoking his best Moore-doing-Rose’s staccato delivery.
“It’s good, Justin,” Moore said. “But it needs work.”
That Moore has reached a point in his career where the world’s best golfers are imitating him doing them tells you something about the 29-year-old comedian’s rapid ascent up the golf-comedy ranks (which, to be fair, is a little-practiced subset of comedy).
Moore first caught the golf world’s attention when he published a compilation of impressions before this year’s Masters, a side-splitting super-cut that included on-the-nose imitations of a tittering Sergio Garcia, a droopy-eyed Dustin Johnson and a weeping Bubba Watson.
GOLF WEEK*** US Masters – Heres what Sergio, Rory, Poults and Co are saying!! pic.twitter.com/ar7Atb1qwy
— Conor Moore (@ConorSketches) April 2, 2018
The video lit up social media and even made a cameo on SportsCenter. Moore followed that hit with another video before the British Open that has garnered nearly two million views.
— Conor Moore (@ConorSketches) July 16, 2018
In total, his spots — he also imitates Premier League players and does a mean Conor McGregor — have driven some 60 million views.
European Ryder Cup captain Thomas Bjorn captain is a fan. Earlier this week, in a team meeting at the 42nd Ryder Cup here at Le Golf National, Bjorn fooled his squad into believing that they were about to watch a spine-tingling motivational video. Instead, they got a 10-minute spoof of Moore in a faux press conference channeling (and roasting) each of the players on the European side, from McIIroy to Molinari. “I think Fran’s has made me giggle for about 10 hours now,” Tommy Fleetwood said Wednesday morning. “He was just trying to make out how excited [Molinari] was with his deadpan tone. It was perfect, really.”
Even the captain himself wasn’t spared, with Moore donning a shower cap to play the follickly-challenged Dane. Said Bjorn: “You have got to laugh at yourself. … It might be one or two [players] found a few truths about the way people look at them.”
Moore isn’t a natural. He’ll spend days and sometimes weeks listening to interviews of players and studying their mannerisms in an effort to perfect his marks. He’s so committed to the cause that he deleted all the music off his phone (too much of a distraction) and replaced it with interviews of golfers.
Some impressions come more easily than others: Fleetwood, who sounds like one of the Beatles, required less work. Phil Mickelson, on the other hand, has been a bear to master.
“I don’t know why,” Moore said on a sun-splashed Thursday afternoon at Le Golf National. He was wearing a stylish paisley shirt, untucked, and on his way to a dinner date in downtown Paris with Nick Faldo (yes, Moore does Sir Nick, too). “I thought he’d be easy with his California accent, but he’s quite nasally. Tiger took me a while but I immersed myself in Tiger for four straight days, and I think I’m going to have to do the same with Phil. He’s a brilliant character, so I’ll be disappointed in myself if I don’t get Phil.”
Moore was a class clown growing up in Mullingar, Ireland, about an hour’s drive west of Dublin (his father is the captain of Mullingar Golf Club, where Moore has done some gigs). He enjoyed making his friends and two brothers laugh and was the star of family skits during the holidays. His impressions started garnering attention when he partnered with the Irish comedy site Joe.ie, but it wasn’t until late last year that he began impersonating golfers, largely because no one else was.
“Tiger Woods is the most famous athlete in the world and no one does him,” Moore said. (Which isn’t to say Woods is easy to do. “A lot of Tiger is in his mouth,” Moore said. “His lower jaw barely moves.”)
A speech so nice, it had to be done twice. Something about @IanJamesPoulter‘s #RyderCup pep talk sounds familiar… @ConorSketches with a look at #TeamEurope‘s prep for Day 1. pic.twitter.com/nLdBrOJ4Rj
— Golf Channel (@GolfChannel) September 27, 2018
Moore is spending this week making funnies for the Golf Channel and otherwise enjoying his time in the French sunshine. Fans regularly approach him and ask him to do Poulter, or Tiger, or Sergio, and he’s happy to accommodate them. He says he’s received only positive feedback from the players he imitates — Poulter is a big fan — but he’s not interested in getting too chummy with them.
“If you start getting too close to people, it can deter you from making things that you think are funny,” Moore said. “That said, I love when the players love my bits. None of it is intended to be mean; it’s all light-hearted. I just take an inflection and go with it. It’s not really them, it’s just a caricature of them, a funny version. That’s how I see it.”