Talor Gooch is back in the news after claiming LIV Golf’s season-long individual title this weekend. Gooch lost in a playoff to Brooks Koepka in Jeddah, but his runner-up finish was enough to earn him the year-long bonus worth $18 million. “It’s special,” Gooch said. “I’ve always felt that I was good enough to be a professional golfer and play against the best in the world. Now to be here to, I think, consider myself one of the best in the world.”
Gooch’s claim comes as the future of the professional men’s golf ecosystem is very much in flux. If you strictly looked at his body of work on LIV this year, you’d have to agree with him. He won three times and came close in a couple other events. Based on LIV results alone, sure, maybe he is one of the best players in the world. But as Lexi showed us this weekend, contextualizing the level of competition is incredibly important. And in non-LIV events in 2023, Gooch finished T-34 at the Masters, missed the cut at the PGA Championship and Open Championship, and withdrew from the Alfred Dunhill Links Championship.
Gooch claiming he’s one of the best players in the world doesn’t make it so. He’s probably a top-30 or top-40 player, as Data Golf currently ranks him, but he’s not on Scheffler, Rahm, or Hovland’s level. He’s probably not as good as fellow LIV members Bryson DeChambeau or Cameron Smith, regardless of what the year-long system says. Bill Haas and Billy Horschel were not the best players in the world because they won the FedEx Cup, and Talor Gooch isn’t the best LIV player because he won their individual title.
In a world where the OWGR doesn’t recognize a tour with some of the top players on the planet, it becomes increasingly important to look past narratives and press conference quotes and focus on contextualizing on-course performance. Talor Gooch had a terrific LIV season, but he’s not one of the best players in the world. That’s relatively unimportant as it pertains to Gooch, yet as major championships decide on how to fill their fields moving forward, that delineation will be increasingly significant.
This piece originally appeared in The Fried Egg newsletter. Subscribe for free and receive golf news and insight every Monday, Wednesday, and Friday.