By Art Stricklin
HOUSTON — Talor Gooch, whose final round 69 left him just short of his first PGA Tour victory Sunday, said he liked everything about his Houston Open experience this year, except for the notorious Bayou City traffic.
“I just got to stay somewhere near course, this traffic is way worse than than anything we have in Oklahoma City,” said Gooch, who finished three shots out of the win by Lanto Griffin.
Gooch is coming off a career best season and his tie for fourth this week was his third top-five finish on the PGA Tour. It shows he has learned to navigate the traffic at the world’s highest professional level and is continuing to cruise toward the top.
“This is a game that ebbs and flows we all know that, but if you continue to put yourself in good position, then good things are going to happen,” Gooch said.
Other then another six-figure check for his bank account and more confidence for his game, he said the best thing to come out of Houston was he is starting a two-week-plus honeymoon to Italy on Monday with his new wife Ally
“We have never been before so we’re very excited. After today, we’re going to upgrade our air fare I can promise you that,” Gooch said.
He began the final round at Golf Club of Houston tied for sixth place, just three shots off the lead held by Griffin. But using the lessons learned in the first thee years of his PGA Tour career, including consecutive top-5 finishes last spring in Palm Springs and San Diego, he worked his way to the top on a sunny Sunday final round
He knew he needed birdies, lots and lots of birdies.
“All these guys are really good out here so you’re not going to cruise your way into victory. You have to go low.”
That’s exactly what he produced on the par-36 front nine. After an opening bogey, he recorded birdies on holes 2, 4 and 5, the last coming on a 42-foot putt.
“The difference between 20th place and a tie for fourth is making those putts and that’s what I was able to do today,” Gooch said. “I have been playing well, but this week I was able to put four good rounds together (64-72-72-69).”
He added one more birdie, this one from 21 feet, on the par-4 12th hole, but then failed to birdie the par-5 13th and 15th costing him in relation to the rest of the players in the field.
When the final result wasn’t what he ultimately came for, his first ever PGA Tour victory, it did confirm that his career path is on the right trajectory. Gooch was a U.S. Kids World Junior Champion at age 9, a high school star at John Conrad in Midwest City, moved on to a great career at Oklahoma State and earned his PGA Tour card for the first time in 2018.
Last year Gooch earned a career high $1,000,067 in prize money and found his way onto the FedCx Cup Playoffs for the first time ever.
He bought a new home in Edmond this summer and was married in September. After another performance at one of closest PGA Tour stops to Oklahoma, he was able to celebrate with his dad Ron, a former professional baseball player, who walked all 18 holes with him, and some buddies who came out to see their friend.
“It was a bit like a home game today with some friends and family and some Oklahoma State fans who saw my head covers,” Gooch said.
One other Oklahoman in the field cracked the top-30 in Houston, as Edmond North grad Robert Streb finished tied for 28th at 5-under. Rookie Michael Gellerman of OU tied for 51st at 2-under and Rhein Gibson of Edmond finished 76th at 8-over.