By Art Stricklin
HOUSTON – A familiar city and tournament, plus the rare sight of friendly faces in the gallery all helped inspire Talor Gooch of Midwest City during a record-tying final round 63 Sunday in the Vivint Houston Open.
Gooch, the former Oklahoma State All-American and Oak Tree National member, used that round to surge into a solo fourth-place finish, continuing his quiet but steady rise up the PGA Tour ladder into a top player.
“Yeah, you know, honestly, I didn’t have my A-game for the first three days and I found it today, but I can get in the thick of things without having to be perfect,” Gooch said on a perfectly sunny day which standing on the patio at Memorial Park GC after his round
“I figured out I’m good enough that I don’t have to be perfect to give myself a chance.”
Gooch was one of eight former OSU players in the field. Viktor Hovland, who also plays out of OTN, finished tied for 15th. Complete results here.
It was the second straight year Gooch, who works with Steve Ball at Ball Golf Center in Oklahoma City, has turned in a top five finish in the Texas PGA Tour event. Last year he was fifth at the Golf Club of Houston, this year he did one place better as the tournament moved to the public Memorial Park while tying his career low score as a professional.
“I keep proving to myself that I can play well when I’m in the thick of things,” Gooch added.
It was his fifth top-five PGA Tour finish over the last three years, including his second in the last month after a fifth-place at storied Shadow Creek Golf Club in Las Vegas in October.
The Sunday paycheck of $343,000 boosted him over the $1 million mark for this short season and to $4.6 million in career earnings. Gooch said what was better was setting himself up for a potentially monster 2021 season, including his long-awaited first PGA Tour victory.
“Growing up I used to kind of think the fall was almost like a tune-up almost for the start of the new year, the calendar year starting in Sony (Hawaii). Now there’s enough (fall) tournaments where it’s a good portion of our season. So if you can go have a good fall and get off to a good start, you can really position yourself to get ready for the (2021) Playoffs in a good spot.”
Of course, seeing his some of his biggest fans in his parents, Ron and Ambre Gooch, walking each hole with him over the four days was a big lift was well
Houston was the first tournament since March where spectators, including parents, were allowed on the grounds of the tournament. It was something the Gooch’s were more than happy to do, making the drive from Oklahoma City for four days of Southeast Texas fun and sun.
“It was great to be here and see him again. I’m just so glad we had this chance,” Ambre said. “It’s always fun to watch him play.”
“I just hope we can do this every week starting next year at Pebble Beach, then the Tour will start to feel normal again,” Ron added.
They were easy to spot in the crowd with their distinctive white Team Gooch, T-shirts, sweater hoodies and even Team Gooch facemasks.
“This is what like to do,” Ambre said. “We always want to support.”
Talor’s wife Ally was back home in Oklahoma City, tendering their The Modern Cookie business and likely greatly appreciating her husband could bring home lots more dough.
While Gooch was near the front portion of the leaderboard all four days, opening with a first-round 68, at the course recently renovated by Tom Doak with some feedback from Brooks Koepka. One thing he’s learned in his brief six-year pro golf career is that the final round Sunday is when the best players go low and surge to the top.
He entered Sunday in 19th place and seven shots behind Saturday leader Sam Burns. But Gooch birdied holes 3, 7 and 9 with birdie 2s on both front nine par 3 holes. Then he really got rolling with birdies on four of his last six holes, 13, 15-16 and 18th, to fly up the leaderboard.
He needed a birdie on the par 4 18th hole to tie the course record at 63 and after having put his drive in the middle of the fairway, 273 yards from the tee, he stiffed his approach shot 183 yards to just 5 feet in front of the closing hole pin.
All that was left was a smooth birdie putt, a small wave to the crowd, a tip of the white visor and a big smile while standing on the putting green.
“When I got here (Memorial Park), this has a similar feel as a lot of courses that I grew up playing in Oklahoma,” Gooch said. ‘It’s the same grass. Its parkland golf, it just has a very similar feel to what I’m comfortable with. That always makes you feel comfortable and ready.”
While he is not qualified to play in the Masters this week, Gooch plans to close out the year with tournaments at Sea Island, Georgia and Mexico, then there will be plenty of Oklahoma State and Dallas Cowboys football to watch and time to celebrate with his family and friends.
“Yeah, yeah, it’s been great. I think I’m trending in the right direction,” he said. “The last tournament they (my parents) were at was the Players whenever it got called, (in March) so it was great for them to be back out. It’s always good to play well when they’re here to make them feel like they bring some good mojo.”
Good timing, good play, good mojo and good times all combined together for a fun Houston week for a career which continues to be on an ever accelerating rise.