Will LIV’s best performer make the Ryder Cup? It’s not looking good

talor gooch

Talor Gooch is sprayed with champagne following his third LIV Golf win of the season in Spain last month.

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There isn’t much to know about the American Ryder Cup plans at the moment, in part because Zach Johnson has a good poker face. A much better one than Fred Couples, apparently. 

During the last few months of ZJ’s stint as the 2023 American Ryder Cup captain, he’s been asked the requisite questions about how he’ll build a roster. About how he’s managing the form of Justin Thomas. And Jordan Spieth. And Cam Young. About how much experience matters…or doesn’t. And perhaps most interestingly, how much he monitors LIV Golf. 

The answers to most of these questions, predictably, have been rather veiled. There was Johnson’s back-and-forth with a reporter at the PGA Championship, where he said he didn’t know where to find LIV events on TV, but didn’t need to see them play in person to assess how players are playing. There was also his declaration that quality of play around the Tour Championship would be a factor in his decision-making process.

Where then, does that leave Talor Gooch, the best-performing player on the LIV circuit this year, who won’t be playing anywhere near the PGA Tour this month? 

Apparently on the outside looking in, communication-wise. Gooch is in West Virginia this week, playing at The Greenbrier in LIV’s 10th event of its season. He was asked if captain Johnson has made any communication outreach to Gooch about the Ryder Cup.

“Not yet, no,” Gooch said. 

Next question: If you win this week, do you think you’ve earned consideration? 

Gooch didn’t even have a chance to speak for himself. Harold Varner, also part of the press conference as one of his Range Goats teammates, interjected. 

“I think that’s a tough question,” Varner said. “No s—t he wants to play on the Ryder Cup team, and some people think he should be on the team. But if he’s playing, I would say yes every time. Who doesn’t want to represent their country?

“He’s playing absolutely great golf, so I think it’s a great question, but also I think it’s kind of hard for him to sit here and be like, ‘Yeah, I don’t think I should be on the Ryder Cup team.’ You know what I mean? I think that’s very difficult.”

It might be difficult. But the question was aimed at Gooch, who jumped in once Varner was finished.

“I think what I think doesn’t matter unfortunately,” Gooch said. “So I’ll just continue to play good golf and let the people whose opinions matter, hopefully we can sway them a little bit.”

While he’s won three times in the last six months, there is one problem: Gooch hasn’t played well anywhere else. Like anywhere else. His best non-LIV finish this year was a T12 at the PIF Saudi International event back in February. He went on to finish T34 at the Masters in April before missing the cut at the PGA Championship and the Open Championship. Presented with a chance to try and qualify for the U.S. Open in June, Gooch declined. 

DataGolf, the industry-leading analytics site that ranks players from across the spectrum of pro golf tours, regardless of where you play, doesn’t love those non-LIV results. DataGolf ranks Gooch 34th in the world and 19th among Americans, behind fellow LIV-ers Brooks Koepka (9th), Patrick Reed (15th) and Dustin Johnson (16th). In other words, there’s clearly still work to be done, especially while most of the players Gooch would be competing with play on the PGA Tour, and have multiple FedEx Cup starts ahead of them this month. 

Johnson is set to make six captain’s picks on August 29th, and if he stays true to his word, the form players show “around the Tour Championship” will weigh heavily. For Gooch, that’s this week in West Virginia and next week at LIV Bedminster. What would he have to do to get on ZJ’s speed dial? I chatted with his caddie Malcolm Baker during the LIV London event, right on the heels of Gooch’s third victory and asked him exactly that. “Play well at the Open and maybe bag another one of these boys and we’ll see,” Baker said. In other words, they weren’t planning on anything. The Open didn’t pan out well, so it might just be a must-win couple of weeks for Gooch.

Sean Zak

Golf.com Editor

Zak is a writer at GOLF Magazine and just finished a book about the summer he spent in St. Andrews.