Pressure, Talor Gooch says, is Best Buy.
And it wouldn’t be Sunday, he said Saturday night, after finishing the third round of the RSM Classic with a three-shot lead. The 30-year-old was 18 holes from his first PGA Tour victory, but the nerves ahead had nothing on the thought of wearing a name tag for a living.
“I always go back to Q-School,” he said. “It’s funny, it’s like when this feels [like] pressure, I just think back to I was playing TPC Craig Ranch my third time of going through Q-School in 2016 and I was in second stage at TPC Craig Ranch. I was on the number going to the third round and I didn’t have any more money and I was three-over through four walking off the par-3 and I thought to myself, I don’t know why this came up, but Best Buy, I’m going to have to go work at Best Buy; I’m going to have to go do something to make a few bucks unless you like get it together.
“Fortunately I got it together and I got through second stage, but I always fall back on Q-School.”
Gooch didn’t blink then. And he opened eyes on Sunday. Gooch birdied six holes on the Seaside Course at the Sea Island Resort and bogeyed none for a six-under 64, a 22-under total and a three-shot win, his first in five seasons on the PGA Tour. Mackenzie Hughes, after a 62, finished second, and Sebastian Munoz was third.
Gooch had been trending toward this. Since the start of the 2021-22 Tour season in September, he had four top 15 finishes — and two top fives — in five events, and he opened the RSM with rounds of 64, 65 and 67. On Sunday, his lead had dropped to two at one point, only for him to birdie four of his first six holes on the back nine to pull away.
On the 426-yard, par-4 10th, Gooch hit his approach to 5 feet, and he birdied. On the 420-yard, par-4 11th, Gooch hit his approach to 9 feet, and he birdied. On the 414-yard, par-4 13th, Gooch rolled in a 16-foot putt and birdied. And on the 559-yard, par-5 15th, after hitting his second shot to 15 feet, he birdied again, and the event was over, if it hadn’t been already.
“Obviously I was playing really well this week and I was playing really well today so when you’re playing like that the game is coming easy and the stress levels go down,” Gooch said on Golf Channel afterward. “But I was pumped today the few times where things could have taken a different turn and I was able to use those past experiences and step up and execute.”
The big takeaway
Gooch has enough game to where this first win could snowball. Stay tuned.
The 10 big shots
— Talor Gooch begins the final round with a three-shot lead over Seamus Power and Sebastian Munoz, and a four-shot lead over Tom Hoge. Gooch is at 16-under.
— Gooch birdies the 383-yard, par-4 2nd after hitting his approach shot to 4 feet, and he maintains a three-shot advantage.
— Gooch birdies the 429-yard, par-4 4th after hitting his approach to 9 feet, and he builds his lead to four shots. Gooch is at 18-under, and Mackenzie Hughes and Munoz are at 14-under, and John Huh, Luke List, Hoge and Power are at 13-under.
— Tyler McCumber shoots a 10-under 60, narrowly missing a historic 59, and he finishes at 15-under.
— Gooch birdies the 426-yard, par-4 10th after hitting his approach to 5 feet, and his lead is three shots. He’s at 19-under, and Hughes is at 16-under.
— Gooch birdies the 420-yard, par-4 11th after hitting his approach to 9 feet, and his lead grows to four shots. He’s at 20-under, and Hughes and Power are at 16-under.
— Gooch birdies the 414-yard, par-4 13th on a 16-foot birdie putt, and his lead balloons to five shots. He’s at 21-under, and Hughes and Power are at 16-under.
— Gooch birdies the 559-yard, par-5 15th after hitting his second shot to 15 feet, and his lead is five shots. He’s at 22-under, and Munoz, Hughes and Power are at 17-under.
— Gooch, in a play that wins tournaments, punched out from a waste area on his second shot on the 392-yard, par-4 16th instead of trying to go for the green, then hits his third shot to 3 feet and pars.
— Gooch pars the 470-yard, par-4 18th, and he pumps his fist after his three-shot win, his first on the PGA Tour.
The final word
“He’s shown a good mental toughness to me as well this weekend. A lot of people with a lot of game, but not everybody has exactly what it takes to be able to grab a tournament by the scruff of the neck like he has done today.” — analyst Trevor Immelman on the Golf Channel broadcast on Gooch.