Talor Gooch: Why Rory McIlroy Masters win would warrant asterisk

talor gooch looks on at a liv golf tournament

Talor Gooch won three of LIV Golf's 13 events last season.

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Last week, LIV Golf’s Joaquin Niemann got a special invitation to the Masters, which inevitably snowballed into who hasn’t received a ticket to Augusta National.

Talor Gooch won three of LIV Golf’s 13 events last season but didn’t receive the same treatment as Niemann (Thorbjorn Olesen and Ryo Hisatsune were also invited, although they aren’t LIV golfers), which has led to the latest round of uproar over both the Official World Golf Ranking’s refusal to award LIV Golf World Ranking points and professional golf as a whole for its inability to figure out a solution in the meantime.

Speaking to Australian Golf Digest, Gooch said he’s not surprised he hasn’t received an invite and added that history should take note of the absence of top players at Augusta.

“If Rory McIlroy goes and completes his grand slam without some of the best players in the world, there’s just going to be an asterisk,” Gooch said. “It’s just the reality. I think everybody wins whenever the majors figure out a way to get the best players in the world there.”

It’s unclear why Gooch called out McIlroy specifically, or if McIlroy was perhaps brought up in the question given this April he’ll again chase the career grand slam, which he can achieve if he wins the Masters and will no doubt again be one of the tournament’s key storylines. It’s also unclear if Gooch was talking about himself, or other players he feels are being left out. (Gooch has played in 11 majors in his career. He’s missed four cuts and has yet to record a top 10.)

Gooch’s talent is certainly Masters-worthy, despite his No. 449 World rank. But Gooch (and others) knew what they’d signed up for when they joined LIV Golf and the uncertain future of those precious World Ranking points.

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It’s also worth noting that the Masters field will still be stacked this year. Many of LIV’s top players are already exempt — Jon Rahm, Dustin Johnson, Brooks Koepka, Bryson DeChambeau, Cameron Smith, Tyrrell Hatton and Patrick Reed, to name a handful — meaning there aren’t as many obvious omissions as it might seem, especially for the major with the smallest field.

“I think the majors have kind of shown that they’re not getting on board with LIV,” Gooch said. “Jaco went outside of LIV and played some great golf and they rewarded him for that. So, hopefully, the day will turn when the majors decide to start rewarding good play on LIV. Hopefully, that’ll be sooner than later.”

While it might seem odd that Niemann, who won LIV Golf’s Mayakoba event earlier this month, got an invite and Gooch did not, there is some important context here. Augusta said the invite was reserved for international players who are not already qualified. Plus, Niemann won the Australian Open in December, and while Augusta National’s press release announcing the special invites did not mention Niemann’s recent LIV victory, it did include his Latin America Amateur win in 2018. That’s notable because that tournament is organized by Augusta National, with the winner awarded a Masters invite. With Augusta inviting Niemann, it’s paying homage to a past winner of an event that’s important to the club’s grassroots initiatives.

“I think it’s up to the majors now to have some sort of exemption criteria for the LIV tour,” Marc Leishman told Australian Golf Digest. “The PGA Tour has its top 30 get in the majors (those who qualify for the Tour Championship). Maybe LIV can get its top 12 at season’s end, given the smaller fields and all that.”

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