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LIV Golf’s Talor Gooch hopes his 2024 PGA Championship invite can be ‘beacon of hope for the rest of the game’

LOUISVILLE, Ky. — Talor Gooch was slightly shocked when he received his special invitation to this week’s 2024 PGA Championship at Valhalla Golf Club. How did he react?

“Went to my wife and said, ‘Babe, we’re not going to Vegas next week, we’re going to Kentucky,’” Gooch told Golfweek with a chuckle after his Wednesday practice round.

After Gooch won for the first time on the PGA Tour at the 2021 RSM Classic, he took his talents to LIV Golf six months later and has found a comfortable home on the Saudi Arabia-backed circuit. Last season the 32-year-old won three events en route to an $18 million bonus as the season-long points leader.

When it comes to LIV Golf and major championships, Gooch’s name seems to always populate headlines. First, there was the shorts snafu at the 2022 Masters. Last year he was boxed out of the U.S. Open at Los Angeles Country Club after the USGA altered its exemption criteria. Instead of fighting to try to earn his way again and stick it right back to the governing body, Gooch cried foul and decided not to play.

Earlier this year he made a wild claim that the Masters would have an asterisk due to the lack of LIV players (13) in the field. Earlier this month, Gooch announced in a sour tone that he’d be one of 11 players who wouldn’t be attempting to qualify for the U.S. Open or Open Championship. In contrast, 34 LIV players are currently slated to play a qualifier for the 2024 U.S. Open at Pinehurst No. 2 next month.

Of the 16 LIV players in this week’s field, seven were given special invites from the PGA of America. Four were inside the top 100 of the OWGR. Of the three who were not, Dean Burmester and David Puig both tried to earn their way in by playing on the DP World Tour and Asian Tour, respectively, and both won at least once. The outlier is Gooch, who has only played for LIV since he joined the Saudi-backed circuit.

“This is the first time that one of the majors have recognized a LIV Golf performance,” Gooch claimed on Wednesday. “(Joaquin Niemann) got a special invite to Augusta, but he was chasing after that. I wasn’t going and playing in Dubai and South Africa and Europe to try to get world ranking points and things like that. Great for those guys and I’m glad that play outside of LIV has gotten recognized, but this is the first time that LIV play has been recognized, which I hope is a step in the right direction.”

When asked why he didn’t follow in the footsteps of Niemann, Burmester or Puig, Gooch said he wanted to enjoy his offseason and also added that his wife gave birth to their first child in January, which took priority.

Now that the baby boy has been born, why not try to qualify this year?

“It’s just scheduling,” he explained. “In the last five years I haven’t tried to qualify for the U.S. Open. The last time I tried was in 2017, so just scheduling. It didn’t work out.”

“Same thing with the Open. I’m gonna be in Europe in Spain for LIV in that off week, I already have things scheduled with family,” he added. “The following week we’re gonna be in Birmingham and I would have to go another week prior. It’s just chaos, so it just didn’t work out.”

Gooch didn’t rule out altering his schedule for next season, but a lot will be riding on his performance this week. You could even argue he’s feeling the most pressure out of just about anyone in the field of 156 players.

As for reconciliation in golf, Gooch said he was confident in what the near future of LIV looks like and that those who claim to have knowledge on a deal that would unite the game “is making a guess.”

“I think the majors have a chance to be on the forefront of that,” said Gooch. “That’s why it’s so cool seeing what the PGA of America did, because they were the first to say, ‘You know what, we’re going to rise above all this and we’re going to be hopefully that beacon of hope for the rest of the game.’”

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