Tulsa — not so long ago — in fact, 2016 — Talor Gooch was on the brink of collapse in the second phase of the Web.com Qualification School, thinking about his future career at Best Buy. The Midwest, Oklahoma native has no profile to speak of, and at TPC Craig Ranch in Texas, he needs every ounce of resilience to bounce back from a bad start. , and fight for their position. Success wasn’t immediate, but Gucci, now 30, has moved up the tournament ranks and now sees a much different view than he did then — No. 35 in the world, PGA Tour title at last fall’s RSM Classic, and a player Top five in the tournament. Following the path of this trajectory, the next big expectation is to compete professionally. And what better place than the South Hills Country Club in Tulsa, where he’s close to home, can drive, has gallery support as an Oklahoma State alumnus, and is the only Oklahoma native in the field people?
However, some patterns remain. In miniature, you could say that Gucci’s first two days resembled the early stages of his career. If something might create a hindrance, it does exist. For one, he was on the wrong side, facing stronger winds Thursday afternoon and Friday morning, which meant giving up an average of one stroke on the first day, which could double by the end of Friday. Next, he happened to be paired with a club professional who could be charitably described as “intentional”, leading to a warning of two days of slow play – an added source of stress. On top of that, the predicted winds caused the PGA of America to abandon chipping on Thursday night, and the slower pace kept him ill all morning.
Still, Gooch shot 69-70 and was 1 under, just five shots behind the lead as the afternoon wave prepared to begin. As of 1 p.m. local time, he was one of only five players in the top 23 — a rare survivor of an unfortunate roll of the dice.
However, “rare survivor” is a term to describe many PGA Tour golfers who have used the resilience of his past through two days of adversity.
“I could have actually had a very, very good day,” he said after the round, “but because they couldn’t cut the greens and roll them, they were very bumpy and very chewy.”
He went through a string of near misses: begging for birdie on the front nine. When his swing ended, he was fourth in scoring/greens on the tee, but a dismal 81st in putting. The 14th, when he hit a low 5-iron on the par 3 but then missed the birdie putt was the epitome of his era.
Still, he’s happy with his scoring, which is in line with what he sees as a career-changing mentality. In his words, “fall in love the next day, fall in love better and better”. It means appreciating every moment, but also living in the present, avoiding the trap of the sneaky psychotic poison of future targets.
“Let’s be as good as possible today,” he said Monday. “In the end, those days added up to a Tour victory.”
As for the rhythm, he endured it with aplomb, but was not happy to be put on the clock. He knew he was a fast player and he spoke with officials after the game.
“Last year at the PGA and again this year, I had my first tee time, Thursday and Friday, and we were both warned on the front nine that we were behind,” he said. “Then on the back nine, we’re waiting. So I just said, hey, we need to fix this, because whenever the officials come up and say, ‘You need to hurry,’ it just adds to the pressure, you know?”
The good news, though, is that he’s hitting the best of the field, and he’ll be leveling the playing field Saturday. Or maybe better than level: From Thursday to Friday, the galleries were filled with more and more Oklahoma oranges, as did the chants of “Go Pokes!” And the standard “Gooooch!” as he walked by. If he plays on the weekend, he can count on a surge in support.
The promise of less hardship led one reporter to ask him if he thought the weekend might be relatively easy. Gucci could only shake his head, revealing a smile that was more helpless than happy.
“Nothing here is easy,” he said.
For Gucci, never, but he’s known for flourishing anyway.