T. SIMONS ISLAND, GA (WALB) — Talor Gooch is 18 holes away from realizing a lifelong ambition: to win on the PGA Tour. On Saturday, he shot a 3-under 67 to take a three-stroke lead into the final round of the RSM Classic at Sea Island Golf Club. The question is whether he will be able to bear the pressure.
According to Gooch, he thrives in situations like this. If he gets into trouble on Sunday, he’ll go back to the second stage of PGA Tour Q-School from 2016. Gooch entered the third round on the number at TPC Craig Ranch, his third attempt at the rigorous multi-stage process to gain playing rights.
“I was 3 over through four walking off the par 3 and I thought to myself, ‘I’m going to have to go work at Best Buy, I’m going to have to go do anything to make a few bucks unless you like get it together,'” Gooch recounted. “I think you’re not going to make it as a sportsman if you don’t have that little bit of guts to go prove people wrong.”
On Saturday, Gooch displayed a lot of grit. It was a chilly, windy day, perfect for cuddling up with a book over a log fire while sipping a cup of hot cocoa or something stronger. “That we finished and we’re in a warm facility here,” Tom Hoge, who shot 3-under 67 on Saturday, said when asked what he was most pleased with from his day.
Gooch had two birdies on the front nine and led by three shots, but Sebastian Munoz tied him for the lead with birdies at Nos. 7 and 9, as well as a bogey by Gooch at No. 10. An unlucky three-putt from 19 feet on the par-3 12th slowed Munoz’s momentum but he birdied 15 to finish at 13 under and tie for second.
“On 12, Talor gave me a fantastic line, and I just wanted to bury it in front of him, and I got a little greedy, got myself a six-footer coming back, and I missed it,” Munoz explained.
On the back nine, Ireland’s Seamus Power, who knows a thing or two about playing in the wind, momentarily shared the lead with Gooch. He made birdie on the par-5 15th and finished with a 3-under 67 to tie for second with Munoz.
With the wind, nothing is easy, Power remarked of his eagle chip in. Power mentioned that he has resided in the United States for 15 years, as if he had become just another Irishman seeking warmer climes and whose blood had thinned.
“With my weather, I’ve gotten a little picky,” he explained.
Every time someone attempted to apprehend Gooch, he had an answer. Gooch birdied two of the final four holes to take a 54-hole lead for the first time. He ranks first in Strokes Gained: Around the Green and seventh in Strokes Gained: Tee to Green for the week. With his recent success, Gooch has been on the verge of capturing his first PGA Tour title all fall.
Boyd Summerhays, Gooch’s swing instructor, remarked, “I have a hard time believing anyone is striking the ball any better over the last two months.”
Gooch’s stinger drive, a consequence of his Oklahoma heritage, has proven to be a formidable weapon. Sunday, a.k.a. payday, is a different day, and in the prize hunt, Gooch has always been the pursuer rather than the chased. Power won the Barbasol Championship a few months back and has already secured a spot in the Sentry Tournament of Champions, while Sebastian Munoz last won in the Sanderson Farms Championship in 2018. Gooch says he’s prepared for the pressure of aiming to win his first Tour event in his 104th appearance.
“You’re in the wrong sport if you don’t appreciate pressure,” he remarked. “I’ve been lucky since I was five years old to have a group of friends that, when we’re together, we’re always competing at something, we’re always doing something to put pressure on each other and basically attempt to break one other.” So it’s just what I’ve always done: try to enjoy the pressure while attempting to prove people wrong.”
Gooch anticipates hearing from his five mates in some way or another tonight. What will they talk about? Most likely, their annual golf pals vacation to Scottsdale, Arizona, in the first week of January. That’s the same week as the PGA Tour’s next tournament, which will be held at Kapalua in Maui and is only open to winners.
“I’m hoping we won’t have to make any adjustments,” he remarked. “So that’ll be the topic of discussion.”