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Gooch riding hot streak

PHOTOGRAPH courtesy of LIVGOLF | TALOR Gooch is on top of the LIV Golf League.

SENTOSA ISLAND, Singapore — Ten minutes prior to teeing off before each round, Talor Gooch calls his dad Ron, a former minor league baseball player.

It’s a ritual they started soon after Gooch turned pro in 2014 as a practical alternative for the face-to-face chats they held when Ron attended his son’s junior and amateur events.

That explains why Gooch could be found a few yards in front of the tee box on hole No. 1 before each day of competition at last week’s LIV Golf Singapore presented by Sentosa World Resorts. Cell phone in hand, he just wants to hear his dad’s voice and words of encouragement.

Sunday’s message, like most rounds, was a simple and familiar one.

Go have some fun. Hit a bunch of fairways.

“It’s kind of boring, honestly,” Gooch said.

“But it’s cool and we enjoy it.”

‘It’s kind of boring, honestly.’

Whatever Ron Gooch says obviously is working. Talor is indeed enjoying life at the top of the LIV Golf League, having become the first player to win in back-to-back starts. His win at LIV Golf Adelaide followed by his victory at Sentosa Golf Club — in a playoff over Sergio Garcia — moved the 31-year-old star of RangeGoats GC to the top of the points standings through the first five of the 13 regular-season tournaments that will decide the 2023 Individual Champion.

Gooch has led or shared the lead after nine of the 36 regular-season rounds played in LIV Golf’s history, going back to last year’s inaugural Invitational Series. That includes the most recent six rounds played in Australia and Singapore.

He also led his RangeGoats GC to its first team title after joining the team in the offseason.

It’s exactly what his new captain Bubba Watson expected. He’s not surprised by Gooch’s dominating play, and he doesn’t think anybody else should be, either.

“This is nothing new,” Watson said.

“We all believed that he could do this. We knew he could do this. And this is just the start of it, right? When you get a taste of it, you want more of it.”

“Anyone in professional golf knows how good he is.”

Last year in the inaugural LIV Golf Invitational Series, Gooch started out as captain for Torque GC, and then transferred to 4Aces GC prior to the second event in Portland when Dustin Johnson overhauled his team’s roster, also adding Patrick Reed and Pat Perez. That foursome immediately won four regular-season team titles, as well as the season-ending Miami Team Championship.

Gooch was a key member and finished the season ranking 11th in individual points. But he was decidedly third on the hierarchy list behind Johnson (the Individual Champion winner) and Reed (who finished fourth individually).

In the offseason, Gooch transferred to the rebranded RangeGoats because he wanted to play with his good friend Harold Varner III. Johnson filled the vacancy with Peter Uihlein, third in individual points last year.

Johnson then jokingly told Gooch that he hoped he enjoyed the Miami celebration because it was the last time he’d be at the top of a team podium. When the 4Aces rallied in the final round at LIV Golf Adelaide to win the team title by one stroke over the RangeGoats, Johnson said of Gooch, “I’m glad we snipped him for sure, just to give it to him a little bit more.”

Seven days later and a few minutes after spraying Watson, Varner and Thomas Pieters with champagne for winning the team title in Singapore, Gooch was reminded of the conversation.

“Where’s DJ right now?” Gooch responded with a smile.

With the sweep of both trophies, Gooch now has celebrated eight different titles in the first 13 LIV Golf events — two individual tournament wins and six team titles. Only one other LIV Golf League member can match that claim — Johnson, who has one individual tournament win, one season-long individual title and six team titles.

While Johnson remains in search of the form that was so dominant last season, Gooch is clearly the No. 1 player for RangeGoats, just as Uihlein has been the top performer for the 4Aces. The two currently are 1-2 in the Individual Champion race through five events, with Gooch overtaking Uihlein at the top with the second win. The offseason transfers have worked for both teams — especially the RangeGoats, who had never reached the podium until the last two weeks.

“It might be called the RangeGoats, but it’s Talor Gooch and the rest,” Varner said. “I’m in.”

The hot streak comes at the most appropriate of times, as Gooch’s next appearance will be his “hometown major” at LIV Golf Tulsa is his home state of Oklahoma next week. In addition to competing, Gooch has several key activities planned for his charitable organization, including a Monday pro-am.

“It’s something that’s going to get us going, get us where we want to go and help provide opportunities for other people,” Gooch said.

That will be followed by an official major, the PGA Championship, which offered Gooch an invite last Friday before the opening round at The Serapong course.

Gooch realizes heaters can disappear at any moment, but he’d sure like to extend his at least two more starts.

“You just try to bottle it up and make it last as long as possible,” Gooch said, “I know that I’m not going to continue playing this level of golf forever. So you just enjoy it while it comes and try to make it last as long as you can. And when it goes away you try to get back on the train as quickly as possible.”

Gooch traveled halfway around the world to find the high-speed train he’s currently riding. Now he’s bringing it back home, to Oklahoma. A large gathering of his family and friends will be in attendance. Perhaps those pre-round conversations with dad can just be handled like the old days. Face to face.

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