Talor Gooch capped both a PGA Tour year as well as a run of unbelievable play for him with a victory Sunday at the RSM Classic over Mackenzie Hughes and Sebastian Munoz.
Gooch shot a 64 on Sunday to finish at 22 under for the week and take home the last trophy of 2021 by three over Hughes and four over Munoz. It bookended the 64 he shot on Thursday and concluded a four-day event in which Gooch ranked in the top 10 in tee-to-green play as well as strokes gained around the green and with the putter.
This is not unusual for him, either. He had four top-15 finishes in his first five events of a season that started back in September and was playing the best golf of his life coming into the week at Sea Island. He was among the top-six players in the world in strokes gained since the beginning of the 2021-22 season (min. 10 rounds played).
The most impressive part about the first win of his career is that, even though he led at the 54-hole mark, he had to take it deep on Sunday in the final to stave off Hughes and Munoz — who combined to shoot 13 under — as well as Tyler McCumber, who shot 60, and a top 10 on the final leaderboard that shot a combined 42 under in Round 4.
"Man, it was a great week," Gooch said. "I played well all week obviously, and today being a crucial day, I had a couple opportunities where things could have taken a turn for the worse and I was able to make some clutch putts."
The fall portion of the PGA Tour season was built for players like Gooch. Good talents in their 20s (Gooch turned 30 last Sunday) who have yet to break through with a victory. That had been the case at times this fall, but also superstar talents Rory McIlroy and Hideki Matsuyama had also won tournaments.
Gooch's victory was emblematic of so many other breakout victory stories we've seen over the years and perhaps foreshadowing of what's to come the rest of this season for him as well as potentially for the rest of his career. At the very least, it's an exclamation point for somebody who can legitimately lay claim to being the PGA Tour's best player this fall with the last official event in the books and the Tournament of Champions just around the corner. Grade: A+
Here are the rest of our grades for the RSM Classic.
Mackenzie Hughes (2nd): Hughes and the next person on our grades, Webb Simpson, are the only players in this field who were better from tee to green than Gooch. Hughes is a past champion at this event and took it as deep as possible Sunday with that 62, but Gooch just kept putting distance between himself and Hughes down the stretch as he made birdie at four of the first six on the back nine.
"I knew it was going to require a low one today and if you told me I would have shot 62 I thought I might be pretty close, but Talor obviously played great this week and deserved to win," Hughes said. "Looking at my own game, I feel like I've been getting better with each week and just trying to get better each week and feel like my game is trending in the right direction and hopefully sooner rather than later we'll get one of those wins." Grade: A
Webb Simpson (T8): Simpson led the field in strokes gained from tee to green, which is incredibly encouraging going into 2022. He also led the field in strokes gained on approach shots and, if he had not been one of the worst putters in the field on Saturday and Sunday, would have truly contended for this trophy. This is just Simpson's second top 10 since the RBC Heritage in April, and the statistical structure of it has to give him a ton of confidence going into a new calendar year. Grade: A
Scottie Scheffler (T57): After two straight top-five finishes, Scheffler came into this week as the favorite and responded with a 63 on Thursday. He faded pretty hard, though, with a 73-75 middle of his event before shooting 68 on Sunday. He played some solid golf at times, especially on Thursday with the 63, but he'll go into 2022 the way he came into this tournament, as possibly the best player on the planet without a win on the PGA Tour. Grade: B-