It has become increasingly difficult to give LIV Golf the benefit of the doubt as it relates to being taken seriously when so many of its players continue to say completely ridiculous things. The latest culprit is Talor Gooch, who played for the winning Four Aces in this weekend's LIV event in Portland, Oregon, alongside Dustin Johnson, Patrick Reed and Pat Perez.
Shortly after the Aces won the tournament on Saturday evening, Gooch proceeded to compare their 54-hole triumph to one of the great events in all of sports.
"I haven't played a Ryder Cup or Presidents Cup, but I can't imagine there's a whole hell of a lot of difference," Gooch said of his week at Pumpkin Ridge Golf Club. "This was as cool as it gets. We've been saying it all week. The energy is just different, it's awesome."
The looks on the faces of Reed and Johnson as Gooch spoke said a lot.
Still, Reed -- who earlier this week cited the PGA Tour not listening to players as one of the reasons he resigned his membership from that tour -- doubled down later on when he was interviewed following his first LIV Golf event. He is of course one of the great Ryder Cup players of the last 25 years and built much of his reputation on those handful of weeks, but he still chose to prop up what Gooch said.
"It was unreal," Reed said of fan support throughout the week. "I might be moving to Portland sometime soon, so many fans on my side. I'm like, 'This is amazing,'
"You know, it was awesome from start to finish. I mean, just the start of the week ... really the first couple days with having no fans and just seeing how electric and how pumped up all the guys were getting, it felt like I was playing a team event back in Ryder Cups, Presidents Cups and events like that where everyone is just all in.
"I think that's the biggest thing, everyone is all in. It doesn't matter if it's the first day you arrive you're playing nine-hole practice rounds or whether it's the final round of the event. Everyone is cheering for everyone, everyone is playing their heart out trying as hard as they can."
This is, of course, completely ridiculous and other golfers quickly jumped into the conversation. Two-time Ryder Cupper Justin Thomas said of Gooch's comment, "I've seen some funny stuff online, but this is one of the better ones."
Canadian Mackenzie Hughes, who is currently fighting for a spot on the International Team in this year's Presidents Cup, said, "I've had a lot of LOL moments with LIV, but this is undisputed number one."
While the team atmosphere in Portland was surprisingly compelling and more intense than anticipated, to compare it to a Ryder Cup -- which is easily the most outrageous atmosphere in the entire sport -- is absurd. While LIV Golf (who knows!) might someday reach the level of emotion and excitement a Ryder Cup engenders, it is not there yet and it is not even remotely close. To say so after six rounds of golf is -- under the most generous interpretation of what was conveyed -- just plain silly.
It's also an affront to players who have poured themselves into those events, who have emptied all the vulnerability their hearts can contain into the Ryder Cup, not because they were being paid anything at all but because it meant something. LIV Golf isn't like the Ryder Cup in any way other than that it is an antonym of the Ryder Cup.
I also thought of Ian Poulter, who coincidentally, has played in each of the first two LIV events and may never play in a Ryder Cup again because of it. He was interviewed recently for Shane Ryan's excellent book, "The Cup They Couldn't Lose," and his words about what the future of the Ryder Cup looks like for Europe were how the book ended.
I had my doubts about the younger players, that they could ever live up to the stature of living legends like him and Sergio Garcia and others, or that they could translate the passion of decades of European heroes in quite the same way. He did not share my doubts.
"It's very easy to explain," [Poulter] said. "When you put a shirt on, you have the responsibility of every player who has ever worn that shirt. That's how you need to treat it, and that's the level of passion that you need to go play with. And if you don't feel that sense of passion, then you should not tee it up."
I agreed with him, but it didn't seem like he was answering the question about the new Europeans. I pressed the issue. "Do you think it matters to the younger generation as much as it does to you?" I asked.
The famous light came into his eyes. "Don't you worry about that. I'll make it my fu----- job to let them know." If you had heard him--if you had seen him-- you'd have believed it too.
The week in Portland ended the way it began, with an embarrassing discount of some truly historic achievements by the best players of this generation. Brooks Koepka, one of the great champions of the last three decades, seemed ashamed that his pride had a price in an early-week presser and that he perhaps doesn't care as much about winning major championships as he once claimed he did.
Reed, whose entire career has revolved around incredible moments at team events, then had to stand by somebody who's never even contended in one and nod along like what happened in Portland was the same thing as what happened at Hazeltine. This is the cost of doing business, it seems, which both makes it difficult to take any of it seriously and is surely higher than what some of these stars thought they were going to have to pay.