ST. SIMONS ISLAND, Ga. (AP) — Talor Gooch was playing too well to get fazed by anything Sunday in the RSM Classic, and it paid off with his first PGA Tour title when he closed with a 6-under 64 for a three-shot victory at Sea Island.
He was playing with two guys who have won before. He was pushed early by a past Sea Island champion. The buzz in the middle of the round was another player flirting with 59.
Gooch ran off three birdies in four holes to start the back nine and never let anyone get close to cap off a strong fall with the ultimate prize. The victory moved him to the top of the FedEx Cup standings, to No. 33 in the world ranking and to Augusta National in April for the Masters.
“To finish the fall season off like I just did, it’s a dream come true,” Gooch said.
Gooch tied the tournament record of 22-under 260 set by Kevin Kisner in 2014. He became the seventh player in the 12-year history of the event to make the RSM Classic his first victory.
Mackenzie Hughes of Canada, who won the tournament in 2016, rallied from the group ahead of Gooch with four birdies among his last six holes, capped by a 20-foot putt at No. 18 for a 62 to finish second at 19-under 263.
Sebastian Munoz (65) was alone in third and Tyler McCumber (60), Cameron Smith (64), Tom Hoge (67) and Seamus Power (68) tied for fourth.
Along with the Masters, Gooch gets to start next year on Maui for the Sentry Tournament of Champions at Kapalua.
“This gets me into some tournaments I wasn’t into,” he said. “But I want to get to the Tour Championship and this puts me a little bit ahead of the ballgame for that journey. The goal is to win the Tour Championship.”
Gooch began the day with a three-shot lead over playing partners Munoz and Power and delivered a sound message when he drilled two iron shots to set up birdie putts of 5 and 9 feet at Nos. 2 and 4.
He missed only two fairways and two greens and after McCumber shot 60 to finish at 15 under, three shots back, Gooch’s response was to floor it. He birdied four of his first six holes on the back and led Hughes and Munoz by as many as five shots.
“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,” Hughes said. “But Talor obviously played great this week and deserved to win.”
Gooch said he stayed abreast of what was going on around on a sunny, calmer day than the previous two rounds.
“I’m always aware … I keep an eye on things,” he said. “But it doesn’t change what you’re doing. knew I had 20 (under) in my mind. Get to that and it will make the rest of field have to do something good. But you almost put limitations on yourself when you think about scoreboards and scores.”
McCumber, who had to birdie two of his last three holes on Friday to make his second cut in six fall starts, started his round on the back nine, made two birdies and a 50-foot eagle putt at No. 15, then turned and birdied five holes in a row, all on putts of 10 feet or less.
His chance for 59 came down to a much longer putt than he wanted — just under 55 feet — after having a wedge in his hand from 144 yards out at the par-4 ninth.
He didn’t leave it short. The putt slid past the hole on the left side and he tapped in for the second 60 of the week at the Seaside Course (Munoz did it in the first round), which ties the course record set by Tommy Gainey when he won in 2012.
“I had a 52-degree wedge and a little bit of a hanging lie and I was playing for about 4 or 5 yards of adrenaline to about 3 or 4 yards short of the pin, just in case you get a little help or a little gust,” McCumber said. “I figured an 8-to-10-footer right below it would be perfect, pretty makeable. I caught it a degree low and came up just a hair short and had a little longer putt than I wanted for 59.”
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