Talor Gooch once compared LIV Golf to a Ryder Cup atmosphere, despite never playing in a Ryder Cup. He also took credit for changes implemented to the PGA Tour because … well, we’re not really sure why. We say that to say this: Take the following Gooch remarks with a grain, nay, a boulder of salt.

Augusta National recently awarded three special invitations to this year’s tournament, with one of those invites going to Joaquin Niemann. In a press release, Niemann’s win at the Australian Open and top-five finishes at DP World Tour events was listed among his recent accomplishments. Left out, however, was Niemann’s performance at LIV Golf, and no other members from the LIV Golf circuit received special invites. Which is not that surprising, given the questions that remain about the competitive nature of LIV Golf, to say nothing of the fact that Augusta National was named in the antitrust lawsuit filed by 11 LIV golfers in August 2022.

As LIV Golf continues to fall short of Official World Golf Ranking accreditation, many of its players without major titles on their resumes are watching their major championship avenues close. That includes Gooch, who entered the week No. 449 in the OWGR. In an interview with Australian Golf Digest, Gooch, who won three times on the LIV circuit in 2023 and finished first in the circuit’s year-long points race, said he was disappointed he’s not in the 2024 Masters field, although said he wasn’t surprised to be omitted. “I think the majors have kind of shown that they’re not getting on board with LIV,” Gooch said. “‘Jaco’ went outside of LIV and played some great golf, and they rewarded him for that. So hopefully the day will turn when the majors decide to start rewarding good play on LIV. Hopefully, that’ll be sooner than later.”

In itself, a relatively innocuous comment … except Gooch’s remarks on the subject did not end there.

“If Rory McIlroy goes and completes his [career] grand slam without some of the best players in the world [competing], there’s just going to be an asterisk,” Gooch said. “It’s just the reality. I think everybody wins whenever the majors figure out a way to get the best players in the world there.”

Now, the current viability of the OWGR during golf’s civil war is very much a relevant question. In that same breath, the idea that a future Masters win would be tainted because Talor Gooch—he of three LIV wins, one career PGA Tour victory and zero top-10 major finishes—was not in the field seems like a stretch. As No Laying Up pointed out on Twitter/X, only six players in DataGolf’s Top 50 rankings are currently without Masters invites: Ben An (although An will likely get in through the OWGR), Beau Hossler, Gooch, Christian Bezuidenhout, Rasmus Hojgaard and Stephen Jaeger. While solid players, it seems unlikely history will mark the 2024 Masters with an asterisk due to their absence. DataGolf also had some fun at Gooch’s expense:

It’s worth noting that Gooch can attempt to qualify for the U.S. Open and Open Championship, although he passed on entering qualifying in last year’s U.S. Open after not receiving a special exemption into the national championship. As for Gooch’s future Masters prospects, Niemann proved that LIV golfers are welcome at Augusta National. It’s just that invites are not given, but earned.

Main image: Fayez Nureldine