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One LIV Golf player doesn’t belong at Valhalla. Which one?

Talor Gooch

LOUISVILLE, Ky. — Major championship fields are perennially fertile, at least when it comes to fodder for debate. The Masters is criticized for having too few competitors, and for being oversubscribed with the aged and amateurs. The two Opens get knocked for being, well, too open, as guys with respectable rankings are forced to enter qualifying to earn a berth. The PGA Championship takes its licks for having 20 club professionals among the starters. Since recent debate over field composition has focused on who is absent — some LIV players — the PGA of America has flipped the conversation by inviting a player whose presence is at best dubious.

Eligibility criteria for the PGA Championship include a provision allowing invitations to players not otherwise exempt. Traditionally that category has been used to admit players within the top 100 in the world ranking. This year, however, it is being used as a back door means to indulge the entitlement of LIV’s most vocal gripe.

Since LIV opted not to meet the standards for world ranking points — the most accessible path into majors — its players have taken to routinely denouncing the ranking as unfit for purpose, and have repeatedly suggested that majors are diminished (or even co-conspirators) by not carving out an alternative direct path for them. Sixteen LIV golfers are in the field at Valhalla, and even vehement critics would have to concede that most are justified in being invited.

Most. But not all.

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About half of LIV’s contingent is covered by long-established criteria (recent wins, past glories) rather than by dint of invitation, including Jon Rahm, Brooks Koepka, Cam Smith, Phil Mickelson, Dustin Johnson, Bryson DeChambeau and Martin Kaymer. Tyrrell Hatton is still No. 18 in the world ranking, Adrian Meronk 65th, Lucas Herbert 90th and Patrick Reed 93rd (close enough to the top 100 line that he might want to start plotting a litigation strategy for 2025). Some lesser-knowns are deserving if one brushes the surface of recent performances. Dean Burmester won twice on the DP World Tour late last year, including the South African Open. Joaquin Niemann won the Australian Open. Andy Ogletree and David Puig have notched wins on the Asian Tour.

That’s 15 of 16. Which leaves Talor Gooch as the asterisk.

Talor Gooch

Talor Gooch smiles on the 11th hole during a practice round prior to the 2023 PGA Championship at Oak Hill Country Club on May 15, 2023, in…


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