Golfers with Oklahoma ties eye big start as LIV Tulsa kicks off


Peter Uihlein of 4Aces GC, Talor Gooch of RangeGoats GC and Charles Howell III of Crushers GC speak at a press conference during the practice round ahead of LIV Golf Tulsa at the Cedar Ridge Country Club on Wednesday. (LIV photo/Charles Laberge)

By John Dobberstein, Editor

Press conferences, photos and practice rounds were the biggest highlights Wednesday as the LIV Golf Tour launched at Cedar Ridge County Club.

While controversy surrounding LIV Golf and its donnybrook with the PGA Tour has been at a frenzy level much of this year, the atmosphere at the Broken Arrow course was mostly business as usual.

The media center was busy with the typical interviews and banter from a host of local, statewide and national media here. The merchandise store and VIP areas were being prepped for the pro event to start on Friday, and outside, golf pros were quietly working on their shots as they prepared to go after the tour’s team and individual championships.

This week’s event features a bevy of golfers with Oklahoma roots, including red-hot Talor Gooch, Charles Howell III, Eugenio Chacarra and Peter Uihlein – who all played at Oklahoma State University – and Abraham Ancer of the University of Oklahoma.

Oklahoma’s ties to tour

Howell played a major role in bringing the LIV Tour to Broken Arrow. He and Gooch had a conversation back in October during an event in Bangkok about bringing the tour to Oklahoma. Leaning on Gooch’s knowledge of the state and the courses here, they started the conversation with LIV and approach a few clubs in the state. Ideally they wanted to be in the Oklahoma City of Tulsa metro areas.

“I think what it boils down to is Oklahomans are massive sports fans, and on top of that they're massive golf fans. The years that we’ve played the PGA Championship at Southern Hills, we've had massive galleries,” Howell said Wednesday during a press conference at Cedar Ridge.

“We’ve also had senior events at Oak Tree with massive galleries. I knew it would work well. I know they like their golf, and I know we have six players on LIV that played college golf here. One-eighth of the entire tour has a tie here. You couldn't write a better script with Talor winning the previous two events coming back into his home state.”

“It’s all worked out really well for us. I hope everybody has a wonderful week here. I think the fan support will be good, and hopefully we can come back.”

The weather was great for the LIV Tour event preparations Wednesday at Cedar Ridge Country Club in Broken Arrow. But thunderstorms and wind are predicated for much of this weekend and upcoming weekend. (BAS photo/John Dobberstein)

‘Rule of 67s’

Gooch says he is doing his best to deal with the pressure of going for a three-peat of wins in his home state and dealing with the distraction of having his eligibility to play in the U.S. Open affected by a recent U.S. Golf Association rule change. The change was widely criticized by many LIV Tour players, including Phil Mickelson.

Gooch says he’s just rolling with it and focusing on playing wining golf.

“It’s pretty easy to get locked in. If this game was easier, I might be able to be distracted and not worry about the golf, but golf is hard enough,” Gooch says. “At the end of the day, there's nothing given to you, so you know you've got to put the work in. You know when it comes game time, there's nothing -- you're not just going to make birdies by showing up.

“I'm grateful for all of the external stuff going on because that means there's a bunch of good things that are happening. I will sleep pretty good each night this week after the last few days with everything going on, but it's a blessing and an opportunity to have an event here in Oklahoma as often as we can, and so I want to make sure that we're doing everything we can to make it a great week, not only for the players or the fans, the media, everyone in between.”

“I've said it a few times now. I call it the rule of 67. You focus on shooting 67s, everything will take care of itself.”

Crosswinds may rule

The forecast for Tulsa this week does not look promising, with thunderstorms and wind predicted much of the time. The players didn’t seem daunted by it.

“At Karsten Creek my freshman year, the national championship was there, and this guy hits as good of a stinger as anyone,” Gooch says. “Coach McGraw and Coach Bratton went to a few of the tee boxes where there was some native grass around and kind of trimmed it a little bit lower in the front so that neither of ours, but especially his, would not clip the grass. I think the three of us know how to play in this wind pretty good.”

“I prefer playing in the wind when you’ve got to work the ball,” Uihlein added. “I don't like it when it’s calm and it’s like a shootout. Hopefully the rain doesn’t hit us. Who knows what's going to happen. But I remember tornadoes at this time.”

Gooch has played Cedar Ridge before in the U.S. Amateur, but Powell has not played here in competition. Uihlein offered his thoughts on the course.

Alternate, Laurie Canter of the Majesticks GC hits his shot during the practice round ahead of LIV Golf Tulsa at the Cedar Ridge Country Club on Wednesday. (Photo by Nick Laham/LIV Golf)

“They switched the nines, right? We're playing it as the 12th hole, but I remember that hole early on. I just remember it being a quirky hole. Still is,” he says. “You have to hit a 4- or 5-iron off the tee. They added some flagpoles, I think, to not let us try and drive the green. Still tried it yesterday but it didn’t work.

“I remember it being in good shape. I remember it being tough. Every time I come back to Oklahoma I forget all the elevation. There's a decent amount of elevation here always. It should be a good test.”

“When I played the U.S. Amateur here, I think I was like 16 or 17 years old, and I just remember thinking, ‘I need to get better because these golf courses are hard,’ Gooch recalls. “I vividly remember shooting 77 at Southern Hills the first round, and then I think I shot like 67 or 68 here, and I think I hit like five or six greens. It was like the epitome of the 16-year-old that just makes everything he looks at. I'll see if I can try to channel some of that 16-year-old me again.”

Howell says he played at Cedar Ridge quite a few times with Bo Van Pelt, who he played with for one year with. “The golf course is really good. A lot of crosswinds. Obviously the defense is the wind, but it will blow. You don't really get a lot of holes straight down or straight into. You get some quirkiness. It's got a couple of good par threes on it. Throw in a couple of the par fives and par fours as well. It’s a touch test, but I'd say the crosswinds are the biggest part of it.”

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