The Talor Gooch story may just be the most compelling of all stories in a LIV Golf League loaded with major champions and former world No.1 players.

Described by Greg Norman as the best iron player in the past 20 years, the late-blooming Gooch upstaged his more fancied rivals to win three tournaments in 2023 and be crowned LIV Golf’s individual champion.

Since leaving the PGA Tour with a solitary victory, Gooch has now amassed 11 LIV trophies – with three different teams. And therein lies another story.

When the 32-year-old from Oklahoma returns to South Australia this week to defend LIV Golf Adelaide, he will don the royal blue/lily-white of Smash GC rather than the fluorescent pink of Range Goats GC or navy blue of 4Aces GC.

With $US52.4 million in earnings since joining LIV two years ago, it may appear Gooch is a bit of a mercenary – a gun for hire.

Some questioned his character for comments made to Australian Golf Digest when he suggested that if Rory McIlroy completed the career Grand Slam by winning the Masters, it would be tainted – and carry an asterisk – if Augusta National failed to invite all of LIV’s best players.

However, in that same interview with this writer, Gooch sounded less the narcissist and more the visionary when explaining his reasons behind leaving Dustin Johnson’s 4Aces and then Bubba Watson’s Range Goats to join Smash GC captained by five-time major champion Brooks Koepka.

“When I first got to LIV, at the time I didn’t have a set team yet. In the infancy of LIV and week one, DJ (Dustin Johnson) was like, ‘Hey, you need to be on my team.’ And I’m like, DJ asked me to be on his team. I’m going to be on his team.

“And then soon after that, a couple of tournaments later, HV (Harold Varner) came over to LIV and we began discussing being on a team together. And then that came to fruition [at Range Goats].

“And then last year, I played a lot with Brooks [Koepka] and we talked about some long-term vision and about what Smash could look like, and doing this thing together for the next decade… Bubba still has got some juice left in his game. But 10 years from now, I don’t know if he’s still going to be playing. I don’t think he knows if he’s going to be playing. And so I wanted to get with someone long term and be a part of building something.

“Brooks and I had those discussions and those ideas. To have a chance to be with a guy like him day-in and day-out, I know I’m just going to get better. I know I’m going to learn from him and I know that if I can… figure out how to beat him day-in and day-out, I’m going to be a tough dude to beat.”

“Brooks and I are cut from a similar cloth from a competitive perspective. We hate losing and we’re willing to put the work in. We want to win and so, man, it was just a very natural fit.”

Along with fellow Smash GC members Jason Kokrak and Graeme McDowell, Koepka and Gooch intend to grow the team’s brand. They’ve even coined the catchphrase ‘Fight Like Family’ as “a unit fused together by self-belief and total dedication”.

“Here in the States, you look at the other major sports like NFL, NBA and Major League Baseball, and each franchise kind of has its own DNA. You see a team and instantly think of something,” Gooch says.

“When people think of the New York Yankees, they think of championships. When they think of the Dallas Cowboys, they think of Jerry World, Jerry Jones and the biggest sports franchise in the world. When you think of the Oakland Athletics, you think of Moneyball.”

“I know that people are still sceptical about the team aspect of [LIV Golf], but we get to see really how much is going into it and where the future is with it. It’s just exciting and cool to be a part of that, and be able to put your fingerprint on what one of these franchises is going to look like 5-10 years down the road.”

As for returning to Adelaide, Gooch is most looking forward to defending his title at The Grange Golf Club where there is likely to be some friendly banter with Ripper GC’s Cam Smith, Marc Leishman, Matt Jones and Lucas Herbert.

“I joked with Cam and Leish and told them last year, ‘I won your tournament, dude. I took your title.’ With it being the coolest tournament that we have – the biggest tournament we had – it would be really dang cool to go back-to-back.”