Who's the next young star to emerge on Tour?

By Doug FergusonJanuary 8, 2014, 11:09 pm

HONOLULU – John Peterson was in the 11th grade and thought no one his age could beat him. That changed when he was at a junior event in Texas, where he heard so much chatter about an eighth-grader from Dallas that he went out to watch him.

That was his introduction to Jordan Spieth, now one of his good friends.

''I heard he was good,'' Peterson said at the Sony Open, his first tournament of the year. ''I wanted to see what everyone was talking about. I'm a junior in high school, thinking no one could beat me, and here's this eighth-grader killing everybody, already as tall as me. We battled in junior golf. I got him in a playoff at the Jones Cup, and he's been beating me ever since.''

Spieth inspires him in a different way on the PGA Tour – just like Spieth was inspired by Sony Open defending champion Russell Henley.

Every year brings a new crop of rookies. Each year, the intimidation factor of playing alongside the best in the game deteriorates. To look at the latest group of newcomers gathered at Waialae for the first full-field PGA Tour of 2014 begs one question.

Who's next?

''It really helps when you see your peers compete – and win,'' Spieth said Wednesday. ''I watched Russell Henley last year. I was on the Walker Cup team with him, and he wins the first event of the year. When you see that, it gives you a mental edge. You're starting to see young guys on the leaderboard all the time, and these are guys who competed against for years.''

Spieth was among four rookies who won on the PGA Tour last year, joining Henley, Derek Ernst and Patrick Reed. It was one of the strongest rookie classes in years.

''I wouldn't be surprised if it happened again,'' Spieth said.

Peterson is a 24-year-old NCAA champion from LSU who has never been afraid to say what he thinks. He was still an amateur when he lost to fellow amateur Harris English – now a two-time winner on the PGA Tour – on the final hole of a Nationwide Tour event. He told Golf World magazine that day, ''I knew I could beat all those guys,'' and that the top 20 or 30 college players could hang with the top 20 or 30 on the PGA Tour with a few exceptions.

It's that fine line of confident and cocky, which Peterson is known to cross on occasion, that adds to the increasing depth and makes it harder on everyone to win.

''Jordan, Peter Uihlein, Harris English, Russell Henley ... all those guys we've played with the last six years, they're all doing big things,'' Peterson said. ''Peter is playing himself into the World Golf Championships. He's killing it. Guys are really starting to believe they can play with guys who have been here for 15 years. Twenty years ago, guys coming off the Nationwide or whatever the Web.com was called, they probably didn't believe they could beat these guys straight out.

''Now you're seeing it happen every year.''

Peterson was with Spieth in Colombia early last year when Spieth was at a crossroads. With no status anywhere, Spieth was about $4,000 short of full status on the Web.com Tour. He honored a commitment to play a PGA Tour event in Puerto Rico instead of going to Chile to wrap up his card.

''I was like, 'Dude, you've got to Chile,''' Peterson said. ''He went to Puerto Rico and proved everyone wrong again. He could have been out there with us all year. Instead, he went to Puerto Rico ... and wound up in the Presidents Cup.''

Peterson laughed at his bad advice. Their banter remains, and it's refreshing.

Spieth gives him a hard time for a full beard – Peterson spent the last two months with his hands on a rifle instead on a 6-iron, killing a turkey, two bobcats, a seven-point and 10-point buck, two does, two hogs and two raccoons on family property outside Abilene, Texas.

Peterson questioned whether Spieth could even grow peach fuzz.

''I'm just looking forward to calling him 'rookie' all year,'' said Spieth, who is three years younger and $3 million richer.

Peterson won the Web.com Finals last year by finishing among the top five in all four tournaments. That gives a high priority the entire season, along with a spot in The Players Championship. He already has made the cut in three majors, including a tie for fourth at Olympic Club in the U.S. Open.

He played three times when the wraparound season began in October, making one cut. The full year starts Thursday in the Sony Open. For Peterson and all the other newcomers, they only have to look at what happened last year. Henley and Scott Langley went toe-to-toe playing in the last group, both of them rookies.

Newsmaker of the Year: No. 5, Sergio Garcia

By Golf Channel DigitalDecember 12, 2017, 1:00 pm

This was the year it finally happened for Sergio Garcia.

The one-time teen phenom, known for years as “El Nino,” entered the Masters as he had dozens of majors beforehand – shouldered with the burden of being the best player without a major.

Garcia was 0-for-72 driving down Magnolia Lane in April, but after a thrilling final round and sudden-death victory over Justin Rose, the Spaniard at long last captured his elusive first major title.

The expectation for years was that Garcia might land his white whale on a British links course, or perhaps at a U.S. Open where his elite ball-striking might shine. Instead it was on the storied back nine at Augusta National that he came alive, chasing down Rose thanks in part to a memorable approach on No. 15 that hit the pin and led to an eagle.


Full list of 2017 Newsmakers of the Year


A green jacket was only the start of a transformative year for Garcia, 37, who heaped credit for his win on his then-fiancee, Angela Akins. The two were married in July, and months later the couple announced that they were expecting their first child to arrive just ahead of Garcia’s return to Augusta, where he'll host his first champions’ dinner.

And while players often cling to the notion that a major win won’t intrinsically change them, there was a noticeable difference in Garcia over the summer months. The weight of expectation, conscious or otherwise, seemed to lift almost instantly. Like other recent Masters champs, he took the green jacket on a worldwide tour, with stops at Wimbledon and a soccer match between Real Madrid and Barcelona.

The player who burst onto the scene as a baby-faced upstart is now a grizzled veteran with nearly two decades of pro golf behind him. While the changes this year occurred both on and off the course, 2017 will always be remembered as the year when Garcia finally, improbably, earned the title of major champion.


Masters victory


Article: Garcia defeats Rose to win Masters playoff

Article: Finally at peace: Garcia makes major breakthrough

Article: Garcia redeems career, creates new narrative


Video: See the putt that made Sergio a major champ


Green jacket tour

Article: Take a look at Sergio's crazy, hectic media tour

Article: Garcia with fiancée, green jacket at Wimbledon

Article: Watch: Garcia kicks off El Clasico in green jacket


Man of the people


Article: SERGIO! Garcia finally gets patrons on his side

Article: Fan finally caddies for Sergio after asking 206 times

Article: Sergio donates money for Texas flood relief


Article: Connelly, Garcia paired years after photo together


Ace at 17th at Sawgrass


Growing family

Article: Sergio, Angela get married; Kenny G plays reception

Article: Garcia, wife expecting first child in March 2018


Departure from TaylorMade


Article: Masters champ Garcia splits with TaylorMade


Squashed beef with Paddy

Article: Harrington: Garcia was a 'sore loser'

Article: Sergio, Padraig had 'great talk,' are 'fine'


Victory at Valderrama


Article: Garcia gets first win since Masters at Valderrama

Getty Images

Newsmakers of the Year: Top 10 in 2017

By Golf Channel DigitalDecember 12, 2017, 12:30 pm
Getty Images

Montana parents can't watch kids play high school golf

By Grill Room TeamDecember 11, 2017, 9:47 pm

Well, this is a one new one.

According to a report from KTVQ in Montana, this line in the Montana State High School Association rule book all but forbids spectators from observing high school golf in that state:

“No spectators/fans are allowed on the course except for certain locations as designated by the tournament manager and club professional.”

Part of the issue, according to the report, is that most courses don't bother to designate those "certain locations" leaving parents unable to watch their kids compete.

“If you tell a parent that they can’t watch their kid play in the Thanksgiving Day football game, they would riot,” Chris Kelley, a high school golf parent, told KTVQ.

The report lists illegal outside coaching as one of the rule's chief motivations, but Montana State women's golf coach Brittany Basye doesn't quite buy that.

“I can go to a softball game and I can sit right behind the pitcher. I can make hand signals,” she is quoted in the report. “I can yell out names. I can do the same thing on a softball field that might affect that kid. Football games we can yell as loud as we want when someone is making a pass or a catch.”

The MHSA has argued that unlike other sports that are played in a confined area, the sprawling nature of a golf course would make it difficult to hire enough marshals to keep unruly spectators in check.

Meanwhile, there's a lawyer quoted in the report claiming this is some kind of civil rights issue.

Worth note, Montana is one of only two states that doesn't allow spectators on the course. The other state, Alaska, does not offer high school golf.

PGA Tour suspends Hensby for anti-doping violation

By Golf Channel DigitalDecember 11, 2017, 8:02 pm

Mark Hensby has been suspended for one year by the PGA Tour for violating the Tour’s anti-doping policy by failing to provide a sample after notification.

The Tour made the announcement Monday, reporting that Hensby will be eligible to return on Oct. 26, 2018.

The statement reads:

The PGA Tour announced today that Mark Hensby has violated the Tour Anti-Doping Policy for failing to provide a drug testing sample after notification and has been suspended for a period of one year. He will be eligible to return on Oct. 26, 2018.

Hensby, 46, won the John Deere Classic in 2004. He played the Web.com Tour this past year, playing just 14 events. He finished 142nd on the money list. He once ranked among the top 30 in the Official World Golf Ranking but ranks No. 1,623 today.

The Sunshine Tour recently suspended player Etienne Bond for one year for failing a drug test. Players previously suspended by the PGA Tour for violating the anti-doping policy include Scott Stallings and Doug Barron.

The PGA Tour implemented revisions to its anti-doping program with the start of the 2017-18 season. The revisions include blood testing and the supplementation of the Tour’s prohibited list to include all of the substances and methods on the World Anti-Doping Agency prohibited list. As part of this season’s revisions, the Tour announced it would also begin reporting suspensions due to recreational drug use.

The Tour said it would not issue further comment on Hensby's suspension.