Newsmaker of the Year: No. 10, Jon Rahm

By Golf Channel DigitalDecember 5, 2017, 1:15 pm

At the 2016 NCAA Championship, while watching his star stripe shots on the range, then-Arizona State coach Tim Mickelson was asked about a PGA Tour player comparison for Jon Rahm.

“He reminds me a lot of Phil,” Mickelson said of his Hall of Fame brother, “only a much better driver.”

High praise, but if Rahm felt any pressure to live up to those lofty expectations, he didn’t show it in 2017.

In his first full season as a pro, the young Spaniard won three times around the globe – in California, Ireland and Dubai – and surged inside the top 5 of the Official World Golf Ranking. It seems like only a matter of when, not if, he’ll reach the top spot.

Already Rahm is one of the game’s most complete players, ranking third on Tour in strokes gained-tee to green while displaying a Seve-like imagination around the greens. Clearly, all of the physical tools for a long, fruitful career are there, but in 2017 he also showed room for growth. He was embroiled in two rules controversies and was sharply criticized for his temper tantrums at Erin Hills, where he tomahawked clubs and punched a tee sign. He was the first to acknowledge that he needed to find a better outlet for his anger, so he leaned on a mental coach – a former bomb-disposal expert – and won twice to close out the year.    

Next year will pose new challenges.

No longer can Rahm lean on Tim Mickelson, who followed his star from Arizona State to the pros to become his manager. (Mickelson will now be on the bag full time for his brother.) As a top-5 player, Rahm will be expected to contend not just in regular Tour events but also in majors. And he’ll be called upon, at the ripe age of 23, to lead the European Ryder Cup team.

No pressure, kid.

Here's a look back at some of the most notable moments of our No. 10 Newsmaker of the Year:

THE RISE OF RAHM

PGA Tour No. 1 at the Farmers Insurance Open

Article: Rahm fires 65 for first Tour win

Video: Winning Rahm says, 'I've got what it takes'

Article: Rahm's rise no surprise to Mickelson brothers


Wins first European Tour event at Irish Open

Article: Rahm cruises to six-shot win at Irish Open

Video: Highlights from Rahm's dominant win


Wins European Tour Rookie of the Year


Wins European Tour season finale in Dubai

Article: Rahm closes amazing campaign with DP World Tour title


TEMPER AND CONTROVERSY

Firey crash at the U.S. Open

Article: Rahm admits he needs to work on anger management

Video: Fiery Rahm battles emotions in MC at the U.S. Open


Rules controversy in Irish Open win


Rules rear ugly head again at The Open

Article: Rahm skirts another rules infraction at Royal Birkdale


RAHM OFF THE COURSE

Photo gallery: Rahm and girlfriend Kelley Cahill

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.