Punch Shot: Who will be 2014's breakthrough player?

By Randall Mell, Rex Hoggard, Will GrayJanuary 4, 2014, 4:15 pm

Last year, Jordan Spieth went from no status to playing in the Presidents Cup. Who will be the breakout player in 2014? GolfChannel.com writers make their picks.

BY RANDALL MELL

Watch out for Peter Uihlein in 2014.

The former U.S. Amateur champ is making his mark in Europe, where last year he became the first American to be named European Tour Rookie of the Year in the 53-year history of the award. He broke through to win his first European Tour title last year and is steadily climbing the Official World Ranking to the point that he’ll soon become eligible for majors and World Golf Championship events that will put him in the American spotlight.

He’s No. 63 in the world rankings this week. The fact that he would commit himself to the rigors of Europe's Challenge Tour before making the European Tour tells you all you need to know about his commitment. Talent? Uihlein's peers praise his potential.

Uihlein’s highly motivated to crack the top 50 in the world rankings and get into all the WGCs and the majors. He’s already on the door step to that breakthrough.


BY REX HOGGARD

By comparison to 2013, picking a “breakthrough” player for this season is not a fair fight.

Not after Jordan Spieth blazed a trail from unemployment to undeniable stardom in one calendar.

But if the stars continue to align for John Peterson he may have the capabilities and the confidence to be 2014’s breakthrough player.

Peterson dominated the Web.com Tour Finals last season with top-5 finishes in each of the four events to win the new qualifying system and was as consistent as anyone during the regular season, making the cut in 16 of 18 starts and posting 13 top-25 finishes.

The 24-year-old also has some valuable experience in the Big Leagues. He’s played 18 events on the PGA Tour, including a tie for fourth at the 2012 U.S. Open.

Peterson is plenty long enough, ranking 46th in driving distance on the Web.com Tour, was 29th in greens in regulation, and was savvy enough to hire David Toms’ veteran caddie, Scott Gneiser, for his first trip to the Tour.

But perhaps Peterson’s best asset is his unwavering confidence in his own abilities and his place among the game’s best. In fact, he almost reminds one of Spieth. Almost.


BY WILL GRAY

An argument could be made that Graham DeLaet just experienced a breakthrough year, but I think the best is yet to come for the Canadian.

DeLaet demonstrated remarkable consistency in 2013, notching 12 top-25 finishes in 26 PGA Tour starts last season – a run that resulted in a spot on the International Presidents Cup team in October. Now 36th in the world, he’s coming off a season in which he led the Tour in both total driving and ball-striking.

Among the best players still in search of a maiden victory, I expect DeLaet to pick up his first win in short order in 2014. The 31-year-old is also set to make a footprint on golf’s major stages. He's exempt into each of the four majors and poised to make his first career start at both The Masters and U.S. Open.

DeLaet’s surge up the rankings in 2013 was a remarkable one, but it’s just the beginning.

Getty Images

Suspended Hensby offers details on missed drug test

By Will GrayDecember 12, 2017, 11:30 pm

One day after receiving a one-year suspension from the PGA Tour for failing to provide a sample for a drug test, Mark Hensby offered details on the events that led to his missed test in October.

Hensby, 46, released a statement explaining that the test in question came after the opening round of the Sanderson Farms Championship, where the Aussie opened with a 78. Frustrated about his play, Hensby said he was prepared to give a blood sample but was then informed that the test would be urine, not blood.

"I had just urinated on the eighth hole, my 17th hole that day, and knew that I was probably unable to complete the urine test for at least a couple more hours," Hensby said. "I told this gentleman that I would complete the test in the morning prior to my early morning tee time. Another gentleman nearby told me that 'they have no authority to require me to stay.' Thus, I left."

Hensby explained that he subsequently received multiple calls and texts from PGA Tour officials inquiring as to why he left without providing a sample and requesting that he return to the course.

"I showed poor judgment in not responding," said Hensby, who was subsequently disqualified from the tournament.

Hensby won the 2004 John Deere Classic, but he has missed six cuts in seven PGA Tour starts over the last two years. He will not be eligible to return to the Tour until Oct. 26, 2018.

"Again, I made a terrible decision to not stay around that evening to take the urine test," Hensby said. "Obviously in hindsight I should have been more patient, more rational and taken the test. Call me stupid, but don't call me a cheater. I love the game. I love the integrity that it represents, and I would never compromise the values and qualities that the game deserves."

Getty Images

Day's wife shares emotional story of miscarriage

By Golf Channel DigitalDecember 12, 2017, 4:12 pm

Jason Day’s wife revealed on social media that the couple had a miscarriage last month.

Ellie Day, who announced her pregnancy on Nov. 4, posted an emotional note on Instagram that she lost the baby on Thanksgiving.

“I found out the baby had no heartbeat anymore. I was devastated,” she wrote. “I snuck out the back door of my doctor, a hot, sobbing, mascara-covered mess. Two and a half weeks went by witih me battling my heart and brain about what was happening in my body, wondering why this wouldn’t just be over.”

The Days, who have two children, Dash and Lucy, decided to go public to help others who have suffered similar heartbreak.

“I hope you know you aren’t alone and I hope you feel God wrap his arms around you when you feel the depths of sorrow and loss,” she wrote.  

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