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.

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Watch: Daly makes birdie from 18-foot-deep bunker

By Golf Channel DigitalJanuary 19, 2018, 11:14 pm

John Daly on Friday somehow got up and down for birdie from the deepest bunker on the PGA Tour.

The sand to the left of the green on the 16th hole at the Stadium Course at PGA West sits 18 feet below the surface of the green.

That proved no problem for Daly, who cleared the lip three times taller than he is and then rolled in a 26-footer.

He fared just slightly better than former Speaker of the House, Tip O'Neill.

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Koepka (wrist) likely out until the Masters

By Ryan LavnerJanuary 19, 2018, 9:08 pm

Defending U.S. Open champion Brooks Koepka is expected to miss at least the next two months because of a torn tendon in his left wrist.

Koepka, who suffered a partially torn Extensor Carpi Ulnaris (ECU), is hoping to return in time for the Masters.

In a statement released by his management company, Koepka said that doctors are unsure when the injury occurred but that he first felt discomfort at the Hero World Challenge, where he finished last in the 18-man event. Playing through pain, he also finished last at the Tournament of Champions, after which he underwent a second MRI that revealed the tear.

Koepka is expected to miss the next eight to 12 weeks.

“I am frustrated that I will now not be able to play my intended schedule,” Koepka said. “But I am confident in my doctors and in the treatment they have prescribed, and I look forward to teeing it up at the Masters. … I look forward to a quick and successful recovery.”

Prior to the injury, Koepka won the Dunlop Phoenix and cracked the top 10 in the world ranking. 

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Cut Line: Color Rory unafraid of the Ryder Cup

By Rex HoggardJanuary 19, 2018, 7:09 pm

In this week’s edition, Rory McIlroy gets things rolling with some early Ryder Cup banter, Dustin Johnson changes his tune on a possible golf ball roll-back, and the PGA Tour rolls ahead with integrity training.


Made Cut

Paris or bust. Rory McIlroy, who made his 2018 debut this week on the European Tour, can be one of the game’s most affable athletes. He can also be pointed, particularly when discussing the Ryder Cup.

Asked this week in Abu Dhabi about the U.S. team, which won the last Ryder Cup and appears to be rejuvenated by a collection of new players, McIlroy didn’t disappoint.

“If you look at Hazeltine and how they set the course up – big, wide fairways, no rough, pins in the middle of greens – it wasn’t set up for the way the Europeans like to play,” McIlroy said. “I think Paris will be a completely different kettle of fish, so different.”

McIlroy has come by his confidence honestly, having won three of the four Ryder Cups he’s played, so it’s understandable if he doesn't feel like an underdog heaidng to Paris.

“The Americans have obviously been buoyant about their chances, but it’s never as easy as that,” he said. “The Ryder Cup is always close. It always comes down to a few key moments, and it will be no different in Paris. I think we’ll have a great team and it definitely won’t be as easy as they think it’s going to be.”

September can’t get here quick enough.

Mr. Spieth goes to Ponte Vedra Beach. The Tour announced this year’s player advisory council, the 16-member group that works with the circuit’s policy board to govern.

There were no real surprises to the PAC, but news that Jordan Spieth had been selected to run for council chair is interesting. Spieth, who is running against Billy Hurley III and would ascend to the policy board next year if he wins the election, served on the PAC last year and would make a fine addition to the policy board, but it is somewhat out of character for a marquee player.

In recent years, top players like Spieth have largely avoided the distractions that come with the PAC and policy board. Of course, we’ve also learned in recent years that Spieth is not your typical superstar.


Made Cut-Did Not Finish (MDF)

On second thought. In December at the Hero World Challenge, Dustin Johnson was asked about a possible golf ball roll-back, which has become an increasingly popular notion in recent years.

“I don't mind seeing every other professional sport. They play with one ball. All the pros play with the same ball,” he said in the Bahamas. “I think there should be some kind of an advantage for guys who work on hitting it far and getting that speed that's needed, so having a ball, like the same ball that everyone plays, there's going to be, you're going to have more of an advantage.”

The world No. 1 appeared to dial back that take this week in Abu Dhabi, telling BBC Sport, “It's not like we are dominating golf courses. When was the last time you saw someone make the game too easy?”

Maybe it didn’t feel that way, but DJ’s eight-stroke romp two weeks ago at the Sentry Tournament of Champions certainly looked pretty easy.

Long odds. I had a chance to watch the Tour’s 15-minute integrity training video that players have been required view and came away with a mixture of confusion and concern.

The majority of the video, which includes a Q&A element, focuses on how to avoid match fixing. Although the circuit has made it clear there is no indication of current match fixing, it’s obviously something to keep an eye on.

The other element that’s worth pointing out is that although the Tour may be taking the new program seriously, some players are not.

“My agent watched [the training video] for me,” said one Tour pro last week at the Sony Open.


Missed Cut

Groundhog Day. To be fair, no one expected Patton Kizzire and James Hahn to need six playoff holes to decide last week’s Sony Open, but the episode does show why variety is the spice of life.

After finishing 72 holes tied at 17 under, Kizzire and Hahn played the 18th hole again and again and again and again. In total, the duo played the par-5 closing hole at Waialae Country Club five times (including in regulation play) on Sunday.

It’s worth noting that the playoff finally ended with Kizzire’s par at the sixth extra hole, which was the par-3 17th. Waialae’s 18th is a fine golf hole, but in this case familiarity really did breed contempt.

Tweet of the week:

It was a common theme last Saturday on Oahu after an island-wide text alert was issued warning of an inbound ballistic missile and advising citizens to “seek immediate shelter.”

The alert turned out to be a mistake, someone pushed the wrong button during a shift change, but for many, like Peterson, it was a serious lesson in perspective.

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Watch: McIlroy gives Fleetwood a birthday cake

By Golf Channel DigitalJanuary 19, 2018, 2:58 pm

Tommy Fleetwood turned 27 on Friday. He celebrated with some good golf – a 4-under 68 in Abu Dhabi, leaving him only two shots back in his title defense – and a birthday cake, courtesy of Rory Mcllroy.

While giving a post-round interview, Fleetwood was surprised to see McIlroy approaching with a cake in hand.

“I actually baked this before we teed off,” McIlroy joked.

Fleetwood blew out the three candles – “three wishes!” – and offered McIlroy a slice.