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

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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.