Inside the Ropes by Tom LaMarre
Inside the Ropes Graham DeLaet. By far, the most surprising player to this point in the PGA Tour playoffs in Graham DeLaet. For all but the most diehard fans, the Canadian is a real “Who’s He?” The 31-year-old DeLaet, who grew up on the Sascatchewan plain in the small town of Weyburn, tied for second with Tiger Woods in the Baclays and finished solo third last week in the Deutsche Bank Championship after shooting 9-under-par 62 in the third round. After the one-week break in the middle of the playoffs, he will start the BMW Championship at seventh in the FedEx Cup Championship and might have a chance to win the whole thing a week later in the Tour Championship at East Lake in Atlanta. “It would be nice to win the FedEx Cup playoffs,” said DeLaet, who is in his third season on the PGA Tour and still looking for his first victory on the circuit. “That’s not really a shot in the dark, but it’s a really high goal. … “At the same time, I feel like I’m playing good enough to get a win and if I can do that, I can jump right into the hunt. Going into the playoffs, the goal was to get to (the Tour Championship), but (now) I think I can kind of aim a little bit higher than that.”
DeLaet, who played college golf at Boise State before graduating in 2006 and turning pro, captured the 2008 Desjardins Montreal Open and seemed to be headed for stardom in 2009, when he won the BMG Classic in South Africa followed by the ATB Financial Classic and the Canadian Tour Players Cup back on the Canadian Tour. However, he had struggled with back pain every since sustaining an injury while playing hockey growing up, so in 2011 he underwent surgery that invovled having part of a troublesome disk shaved. “I had a good season my rookie campaign, and then it was all basically just taken away,” said DeLaet, who finished in the top 10 three times last year on the PGA Tour before doing so seven times this season and starting the PGA Tour playoffs at 34th in the FedEx Cup standings. “And I realize now how fortunate we are to be playing golf for a living. My whole attitude is definitely better.” Not only that, he has played his way on to the International team for the Presidents Cup next month at Muirfield Village, finishing in the top 10 of the point standings.
Captain Nick Price knows all about him, and might have made the Canadian one of his two Captain’s Picks had he not made the team on his own merit. “I’ve asked the (other) players already, the guys who have played with him what they thought, what they think of his game, and the common thread comes back all the time, the fact that he’s improved so much in the last two years, from even three years ago from when he first got his card,” Price said. “You know what was really important to me was when we had our meeting at Muirfield, he was about 19th or 20th on our list at the time and he was so enthusiastic. “And there’s no substitute for enthusiasm, as far as I’m concerned. You can have the best player in the world, if he’s not enthusiastic and really looking forward to playing, it’s just not the same.” Said DeLaet, when asked if he has been following the point standings: “Every day, for sure. It would mean the world to me to be on that team, there’s no question.
“But at the same time when I’ve been on the golf course, I’ve been focused on what I need to do, and I’m proud of the way I’ve handled it because there is a lot of pressure on the outside. “I’ve been playing well, so it’s easier to stay in the moment when you’re trusting your golf swing and making a few putts as well.” DeLaet has been easy to spot during the playoffs because he’s the guy in the beard. He’s emulating hockey players in the NHL playoffs. “I’m Canadian; that’s what we do in the playoffs, you don’t shave until you’re done,” said DeLaet, who is a big fan of the Calgary Flames. “David Hearn and I kind of were doing it last year. I think Mike Weir did it five or six years ago in the playoffs. And like I said, you don’t shave in the playoffs if you’re Canadian.” Weir, the 2003 Masters chanpion, is the greatest Canadian golfer in history, the only player from north of the border to claim a major title. That gives DeLaet some footsteps to follow.