Canada’s DeLaet ‘happy with where I’m at’ in PGA Championship
Golf notebook: Pride of Weyburn four strokes behind first-round leaders
Graham DeLaet of Canada hits his tee shot on the fourth hole during the first round of the 96th PGA Championship at Valhalla Golf Club on Thursday, Aug. 7, 2014 in Louisville, Ky.
Photograph by: Sam Greenwood, Getty Images
LOUISVILLE, Ky. — It might have been a couple of strokes more than he deserved, but considering how he was feeling when he arrived at Valhalla this week, Graham DeLaet wasn't about to quibble with a two-under-par 69 to open the 96th PGA Championship.
"I played really well pretty much all day," said the bearded 32-year-old from Weyburn. "I missed only maybe three or four shots, unfortunately I got a bogey on all those holes.
"It's a little disappointing to finish like that, I hit two great shots into 18 and ended up in a really tricky lie and wasn't able to make the (birdie) putt.
"But I'm happy with where I'm at, it's a good start."
It's four strokes behind co-leaders Lee Westwood, Ryan Palmer and Kevin Chappell, but after withdrawing on Sunday of last week's WGC Bridgestone Invitational with a raging stomach flu, it was an encouraging return to action.
DeLaet, one of the top ball-strikers on the PGA Tour, hit 11 of 14 fairways and 13 greens in his Thursday round, and nearly every putt he hit looked as though it had a chance to go in. He made five birdies.
"I didn't exactly know what to expect out there because the preparation wasn't there," he said. "You don't really know. (The illness) was bad timing, because I was really starting to find form for the first time in a couple of months, and there's usually maybe two or three times a year where you feel you're playing really well and that was one of them.
"But it feels like I was kind of able to pick up where I left off."
It wasn't such a feel-good day for Brantford, Ont.'s David Hearn, who started with a bogey and a double bogey on his second and third holes, and made two more bogeys on the back en route to a three-over-par 74.
It probably wasn't much consolation that Tiger Woods shot the same score.
"I was three over through three, so I was kind of playing catch-up right away," said Hearn. "Six-under was already on the board, so … it just wasn't my day. I hit some good shots that didn't quite turn out, and when I missed a shot I paid for it.
"I never really got it going at any point. I made a couple nice birdies, but I didn't give myself enough chances, and when I did I wasn't capitalizing on them."
Like DeLaet, he plays early Friday, but in DeLaet's case, he's hoping to move closer to the top of the leaderboard.
Hearn is hoping to play well enough to survive the cut.
CUP CARNAGE: It's not going well for the U.S. Ryder Cup hopefuls. Defending PGA champion Jason Dufner withdrew after 10 holes Thursday, unable to make decent swings with two bulging discs in his neck. He was eight-over-par after making an eight on the par-five 10th.
Matt Kuchar withdrew before the round began, beset by back spasms.
"I've been feeling pretty bad all week," said Dufner. "I felt bad last week. I haven't made a birdie in 45 holes and I'm just not able to play golf right now. I tried to do what I could to be able to compete some and give it a go, but it is just pointless."
Tom Watson's U.S. team had already lost Dustin Johnson, who is taking a six-month leave of absence to deal with "personal issues" and the fellow Watson is hoping would play well and get healthy, Tiger Woods, has an iffy back and shot an erratic 74 Thursday.
The back, Woods said, is fine. "It's a little bit stiff, but that's about it," he said after Thursday's round, though he said he would not go to the range to work out his swing problems, as usual. "Not today. I'm going to go get treatment and make sure this thing is nice and loose for tomorrow."
AND HE MEANS IT: Asked how he thought Woods played, Phil Mickelson, who had a close-up view in the same group, said, "I thought he played with a lot of heart. It's not easy to fight hard when your game isn't where you want it and you're hitting shots that you don't be normally.
"I thought the second hole was a great example, when he hooked it into the water and a lot of guys would just not play as focused, not put it all in the next shot. He grinded out a bogey, made a great up and down, made a 15 footer. I just thought it showed a lot of heart."
TUCK THOSE PINS: Valhalla was soft enough Thursday that the men in charge of course setup decided they had to put some pins in hard-to-reach spots to keep the boys from taking it apart. "The course is in scoreable condition. The rough is thick, but it's not that long. It's playable. But I think the PGA did a good job at protecting the golf course in a way with tough pin placements," said Rickie Fowler, who was in a large group (with DeLaet) at two-under-par. "There's a lot of pins three and four off the edge. They may have said four, but it didn't look like they were quite four."
"I've played on the Champions Tour a year and a bit now," said Colin Montgomerie, after his round of 70, "and the pins are not located in the corners that they are here. This is real corner stuff. The greenskeeper did quite well sometimes to put the pin on the green, find the green. Amazing."
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