LOUISVILLE, KY - AUGUST 08: Graham DeLaet of Canada waves on the 13th green during the second round of the 96th PGA Championship at Valhalla Golf Club on August 8, 2014 in Louisville, Kentucky. (Photo by Sam Greenwood/Getty Images)
LOUISVILLE, Ky. — There are movie robots, the brassy C3PO of Star Wars fame springs to mind, with more mobility in their necks than Graham DeLaet was able to muster Friday.
How he got his golf ball around Valhalla Golf Club in 68 strokes while moving like Herman Munster is a credit to massage and (hedging his bets on a future pain-reliever endorsement) “a bunch of Advil, some Tylenol,” said the 32-year-old from Weyburn, Sask., who’ll go into the weekend tied for ninth with a legitimate shot at the 96th PGA Championship.
This, despite four-putting his 11th hole, Valhalla’s No. 2, from 30 feet away.
He may trail the 36-hole pace-setter, Rory McIlroy, by four strokes starting out on Saturday, but if he hadn’t bounced back from that shock to the system with three birdies on the way to the clubhouse, he’d be nowhere.
“It was a nice way to finish after that hiccup on No. 2. Well, it was more than a hiccup, you don’t ever expect to four-putt,” DeLaet said. “But I knew I was putting well all week, and I just kept giving myself chances and believing in it. It was nice to finish like that because it could have gotten away from me there.”
DeLaet said he couldn’t move his head well enough to finish his backswing, so he “kind of bunted it around.”
Barely recovered from the flu that knocked him out of last week’s Bridgestone Invitational, DeLaet said he “kinked my neck pretty bad” while warming up in the gym Friday morning.
“If you’d asked me this morning, I thought I was going to miss the cut. I didn’t think I was going to be able to get it around. Some days, when you don’t have any expectations, you never know what’s going to happen.”
The fact that rain bucketed down on Louisville early in the day, forcing a suspension of play for nearly an hour after the first few groups teed off, actually worked to DeLaet’s advantage.
“It gave us a chance to do some soft-tissue work. I don’t know exactly what’s going on, but we’re going to get it figured out here this afternoon.”
Assuming all is well Saturday, he’s never had a better shot at a major championship. At 137, he’s tied with, among others, Steve Stricker and Henrik Stenson in the pack at five-under.
“It’s by far the best (position) I’ve gone into the weekend of a major,” he said, “so I’m excited about the opportunity coming up.”
There’ll be no such opportunity for Brantford, Ont.’s David Hearn, who made the only two birdies of his Friday round on the final two holes, too little and too late. He shot 72 to go with Thursday’s 74 and missed the cut.
“It’s a disappointment. I feel my game is a lot better than it showed this week,” Hearn said. “I struggled on the greens, struggled just about everywhere, so I’m just looking forward to a week off. I can get home and work on a few things, and when I get back to the (FedEx Cup) playoffs, I’ll be a lot better.”
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