Canada’s ‘proud’ Graham DeLaet not buying international team’s Presidents Cup gloom

 

U.S. squad overwhelming favourites to take biennial title

 
 
 
 
Canada’s Graham DeLaet in action during the final round of the Deutsche Bank Championship at TPC Boston on Monday, Sept. 2, 2013 in Norton, Mass., where he finished third.
 
 

Canada’s Graham DeLaet in action during the final round of the Deutsche Bank Championship at TPC Boston on Monday, Sept. 2, 2013 in Norton, Mass., where he finished third.

Photograph by: Jared Wickerham, Getty Images

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VANCOUVER — Graham DeLaet may be from Weyburn, Sask., via Boise, Idaho but evidently they have, in addition to running water and electricity, also newspapers and TV and radio and the internet in those burgs.

So he’s heard the buzz.

“No one’s giving us a chance already, and it’s a month away,” says the 31-year-old, whose stellar play in the FedEx Cup playoffs has propelled him into the Oct. 3-6 Presidents Cup matches at Muirfield Village in Dublin, Ohio, as the No. 8 gun on captain Nick Price’s 12-man International team.

Well, he’s correct about the perception.

Even the Golf Channel’s Frank Nobilo, the Kiwi who played on three International teams and was Greg Norman’s assistant captain four years ago at Harding Park, had to turn himself into a pretzel the other night reaching for plausible scenarios under which the stacked American side could fail to win for the eighth time in this, the 10th edition of the PGA Tour-conceived biennial event that began in 1994.

DeLaet, though, who finished tied for second at The Barclay’s and solo third at last week’s Deutsche Bank championship, the first two events of the FedEx Cup playoffs, isn’t buying into the gloom.

That’s not to say he’s just happy to be included in the field at Jack Nicklaus’s home course, but it is kind of a big deal to be only the second Canadian to have made it to the Presidents Cup —- Mike Weir played in all five from 2000-2009 — so he’s not going just for the free team swag.

How big a deal?

“It’s an absolute dream come true for me, probably the most proud moment of my golf career,” DeLaet said Thursday in a conference call with Canadian reporters.

“It’s pretty close to the pinnacle of professional golf. You’re playing with and against marquee names ... and just to be included with those guys — major champions, Hall of Famers, future Hall of Famers — it’s unbelievable to be in that company.”

He probably sounded more awestruck than he really is.

Nearing the end of a season in which he has played solid (with gusts to spectacular) golf, qualified for the last two majors, earned more than $2.6 million in prize money and ranks No. 1 on the PGA Tour in both total driving (combined distance and accuracy) and ball-striking (total driving plus greens in regulation), something very like stardom beckons for this self-taught son of the prairie.

Not to overstate a minor consideration like money — DeLaet still lacks a PGA Tour win — but what do Dustin Johnson, Hunter Mahan, Jim Furyk, Graeme McDowell, Lee Westwood, Rory McIlroy, Rickie Fowler, Ian Poulter, Bubba Watson, Webb Simpson and Zach Johnson have in common (besides higher profiles?)

All rank behind the bearded Canadian on the 2013 Tour earnings list.

So you shouldn’t confuse DeLaet with a raw rookie, even though he’ll be one of seven Presidents Cup first-timers on Price’s underdog team.

“The awe factor is more just, ‘Wow, this is what I’ve accomplished,’ ” he said Thursday. “I’m not intimidated by playing with or against Tiger and Phil and all these great players, because I feel like my game can hold up well, and it’s just going out and playing golf. Committing to each shot as best you can and accepting the outcome.

“I know there’s obviously more pressure in a team competition because you don’t want to let other guys down, but if you can put that outside your thought process and focus on what you need to do, and what got you there, that’s the key.”

It might be easier said than done. The International team has been full of hope before, but has been routed more often than it’s been competitive, and on paper, this unit — headlined by No. 2-ranked Adam Scott — is in deep.

Decide for yourself if the world rankings are valid, but eight Americans rank higher than the No. 2 International team player, Aussie Jason Day (18th), including one, Jim Furyk, who didn’t even make the U.S. team.

The lowest-ranked U.S. player is 20-year-old sensation Jordan Spieth, a Fred Couples captain’s pick, who’s No. 28 in the world. Price had to go to No. 70 for his final captain’s selection, fellow Zimbabwean Brendon de Jonge.

“I know that we’re not the favourites on paper,” said DeLaet. “But like Nick Price said, what we lack in experience I think we’ll (make up in) grit and determination.”

He has sought input on what lies ahead at Muirfield Village from team veterans, including Weir, whom he idolized growing up. Though DeLaet is ranked 35th in the world (the only Canadian in the top 100) and Weir has slid to No. 572, he recognizes that the 2003 Masters champ knows things he needs to learn.

“We played a practice round in Hartford this year and at that time I was on the outside looking in for the Presidents Cup, but it was on my radar, and I was just asking (Weir) different questions, and how much it meant to him — and pretty much everybody I’ve talked to has said it’s the most amazing tournament that you’ll ever play in,” DeLaet said.

“And I definitely hope to talk to him sometime soon, just to get an idea of what to expect, and good strategy, because I haven’t played a ton of match play and obviously he took down Tiger (in their 2007 singles match at Royal Montreal) so he knows something about it.”

Price met with prospective team members in May during the Memorial Tournament at Muirfield Village, and advised them to get a jump-start on team-building.

So DeLaet has made a point of chatting with Scott and Charl Schwartzel and Ernie Els — “There’s a guy who’s won three major championships and he’s one of the most grounded people you’ll ever meet” — hoping that when the team comes together in October, “if all 12 of us believe in each other, then we’re going to be just fine.”

Before any of that, though, there’s the chase for the FedEx Cup and its ultimate $10-million first prize. The top 70 in the points standings after the Deutsche Bank event (DeLaet is fifth) qualified for next week’s BMW Championship at Conway Farms outside Chicago, after which only the top 30 make it to the season-ending Tour Championship at East Lake in Atlanta.

“Going into the playoffs it was my goal just to make Atlanta — I thought that would be a great achievement,” DeLaet said. “But now obviously, if I can stay in the top 5 going into the Tour Championship, I have a legitimate chance of winning.

“I mean, in a 30-player field, you’re going to have probably 10 guys who don’t play that great, 10 guys who kind of play average, so you have to beat 12-15 guys who are on their game, and obviously any one in that 30-man field can do that.

“I think it’s a realistic goal.”

Sure, the odds are against it. But he has already made it from Weyburn to the PGA Tour. Don’t tell Graham DeLaet about odds.

ccole@vancouversun.com

Twitter.com/rcamcole

 
 
 
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Canada’s Graham DeLaet in action during the final round of the Deutsche Bank Championship at TPC Boston on Monday, Sept. 2, 2013 in Norton, Mass., where he finished third.
 

Canada’s Graham DeLaet in action during the final round of the Deutsche Bank Championship at TPC Boston on Monday, Sept. 2, 2013 in Norton, Mass., where he finished third.

Photograph by: Jared Wickerham, Getty Images

 
Canada’s Graham DeLaet in action during the final round of the Deutsche Bank Championship at TPC Boston on Monday, Sept. 2, 2013 in Norton, Mass., where he finished third.
Graham DeLaet of Weyburn holds up his ball after putting for birdie on the ninth green during the final round of the Deutsche Bank Championship on Monday in Norton, Mass.
Graham DeLaet of Canada plays his shot from the fourth tee during the third round of the Deutsche Bank Championship at TPC Boston on Sunday in Norton, Mass.
Weyburn, Saskatchewan's Graham DeLaet is one of the best Canadian sports stories of the year.
Graham DeLaet of Weyburn hits a shot during The Barclays competition last weekend in New Jersey.
Saskatchewan’s Graham DeLaet is sitting 10th on the rankings for the International Presidents Cup team, but captain Nick Price seems so impressed with the lad that it’s likely he would be named as a captain’s pick even if he falls out of the automatic top 10 qualifying spots.
Graham DeLaet
 
 
 
 
 
 
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