Gullane, East Lothian
On the bright side, Graham DeLaet finished his third round of the Open Championship with birdies at the final two holes, shot one-under-par 34 on the inward nine, and got to watch Ernie Els's lovely tempo all day.
That was just about it for the bright side, though.
Paired with the defending champion, the 31-year-old Canadian ballooned to a front-nine 42, six over par, and was flirting with entering Sunday's final round in dead last place until he steadied the ship on the back.
His round of 76 was far from the day's worst, but that was small consolation.
"It was nice to birdie the last two, but I just felt like I was a little bit off the whole day, and it was kind of a struggle," said DeLaet.
"I kind of tweaked my back warming up this morning, so my timing felt just a little bit off. It's not really painful, my body just wasn't moving the way it normally does. My ball striking was just pretty poor all day ... and if you're not hitting it crisp, and the ball gets rising or cutting or spinning in the wind, it just grabs it and amplifies it."
He'd like to have played better in Els's company.
We've played together before, and we get along really well -- he's always been good to me. I kind of felt like I was in his way the first 10 holes, but he's a great guy, and you can learn a lot just watching a guy like that," he said.
Both players were surprised at the softness of the course, which was watered overnight, though not exactly liberally. The conditions were about as good as they could be for scoring, but DeLaet couldn't execute.
"I just wanted to get myself in the mix -- kind of do what Ernie did, shoot one-under-par and get myself somewhat in the golf tournament, but it's golf. We all have bad days at work, and this was one of them for me.
"Normally, the position I'm in, you feel like you've got to shoot seven-eight under just to get back in the middle of the pack, but an even par round tomorrow will go a long ways, and we'll get out a little bit early when it's a little softer and maybe less wind and ... you never know."
DeLaet got through the first hole unscathed, but the hemorrhaging started soon after that, with a driver into the fescue at the second leading to a bogey, another fescue misadventure that produced a double-bogey at the par-three fourth, and a sloppy bogey at the par-five fifth when he backed his short pitch shot off the front of the green and failed to get up and down from there.
And the hits just kept on coming: when he wasn't missing fairways, he was hitting approaches well short, or missing short putts.
At least he got the Hollywood finish to the round. His third shot to the par-five 17th, out of the long fescue, was headed long and left when it took a huge bounce off a mound and rolled to within five feet of the flag. He holed the birdie putt, then played a textbook 18th, making about a 10-footer from below the hole for the closing birdie.
CUP HOPES -- DeLaet sits in 12th place among International Team hopefuls for this fall's Presidents Cup at Muirfield Village in Ohio, but only the top 10 make it based on world rankings. After that, Nick Price will name two captain's picks on Sept. 4.
"More than anything, I've just got to play good golf and I feel that if I do that, it will take care of itself. But I want to be on that team really bad," said DeLaet.
"We had a meeting for potential members at Muirfield -- Muirfield Village, Jack's tournament -- and it was pretty cool. Some of the guys really poured their hearts out how much it meant to them and it just kind of gave me tingles ... and it drove me to work just a little bit harder and that means even maybe playing a tournament or two I wasn't really planning on playing earlier in the year, to try and get some points."
Mike Weir played every Presidents Cup from 2000 to 2009, but there was no Canadian on the 2011 team, which lost to the U.S. in the matches at Royal Melbourne.
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