WATCH: Derek Meyers and golf analyst Robert Thompson look back on Graham DeLaet’s record-tying day and what he needs to do to stay in contention on the weekend
Ile-Bizard, Que.—As Graham DeLaet wanders into a corporate meet-and-greet after his second round at the RBC Canadian Open, Saskatoon’s favourite golf star spies his father standing in the crowd and wanders over to give his dad a big hug.
The golfer, Canada’s top-ranked player at 32 years old, looks comfortable and relaxed, amiably signing hats and programs, chatting and having his picture taken with admirers.
Less than an hour before, DeLaet was playing in one of the marquee groups at the Canadian Open at Royal Montreal, paired alongside two-time Canadian Open winner Jim Furyk and Matt Kuchar. DeLaet, who had an indifferent opening round, turned up the heat, recording nine birdies against a couple of bogeys.
Included in the round was his final putt that tied him with Canadian David Morland IV and Scott Verplank for the course record at Royal Montreal with a 7-under 63.
As the crowd swelled, with several thousand surrounding the fairways for DeLaet’s group, the energy seemed to invigorate the golfer.
He came off the course and brought up the bogeyman—the fact a Canadian hasn’t won the country’s national tournament for 60 years.
“I would love to win this golf tournament—it would mean more than anything to me,” said DeLaet.
But he’s not going to get ahead of himself. After the second round he’s not even in the lead—he sits two shots back of Furyk, who also tied the course record, and journeyman Tim Petrovic, who once delivered pizzas while chasing his professional golf dream.
“I’m halfway there right now, and I don’t know where I’m going to lie at the end of the day, but I’m definitely in a good position,” DeLaet said. “That’s all I can do.”
In the past he might have been guilty of trying to do too much, of expecting more out of himself and his staggeringly good golf game the week of the Canadian Open than he should have. That was true of Mike Weir before he found his equilibrium and began enjoying the tournament. Now the focus that once fell almost solely on Weir has shifted to DeLaet.
But the golfer says he’s not sure why he’s turned it around at this Canadian Open. Last year he missed the cut, and his best finish is a tie of 46th in 2009, a year before he made the leap to the PGA Tour.
“I’m playing well and I’ve never played well at a Canadian Open,” DeLaet says, as if he is still trying to determine why his best golf hasn’t materialized in Canada. “I came in here trying to take a little pressure off myself. It is one of those things where you don’t want to try too hard.”
That means his parents are here from their home in Weyburn, Sask., where the golfer was raised. Along with DeLaet’s wife, Ruby, the group have kept it low key, wandering around the city and having quiet dinners.
“It is always good to see my folks, but they are respectful that I have a job to do. But we’re not together all the time. We have dinner and walk around the city a bit,” DeLaet says.
And there’s still 36 holes to go—a lot of golf that could see DeLaet chase Canadian lore, or falter and fall back. Golfers often talk of staying in the moment, psycho babble to some, but there’s truth to it. The game demands you focus on what is happening now, not what happened in the past or what might occur going forward. DeLaet gets that.
“I realize I’ve got a lot of golf to go,” he says.
But he allows himself to at least raise the possibility of chasing the ghost of Pat Fletcher, the last Canadian who won the tournament some 60 years ago.
“I’m sure if I put something together again like I did today, I’m sure those thoughts will start creeping into my head of breaking the drought,” he says. “But it all comes down to playing well. I don’t feel any more pressure. In fact it is great.”
As he stops and searches for an explanation for his new luck at the Canadian Open, I ask him about his beard—something DeLaet grew for last year’s FedEx Cup playoff and shaved off a couple of months ago— which has now returned.
DeLaet smiles, runs his fingers through the hair and proclaims we’ve found the answer.
“Maybe this is why I played well—the beard is back,” he says, laughing.
© Shaw Media, 2014