Canadian professional golfer Graham DeLaet has one main goal in his new PGA Tour season.
The 34-year-old knows if he can do that, then success on the course can follow in 2017.
“I feel like when my back is good, I can compete with the best golfers in the world,” DeLaet said.
“When it’s not, I can’t, because there’s shots I know I’m capable of and my body won’t let me do it, so that’s kind of the frustrating thing,” DeLaet said.
After spending the last two months rehabbing a back injury, DeLaet is set to make his 2017 debut this week at the CareerBuilder Challenge in La Quinta, CA.
DeLaet hasn’t played since the first week of November during the PGA Tour wraparound season at the Shriners Hospitals for Children Open in Las Vegas, when his back locked up when he woke up ahead of the final round.
“It’s not quite a hundred per cent yet. I’ve spent a lot of the off season rehabbing more than golf,” he said. “It’s starting to feel better… now it’s kind of just a little bit of stiffness and soreness and just general achiness but that’s kind of been normal for me.”
It was unfortunate timing, considering DeLaet was playing some solid golf, including a top-10 finish at the Sanderson Farms Championship, where he led midway through the final round, only to finish in a tie for 8th.
“I missed like a four or five footer on 10 for birdie and I felt like that was kind of a turning point for me – looking back, because then I went and made double on the next hole,” he said. “But if I could have just holed that putt on ten, that’s the kind of thing that sort of keeps momentum going.”
“Obviously not the result I was looking for but it was good to be in the mix, and I feel like sooner or later I’m going to close one out.”
Planning the PGA season
After eight seasons on the PGA Tour, DeLaet has learned a thing or two about preparing for the rigours of a long PGA Tour season.
“I know the tournaments I like to play, the courses that suit my game,” he said. ““You just kind of pick your spots. For me, it’s all about kind of staying healthy and I just have to listen to my body.”
Which includes targeting of 25-26 tournaments to play in this year, a number the Weyburn, SK native hasn’t reached the last couple seasons due to injuries.
“I think that’s kind of my sweet spot, anything more I feel like I’m playing too much, you get burned out.”
While DeLaet is still driven to earn his first PGA win, he finds his motivation from a completely different source these days.
“My family, I’ve got two little mouths to feed now, so it’s a little bit different. Obviously I want to play well to give people something to cheer for. I’ve got a family and that’s the most important thing to me, golf is secondary,” DeLaet said.
And those two little mouths are getting bigger. DeLaet and his wife, Ruby, had twins in November of 2015, Lyla and Roscoe are now 14-months old.
“It kind of just puts things in a bit of a different perspective now, you know, golf was always the most important thing to me for the past 15 years basically, and that all changed overnight,” DeLaet said. “It’s just so much fun, I love being a Dad, I just couldn’t ask for anything more.”
The year of Canada on the PGA Tour?
There’s already been one Canadian to represent that statement this season. PGA Tour rookie Mackenzie Hughes won for the first time at The RSM Classic in Sea Island, GA in mid-November.
2017 could be the year of the Maple Leaf on the PGA Tour, with six Canadians in possession of tour cards.
“I don’t think there’s any question we have good young talent, I mean I’ve been saying it for years and you’re finally starting to see it,” DeLaet said. “I don’t think there’s any question. We have multiple guys that are talented enough to win.”
DeLaet and David Hearn are tour veterans having eight and sevens years of experience, respectively. While Adam Hadwin and Nick Taylor are both entering their third full seasons, and Brad Fritsch returns to the PGA Tour for his third season, after a two year absence.
“I’m kind of starting to feel like one of the old guys almost, you’re kind of taking those young guys under your wing a little bit,” DeLaet joked.
Five of the six Canadians will play this week in Palm Springs, only Hughes will take the week off.
DeLaet will celebrate his 35th birthday Sunday (Jan. 22), and there would be no better gift, than to be in contention for his first career win.