Graham DeLaet promised to shave his FedEx Cup playoff beard, but that doesn’t mean the world’s top-ranked Canadian golfer is done rallying.
It’s a good thing, too—the 12-man International Presidents Cup team he’s on is in deep against the likes of Tiger, Phil, Brandt and the rest of the American side. The Internationals, this year captained by Nick Price and made up of the top players from outside Europe and the U.S., are 1-7-1 in the biennial tournament’s history. Their lone win came in 1998.
DeLaet heads to Muirfield Village Golf Club in Dublin, Ohio this week as a Presidents Cup rookie, but the match-play format is well-suited to his game. The 31-year-old from Weyburn, Sask., is one of the best ball-strikers on Tour and ranks third in greens in regulation and first in total driving.
The lone Canadian on the team, DeLaet can use his consistency off the tee to put pressure on his competitors and force them to make errors. And while he’s a rookie, DeLaet is confident, riding the high of a career-best season. He grew that sweet playoff beard to full term—he told the media it got pretty itchy—with solid play that led him to the Tour Championship. (He said he’d shave it so he’d look clean-cut for the Cup.) He ranks ahead of Bubba Watson, Rory McIlroy and Lee Westwood, to name a few, on the 2013 Tour money list, and this season he had seven top-10s, two thirds and a second-place finish to catapult him to a career-best No. 33 world ranking.
It’s this strong play that qualified DeLaet as the No. 8 guy on the International team, an honour he calls “probably the most proud moment of my golf career.”
A diehard Calgary Flames fan, DeLaet is fired up to play alongside teammates that include world No. 2 Adam Scott, four-time major winner Ernie Els and 2011 Masters champion Charl Schwartzel.
“He wants this bad,” says Kevin Burton, DeLaet’s former coach at Boise State, where the Canadian won 10 college titles and rewrote the record books. “This was his goal the whole year, to make the Presidents Cup team.”
DeLaet, who has a natural, effortless swing without the help of a swing coach, spent the week leading up to the Cup at his condo in Phoenix so he can work on his game without distractions.
The International team has to pull out all the stops to earn a win here. The American side includes five of the world’s top 10 (Tiger, Phil, Steve Stricker, Jason Dufner and Brandt Snedeker), and their lowest-ranked player is Bill Haas, ranked 30th.
It will take a lot of giant-killing on the part of the Internationals, but DeLaet is ready. He sought out advice from Mike Weir, who downed Tiger in Sunday singles match play in 2007, on home turf in Montreal.
That match goes to show anything can happen at the Presidents Cup.