GULLANE, Scotland - There was a point during Thursday's opening round when Graham DeLaet, having just three-putted the 15th hole, sat dejectedly on the edge of his golf bag. His eyes were targeted at the green where partners Jonas Blixt and Brian Davis were finishing up but you just knew his mind was elsewhere, likely trying to understand what was happening to him in his first round in a major championship.
As he stood up, he gave the bag a swift boot, the only time he showed any frustration. Anyone who saw it would have wondered what took him so long.
DeLaet came into his first major full of hope and good swings, but the treacherous Muirfield set up was full measure this day, almost to the point of being unfair. Off the tee, he wasn't bad at hitting the rock-hard fairways. There were a few loose iron shots too, but nothing too out of the ordinary (with the exception of the Hosel Rocket on the 10th). But on the slick greens it was another story.
"I struggled with my speed all day," said DeLaet, still smiling despite the adventurous round of 76. "I felt like I didn't really have any birdie chances all day. I finally got one on eight and I ran it six feet past the hole and made bogey. Same thing on 14. Disappointing for sure."
DeLaet, like so many other players in the field, left the course after the opening day of the Open Championship scratching his head about the greens. Player after player talked about the quickness of the putting surfaces, which turned from green to brown as the day went on. They also talked about suspect pin placements, some in stronger tones than others. No matter how softly putts were struck, they rolled out as if on ice. Lag putting may have been the most difficult shot of this day.
DeLaet, who was cheered on by a good throng of Canadians, a few in Roughrider jerseys, started his day by listening to legendary first tee starter Ivor Robson announce his name and then striping his shot down the middle. He said there were no nerves or extra pressure on him in his first major and he appeared loose and at ease as he walked down the fairway.
"I felt good," he said. "I was comfortable all day."
As the day wore on, however, the frustrations of small misses that turned into tough shots grew with most of those happening on the greens.
"I just wasn't hitting the shots that I needed to and the putting wasn't sharp even though I holed a few. It just felt like I had six, seven, eight feet for par on every hole.
"I had a tap in for par on 17 and as I was tapping it in I was like 'I can't remember the last time I had a tap-in par.'"
One of the strangest holes came on the 10th. After driving into a fairway bunker and landing in a deep rake furrow, he blasted out. But on his next shot he did the unmentionable.
"I hoseled my third shot – I hit it straight off the hosel," he admitted, with an after-the-fact laugh.
The ball squirted off to the right and ended up in some deep hay almost behind a scoreboard.
A few years ago, a hole such as that or perhaps one of the three putts might have pushed DeLaet to frustration but on this day his maturity took over.
"A couple of times I really wanted to hit driver on holes where I shouldn't have because I was frustrated so I'm happy with that, but I've got some work to do [on Friday]."
Yes, he does, but at five over, DeLaet is easily within reach of extending his stay at Muirfield into the weekend. It will take improved putting and overall tightening of his shotmaking, but he seems to have the skills and the desire to make it happen.