All you need to know about Graham DeLaet's desire at the Open Championship can be gleaned from this quote, uttered after he grinded to a one-over 72 on Friday.
“We came a long ways and it wasn't just to make the cut,” said the Weyburn, Saskatchewan native. “We want to be in the hunt.”
To do that, of course, DeLaet had to make the cut, which he accomplished through some brilliant and risky play on the Muirfield links. He threw out his game plan and decided to take some chances, most of which paid off. Paired with a brilliant flat stick, he made three birdies and a few par-saving gems to survive the 36-hole cut.
On 12, a short par four that was playing downwind, DeLaet pulled out the driver and almost made an ace, settling for a two-putt birdie.
“That was only because we needed to start forcing it a bit,” he stated. “Even on 10, I hit driver and that really wasn't the play. On 11, I wanted to hit it but Julien (caddie Julien Trudeau) talked me out of it.”
Another birdie came the next hole when his iron shot landed three feet from the hole. And he added a third back-nine bird on 15 after a slick second shot left him 10 feet. There were also a few nervous moments as he battled with the cut line. On the par-3 16th, he hit his tee shot on the far right side of the green and his first put left him a 15-footer for par, which he dropped centre cut.
And even on the final hole, after reaching the green in two, his first putt came up a bit short – no doubt after memories of how slick that green was past the hole on Thursday – but the four-footer that remained was no trouble.
“That's not what I wanted to leave myself on the last hole. It was just a really slow putt,” he said with a smile after the round.
“I kind of told myself when I was walking up to that putt ‘This is why we practice' and I hit a good putt right in the middle.”
DeLaet showed the mettle of his game with that back nine, something he hopes will continue into Saturday, when he'll tee it up with the defending champion Ernie Els. “I'm happy that I'm playing the weekend but this is a long way to come just to try and make the cut. I had higher goals,” he said.
“It would be nice to play two great rounds, maybe not get in the mix but have a nice, respectable finish.”
It's easy to see there's something burning inside DeLaet, that he's hungry to get better, to play better and to win. Just surviving isn't in the plans.
Still, for a first major and a first test of the Open Championship under brutally tough conditions his play is fun to watch. It's great to see him use his imagination and try to bounce balls close, or to take on a hole such as the 12th.
Even if he isn't in the hunt to lift the Claret Jug on Sunday – and who knows what might happen out here – he does have a lot to play for.
Moving up the Official World Golf Rankings inside the top 50 would bring benefits of more starts in bigger events. And a spot on the International Team at the Presidents Cup is within sight. He's 12th on the points list at the moment.
“That was one of my goals at the start of the year,” Delaet said. “I really want to be on that team.”
All those numbers and points can be sliced and diced on Monday. First up is another spin around this beast of a links which doesn't appear to be ready to settle down. That's just find for DeLaet, it appears. Bring it on.