HOYLAKE, England - A year ago, Graham DeLaet arrived at the Open Championship wide-eyed and excited to play his first major. He made the cut and for a rookie, put in a decent effort.
But since that time, the Canadian has played three more majors and missed the cut in all three. Add in a missed cut at The Players and there's a pattern starting to show. Those performances stand out from the rest of his otherwise strong record over the past year and DeLaet believes it's likely all self-inflicted.
"I think more than anything, it's just getting used to playing in majors, just trying to treat them like a regular tournament," he said after playing the first nine at Royal Liverpool on Tuesday. "I think in the past, I put too much pressure on myself and made them bigger than they are."
Who can blame him? The kid from Weyburn teed it up at Muirfield, Oak Hill, Augusta National and Pinehurst No. 2 in the last 12 months, a pretty solid slate.
But now he realizes it's time to perform in the majors, not just play in them and that's what he's hoping to do this week. He learned from last year at the Open, he said, and understands that links golf isn't always fair.
"You have to really control where the ball is landing," said DeLaet. "You can hit great shots that run, run, run, run right into a bunker. You just really have to be cognizant, thinking all the time about where your ball is going to land and where you look for it to finish.
"Everything from 50 yards in front of the green is up to Mother Nature."
This year's course at Liverpool is a far cry from last year's baked out Muirfield course. That layout not only treated golf balls as if they were on airport tarmacs, but also didn't help DeLaet's arm any.
"I don't have to shallow my swing out because it took a toll on my hand and wrist last year. But there's a little bit of give in the turf; it's not quite a fiery as last year. And with that the ball is not quite going crazy when it gets on the ground."
DeLaet arrives at Royal Liverpool off a T51 and a missed cut in his last two starts, the latter being the U.S. Open. He was so displeased with his showing of late that he cut off his infamous beard, hoping that might shake things up.
He spent part of last week up in Ireland, playing at Doonbeg, Tralee and Lahinch to get immersed in the links feel and is hoping that will inspire him to bigger things this year.
"I love it, DeLaet said of links golf. "It's such a cool place and this is such a great golf tournament as well. The fans are so respectful and it's just an awesome event."
DeLaet understands that the task to success on this course may be somewhat simplistic, but that's what wins tournaments.
"Just try to make a lot of pars and give yourself opportunities," said DeLaet. "You can't really force anything in this style of golf. There are maybe a couple of different tee shots where you can get a little more aggressive but I think the main key is just keeping the ball in between the fescue and giving yourself a look on the green so I'll try to do that for 72 holes."