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Weeks: DeLaet's putter puts him in contention at Canadian Open

Bob Weeks
7/25/2014 6:21:11 PM
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The crowd may want to look ahead. And my friends in the media are already asking That Question. But Graham DeLaet isn't ready to look beyond his first tee shot on Saturday.

After equaling the course record on Friday, you can forgive everyone for getting a little excited about the possibilities. You know, the chance that this damn 60-year drought can come to an end.

It would be a great moment for Canadian golf, a great moment for DeLaet and, selfishly, a great moment for the keyboard tappers and microphone holders who would no longer have to ask That Question any longer.

But let's back up just a bit here. It's not Sunday, yet. DeLaet ignited everyone's imagination of just what the coronation might look like by posting a smooth 63. For the first time in a while, his putter behaved as he used his flat stick just 25 times when on the green. That, he said, was the result of some work he did earlier in the week with short game coach Gabriel Hjertstedt. The two of them came up with one small change that, as it often does with something as confounding as putting, made a big difference.

"My putting coach was here Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday," said DeLaet. "We put in some good work and changed a little bit of how I was seeing lines. I was picking spots in front of the ball instead of picking spots at the hole. Just something a little bit different and it was nice to see some putts rolling in."

To a certain extent, DeLaet will always live and die with his putting. It's his Achilles heel in an otherwise bulletproof golf game. Just look at the stats for this year – he's second in greens in regulation, 11th in driving distance, fifth in total driving and – wait for it – 137th in strokes gained, putting, the key indicator of how a player performs on the greens.

But on this day, he was pure. He drained a 30-footer on 14 for a birdie, another one from 21 feet on the first hole and sunk a 20-footer to save a bogey on the 18th hole.

That last one might be the most vital of the many that found the bottom of the cup. Playing his ninth hole of the day and already four under for the round, DeLaet drove his ball into the water, took a drop then hit his next shot up the fairway. From there he lofted a wedge onto the green.

"I was kind of counting a double when I was walking up to the 18th green," he said, "so to hole that putt was a nice bonus."

It's been a while since DeLaet has enjoyed such a good day with his putter, but he wasn't alone in getting the balls to drop.

"It was definitely fun to see some putts roll in," he said. "All of us were kind of making putts all day."

All of us would be his group of Matt Kuchar and Jim Furyk; the trio combined for 22 birdies. Furyk also tied the course record, held by Scott Verplank and David Morland IV.

"There was just so much momentum," he stated. "The crowd was getting behind us. Even Matt and Jim, the crowd was starting to get behind them. They were just seeing such good golf all day. You definitely start feeding off each other and you almost expect to hole putts just to keep up."

While DeLaet loved the emotion displayed by the fans at Royal Montreal – the vast majority on the property seemed to be following his group – and the way he played, he was careful not to start thinking about buying any silver polish just yet.

The player who has yet to win a tournament on the PGA Tour is savvy enough to realize that it might take two more course records to get his name on the trophy.

"I know there's going to be a little bit of added pressure because I'm in good position heading into the weekend," said DeLaet. "But at the same time we're only half way through this thing and if I can put something together like this [Saturday] then maybe we can start talking about that."

Maybe for him. But in the brasseries and bistros and the dix-neuf holes, they're already chatting. As they have been for oh, about 60 years.




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