Few would argue that the ultimate moment in Canadian golf came when Mike Weir won the Masters 10 years ago, but specific to the event about to take place this week, it would have to be Weir’s singles victory over Tiger Woods at the 2007 Presidents Cup at Royal Montreal.
“When I think of the Presidents Cup, that’s what I think of,” said Graham DeLaet, who is scheduled to arrive Monday at Muirfield Village in Dublin, Ohio, to become the second Canadian to play on the International team at the Presidents Cup.
“That’s the first thing that comes to my mind is Mike beating Tiger. It’s fresh in my memory,” added DeLaet, who spent the past week in Scottsdale, Az.
“That was a huge point in golf in our country and even around the world. Nobody expected Mike to beat him and he had the crowd behind him and it was a pretty unbelievable moment,” he added.
What made that moment extra special is that Weir hadn’t been playing very well coming in and needed a captain’s pick by Gary Player in order to play on home soil. DeLaet, on the other hand, was an automatic selection after finishing eighth in International team standings.
He’s coming in after a breakthrough season in which he had seven top-10 finishes, including a couple of top threes to kick off the FedEx Cup playoffs, which concluded with him finishing 28th at the Tour Championship and eighth in the final standings.
Whether a similar Mike Weir moment is imminent remains to be seen, but after rising to 32nd in the world rankings last week and finishing 21st on the tour money list, DeLaet has also captured attention both inside and outside Canada.
“On social media, especially,” he said.
“Everybody across Canada is telling me that they’re behind me and good luck, but not only that, like around the world, from South Africa and Argentina and it’s pretty unbelievable nowadays with the social media how much this tournament means to everyone around the world, especially the way the U.S. has dominated it,” he said.
“It means a lot to people around the world and it’s exciting to be a part of it,” said DeLaet.
Playing in the Presidents Cup is another sign that DeLaet has arrived in the upper tier of global players and whether or not his contribution this week is as spectacular as Weir’s in 2007, there’s reason to believe it will be positive, even if it will be something new for him.
“When I was playing with Graeme McDowell last week at Cabot Links, I was kind of asking him a few things,” said DeLaet.
“The thing that he said to me about playing in the Ryder Cup was just the intensity level is so high. You get to the tee for your first match and it feels like a Sunday morning in the final group kind of thing and it’s like that for the entire week,” he said.
It’s that intensity level that has DeLaet focusing on an important factor going into his initial Presidents Cup.
“There’s going to be a lot of emotion obviously and I think the main thing is just keeping that in check and not getting too high or not getting too low. It’s easy to do, especially getting down on yourself,” he said.
“In alternate shot, if you short side yourself in a bunker, in a regular tournament, you’re ticked off with yourself. You go out there and try to get up and down, but to do that (in alternate shot), you leave your buddy in the bunker short side and you just feel bad,” he said.
You can’t do that,” said DeLaet, recalling other match play events.
“In the World Cup, we played alternate shot there a couple of years. That’s the whole thing is not apologizing to your teammate when you hit a poor shot,” he said.
“When I played with Wes (Heffernan in 2008) and Stu (Anderson in 2009), right off the bat, we’re like, `Hey, if we hit bad shots, we don’t apologize because we’re going to hit bad shots. It’s going to happen. We’re not perfect, nobody is,’” said DeLaet.
“It’s just trying to pump the guy up and let him know that if he gives you a 10-footer, you’re going to do your best to make it for him,” he added.
“As long as I can kind of control my emotions, I think that’s going to be the biggest thing for me. Physically, I feel good and it’s just going to be mentally, just kind of not letting the situation get the most of me,” he said.
“When I hit poor shots, let it go and not only that, just not to get too high when you make a birdie and everyone gets pumped up on your team or your teammate gets pumped up,” said DeLaet.
“For me, I play my best golf when I’m at a certain intensity level and I just have to remember at all times when I’m out there not to get too high or too low because I play my best golf when I’m kind of right in the middle,” he said.
With golf being an individual sport, DeLaet says he grasps the concept through other team sports that he’s played such as hockey and volleyball and while he knows his team. he hadn’t been informed as of the weekend who will play alongside him in four-ball and foursome play
The only International player that he wasn’t familiar with was Japan’s Hideki Matsuyama, but as DeLaet points out, the fact that he was sixth in team standings and 30th in world rankings as of last week at the age of 21 will tell you something about the game he brings.
Ernie Els has become a friend and was a supporter of DeLaet’s in the weeks leading up to the International team being named, but DeLaet says he’s leaving it up to captain Nick Price.
“I really don’t know what the pairings and everything are going to be, but he’s just kind of picking our brains about maybe who we would like to play with or what we think of guys’ games and who would we would pair well with, but that being said, I’m not really sure what’s going to happen,” said DeLaet.
“Not even trying to be politically correct, there are 11 other great players on that team and I’d be super happy to play with any of them, You’ve got a bunch of major champions and you’ve got some first-timers who are going to be hungry, so I don’t think there can be a bad pairing,” he said.
“I would love to play with Ernie and not only because he’s a great player, his resume speaks for itself, but he’s a good guy too. He’s a guy I can talk to in the locker room and joke around with. That would be a good pairing, but like I said, I would take any of those 11 guys,” he added.
DeLaet is among seven players getting their first shot at an event dominated by the Americans, who hold a lopsided 7-1-1 record in the Presidents Cup.
By comparison, the U.S. has just four Presidents Cup rookies and those include Brandt Snedeker, Jason Dufner, Keegan Bradley and recently-named PGA Tour rookie Jordan Spieth.
They’ll be playing alongside veterans Tiger Woods, Phil Mickelson, Steve Stricker and Hunter Mahan, among others, so the task of beating the Americans won’t be an easy one. DeLaet knows it, but comes in confident after the past month.
“I’ve played with a lot of great players and guys that are on that team that we’re playing against, whether it be Phil or (Matt) Kuchar and Billy Haas. I was competitive, if not beating those guys,” said DeLaet.
“If I wouldn’t have had that good FedEx run and if I’d have drawn Phil Mickelson in singles or in any kind of play, I think that in the back of my mind, I’d be like, `Holy, this guy is one of the best players of all time. What am I going to do here?’ but I feel that I can beat them,” he said.
“I have to be on my game for sure because he’s one of the best players of all time, but at the same time, I feel that I can go in there and do that, so that definitely helps,” he said.
“You’re going to have to play good golf to beat anybody because they’ve got a great team,” said DeLaet, who is looking forward to his first Presidents Cup being played at Muirfield Village, the annual site of the Memorial.
“I think it’s a course that suits my game quiet well. I always look forward to going to that tournament. It’s one of my favourites of the year,” he said.
“When people ask me what are your favourite tournaments of the year?’ and I kind of list them off, that’s always one of them. It’s a special place and like I said, it’s a course that I feel suits my game,” said DeLaet.
This week, he’s planning to make it even more special at one of the premier events in the world.