In golf, more than in team sports, a player controls his own fate. Graham DeLaet has done that in all the good ways, having finished third in the Deutsche Bank Championship that ended Monday, and having tied for second in The Barclays the week before. His play in the first two of the four FedEx Cup playoff tournaments means that he has an excellent chance of going into the Tour Championship finale that starts Sept. 19th with the opportunity to win the tournament and the $10-million bonus that goes with being the FedEx champion – no matter what anybody else does.
Anybody in the top five on the list going into the finale can win the Cup if he takes the Tour Championship. DeLaet is fifth now. He won’t need to have a post-doctorate in mathematics to figure out all the permutations and combinations that have to fall into place for a golfer not in the top five to win the gigantic bonus. He’ll just have to win the Tour Championship. Just.
First, DeLaet must maintain, or, better, improve his position during next week’s third leg of the sort of grand, well, grandiose, slam of modern golf – the four FedEx tournaments. He’ll play the BMW Championship that begins Sept. 12th in Lake Forest, Ill., where, as in the first two FedEx tournaments, the winner will pick up 2,500 points. DeLaet is 1,245 points behind FedEx leader Tiger Woods. He’s only 244 points ahead of Phil Mickelson, who holds sixth place. You can find more information on how the FedEx Cup works here .
The point is that DeLaet has been strutting his stuff just when it matters most. There’s an appealing swagger about him; DeLaet looks like he can make anything happen, anytime. He told International team captain Nick Price during a meeting last spring that he really wanted to make the Presidents Cup team that will compete against the U.S. next month at the Muirfield Village Golf Club in Dublin, Ohio. Price liked what he heard. He still needed to learn more about the Weyburn, Sask. golfer. He’s learned plenty.
The top 10 golfers on the Presidents Cup points list through the Deutsche Bank Championship qualified automatically for the team. DeLaet’s tie for second in The Barclays moved him into 10th place. His third-place finish in the Deutsche Bank advanced him to eighth place. He’s on the team and did not have to depend on Price making him one of his two captain’s picks. Price and U.S. team captain Fred Couples will announce their picks Wednesday, Sept. 4th.
DeLaet is thrilled to have made the team via his play. As he tweeted shortly after holing a 10-foot birdie putt on the final hole Monday to nab third place alone:
He was referring to the beard he’s sporting through the playoff series. It’s a Canadian thing, right? How many times did the commentators on the Deutsche Bank Championship tell us that Canadian hockey players don’t shave while they’re in the playoffs? Too many, but never mind.
I’d wager that Price would have picked DeLaet even if he’d not qualified automatically. Price’s close pal Ernie Els played with DeLaet in the third round of the Deutsche Bank. DeLaet shot nine-under-par 62 in that round. No doubt Price spoke with Els about what he witnessed. Els had also played with DeLaet in the third round of July’s Open Championship. DeLaet shot 42 that day on the front side at the Muirfield Golf Club in Gullane, Scotland, and 34 on the more difficult back side. Els has seen what DeLaet can do, the not so good, the very good, and the otherworldly (his 62).
Price is very happy to have DeLaet on his team. He made that clear during a Presidents Cup teleconference the evening after the Deutsche Bank Championship ended, when ScoreGolf’s Jason Logan asked him his views about DeLaet.
“Well, you know, Graham has improved since ‑ in the last two years, I’ve watched him play a little bit, and I don’t really know his game that well. But this last, say, 10, 12 weeks, I’ve watched him really, really turn his whole year around,” Price said.
He sure has. DeLaet is ranked 35th in the world. He’s had seven top-10 finishes on the PGA Tour this year. He’s 16th on the money list with $2,649,300. And he’s recently shown that he’s capable of bringing his best stuff when it matters the most.
“One thing I will say, when I had the meeting at Muirfield Village in May with all the other players, Graham came to me afterwards and was so fired up after listening to Adam Scott and K.J. Choi and some of the more experienced team members talk about what it was like to play in The Presidents Cup,” Price said.
“And he came to me and he said, ‘I really want to make this team, Nick.’ That determination, to me, showed in the last month of play, particularly the last two weeks.
“You know, he’s matured,” Price continued. “He’s learned how to play the game so well, and I think he’s going to be a huge asset to our team. And the enthusiasm is such an important part; enthusiasm is infectious in a team, so with all the youngsters (rookies) that are in there, I don’t think we are going to be too short of enthusiasm.”
DeLaet is developing into quite a player. Wouldn’t it be something if he made the Tour Championship his first PGA Tour win, while taking the FedEx Cup at the same time? He’s made that once unlikely scenario a possibility, by playing good golf all year, and great golf the last two weeks.
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Lorne Rubenstein has written a golf column for The Globe and Mail since 1980. He has played golf since the early 1960s and was the Royal Canadian Golf Association’s first curator of its museum and library at the Glen Abbey Golf Club in Oakville, Ontario and the first editor of Score, Canada’s Golf Magazine, where he continues to write a column and features. He has won four first-place awards from the Golf Writers Association of America, one National Magazine Award in Canada, and he won the award for the best feature in 2009 from the Golf Journalists Association of Canada. Lorne has written 12 books, including Mike Weir: The Road to the Masters (2003); A Disorderly Compendium of Golf, with Jeff Neuman (2006); This Round’s on Me (2009); and the latest Moe & Me: Encounters with Moe Norman, Golf’s Mysterious Genius (2012). He is a member of the Ontario Golf Hall of Fame and the Canadian Golf Hall of Fame. Lorne can be reached at email@example.com. You can now follow him on Twitter @lornerubenstein