LAS VEGAS – Making his first PGA Tour start in nearly two years, Graham DeLaet admitted he was uncomfortable.
The Canadian has gotten used to playing money games at home with his friends, riding around in carts and having a beer or two.
During a front-nine 40, one that included a triple bogey just three holes into his return, he was gripping his putter too tightly and trying to guide his ball around TPC Summerlin.
And yet, DeLaet realized he was enjoying himself.
“I was 5 over through four [holes] … but it didn’t even matter,” he said after a Thursday 75 at the Shriners Hospitals for Children Open. “I was out there having fun. I’m back on the PGA Tour again.”
DeLaet has missed the last two years following a second microdiscectomy on his back. He was last seen in a Tour field at the CJ Cup in October 2017, when he withdrew following a second-round 80. Stem-cell treatments didn’t give him relief and surgery followed.
After two seasons away, DeLaet was asked earlier this week just how he knew he was ready to come back.
“In all honesty, man, I didn’t and I don’t,” he told the Toronto Sun. “But at some point I just have to kind of give it a try.”
His first try saw him play his first 11 holes in 7 over, but more comfortable, aggressive swings late in the round yielded three consecutive birdies and a back-nine 35.
“It’s a lot more fun making birdies than triples, that’s for sure,” he joked.
As for his back: “It doesn’t really hurt to swing the golf club. It’s more about being on my feet and the pain and the achy-ness and the tightness that comes with it,” he explained. “The actual golf swing doesn’t bother me that much.”
Playing on a major medical extension, DeLaet will have 24 events to earn 266 FedExCup points. That’s more or less a full season’s worth of starts to finish the equivalent of 156th on last year’s points list. It’s a plenty attainable ask for a player who finished 76th during his last full season and has been a Tour regular since 2010.
The plan moving forward is to play next week in Houston and then in back-to-back starts in Bermuda and Mayakoba as he eases his way back into Tour life.
“That’s all my body will let me,” he said. “I’m more optimistic now after today’s round. It was such an unknown the last couple weeks, so I’m optimistic that I’ll get three or four events in this fall. Even if I don’t get a massive amount of FedExCup points, at least I’ll get back in the rhythm and the flow – just showing up on Monday and practicing and the routine.
“I don’t even have a routine right now,” he added with a laugh. “I don’t even know what I’m doing out here.”