Rising star Graham DeLaet wants first PGA Tour victory

bmurphy@idahostatesman.comMay 26, 2013 

Graham DeLaet led by two strokes during Saturday's third round at Colonial, but bogeyed three of the last six holes and fell one shot back.

LM OTERO — The Associated Press

He's been close. He's given himself enough chances on Sundays. He's seen what it takes and felt the pressure.

Now Graham DeLaet wants to finish. Wants that elusive PGA Tour victory. Wants to be the last guy in the interview room, the guy leaving town with the oversized check and shiny trophy.

"You want to finish as well as you can. You learn a lot more from poor performances than you do from winning," said DeLaet, a former Boise State golfer and Meridian resident. "I've gotten enough experience. Hopefully this can be the week where I can break through."

The 31-year-old DeLaet has given himself another chance this Sunday.

He enters the final round of the Crowne Plaza Invitational at the Colonial Country Club in Fort Worth, Texas, in a four-way tie for second place at 10-under-par - just one shot behind leader Matt Kuchar.

It is the latest strong performance in 2013 for the Saskatchewan, Canada, native. He has three top-10 finishes, including a tie for 10th at last week's HP Byron Nelson Championship, and three more top-25 finishes.

DeLaet, who has earned $811,384 on tour this season, is 54th in FedEx Cup points and has climbed to No. 102 in the World Golf Rankings.

But he wants more.

"I feel like I've had a couple chances this year that I've squandered," DeLaet said.

Sunday at the Honda Classic in early March stands out. DeLaet recorded double bogeys on Nos. 13 and 14, knocking himself out of contention. He finished ninth, seven strokes behind winner Michael Thompson. DeLaet shot 73-72 on the weekend.

Last week at the Byron Nelson, DeLaet followed up 67s on Thursday and Friday with back-to-back 70s on the weekend.

"I feel more comfortable being in the mix. That's kind of the thing. It's a process. You see the guy that comes right out of the gate and gets a win in his first year, but there's a lot of guys out here that it's five, six, seven, eight, nine years before they get their first W," DeLaet said.

"It's a learning curve."

DeLaet is still learning.

He is playing his 70th career PGA event - a number lower than Tiger Woods' career victory total as DeLaet pointed out on Twitter - and is in his third full season on tour (2010, 2012 and 2013) after missing most of 2011 with a back injury. His best finish is a tie for third. He has nine career top 10s, including three in 14 starts this season.

His strong play has all but qualified him for the PGA Championship in August, which would be his first major.

DeLaet will attempt to qualify for the U.S. Open on Monday in a 36-hole qualifier, even if he wins this week. He's playing next week at The Memorial outside Columbus, Ohio - his fourth straight tournament - before taking a much-needed break.

His improvement stems from mental developments less than golfing mechanics.

"My actual golf game has improved a little bit. But mentally and emotionally I feel much more mature," he said.

DeLaet has plenty of game, too. He ranks eighth on the Tour in driving distance (301.4 yards) and second in greens in regulation (72.2 percent). He is third in total driving (a measure of distance and accuracy) and second in the Tour's ball-striking statistic.

Now he wants to finish.

DeLaet held a two-shot lead in Saturday's third round in Fort Worth, but bogeys on 13, 14 and 17 left him two back. DeLaet birdied No. 18 to pull into a second-place tie with just 18 to play.

The elusive win is again within reach.

"It would mean everything to me. It's been a dream of mine since I was a kid to play on the PGA Tour, let alone win. It's been a long time since a Canadian won. I know Bronco Nation is pulling for me. I get a lot of tweets and stuff from them," DeLaet said. "I can't really explain it. When it happens, it's going to be amazing."

As long as he keeps giving himself chances, and Sunday marks another good one, DeLaet will get that "amazing" breakthrough.

Brian Murphy: 377-6444, Twitter: @MurphsTurph

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