Graham DeLaet on induction: ‘You’re in some pretty good company’
Graham DeLaet wants his 2 1/2-year-old twins to experience a small piece of his life on the PGA Tour.
He has to get healthy enough to play again first.
DeLaet is scheduled to undergo his second back surgery Friday in Boise in an attempt to save his PGA Tour career. He hasn’t played a tour event since October, spending the past nine months trying other forms of treatment to avoid surgery.
Within the last few weeks, another setback convinced him to go the surgical route.
“It’s the next logical step,” DeLaet said Monday during a promotional appearance at the Albertsons Boise Open media day. “It’s also kind of a little bit of relief. I know it’s a pretty immediate (pain) relief. Just to be out of the pain and on a path going the right way as opposed to sitting around hoping it would get better ... at least gives me a direction.”
DeLaet, a 36-year-old former Boise State star who lives in Eagle, has dealt with lower-back issues much of his career. He underwent his first back surgery in January 2011, and after a year of rehab experienced his most successful stretch as a pro.
He’s hopeful he’ll be able to return more quickly this time because the injury isn’t as severe. The procedure will be on the disc above the one that was altered last time.
The microdiscectomy involves shaving a piece off the disc to prevent it from pinching a nerve.
“I’m scared, for sure,” DeLaet said. “The last time I had this done was probably the scariest day of my life, and it’s starting to build now. But because I’ve been through this before, I’m also optimistic. I played six years of pretty good golf on that disc that was operated on.”
DeLaet finished a career-best eighth in the FedExCup standings in 2013, in the middle of three straight top-60 finishes on the PGA Tour.
He finished in the top 10 in six tournaments last season, including a tie for seventh at the PGA Championship, and opened the 2017-18 season in October with a tie for fifth at the Safeway Open.
But his children weren’t old enough to appreciate any of that — or to walk through the locker room recognizing the stars at their dad’s side, or to hit balls on the driving range on a Monday.
“Those are the kinds of things I want to share with my kids,” DeLaet said. “I’m a few years away.”
He’ll get every chance to keep his spot on the PGA Tour when he returns. He expects to have 22-23 events to try to earn enough FedExCup points to retain his PGA Tour status. He’s already nearly one-third of his way to the necessary point total largely because of his Safeway finish. He gets three years to play those events under the tour’s major-medical provision.
DeLaet likely will have been sidelined for a season and a half by the time he returns but he’s confident he’ll still be competitive.
“The hardest thing is you lose a little bit of that competitive edge,” he said. “You’re so used to competing week in, week out. It slowly fades away in a weird way. That will be one of the things that I’ll have to get back is trying to have that killer instinct. From an actual playing standpoint, I feel pretty confident because I’ve been through this once before.”
The injury causes back stiffness and soreness that DeLaet knows how to handle. But it also has created pain down his right leg, which frightens him. With the previous injury, that nerve issue got so bad that he couldn’t move three toes on his right foot.
He could keep playing with cortisone shots, he said — he’s done it before — but his back would deteriorate, his doctor has told him. This surgery could extend his career at least into his 40s.
DeLaet’s swing, which features an unusually stable lower body that strains his back but leads to his consistent ball-striking, is a contributor to his injuries, he said. But he doesn’t plan to change it because it works.
“I’m 36 years old and I’ve been playing professional golf for 15 years — that’s just part of the job,” he said of the back and even neck pain he endures. “There’s going to be less and less guys playing till they’re 50 and beyond. It’s all about power. When I came out, I was one of the longer guys. Now, I can’t even dream of keeping up.”