Graham DeLaet won’t be so much in awe of Augusta National Golf Club when he makes his Masters debut next month.
The native of Weyburn, Sask., made a trip to the fabled golf course last week. Although bad weather prevented him from playing a full round, he did walk the par-72, 7,435-yard layout and make mental notes regarding the lay of the land.
“It was drizzly rain and cold the first day and it was pretty tough on my body to swing in that kind of cold with that many layers on,” DeLaet said during a conference call Wednesday. “The next day I was supposed to tee off at 8 a.m. and it was 33 degrees Fahrenheit so I just grabbed a couple of wedges and a putter and walked the golf course and chipped and putted because I knew it wasn’t going to be good for my body to play, unfortunately.
“But it was still very worthwhile to go and see the course . . . and kind of get the ’Wow’ factor out of the way. It (the course) was pretty much perfect. It was a little bit soft because we had some rain but it was all I could ever imagine and expect it to be.”
An ardent television viewer of past Masters tournaments — including Canadian Mike Weir’s 2003 championship — DeLaet said actually walking the course was a learning experience.
“It’s funny because I’ve seen obviously all the holes on TV and felt like I knew the golf course going in,” he said. “At the same time I don’t think I really realized how treacherous some of the greens are and some of the surrounds around the greens.
“That was the one thing that kind of stood out to me.”
And from what DeLaet saw, he has the game to potentially succeed at Augusta.
“I do feel the golf course suits my game pretty well,” he said. “I mean, it’s a big golf course.
“You have to drive it well and hit your irons precisely. When it comes down to it, the guys who are winning and finishing 10th, it’s all about holing putts out there. If I feel like I can hit it as good as I can and have one of those weeks with my putter I feel like it may be a real special week.”
The five-foot-11, 165-pound DeLaet is enjoying a solid start to the PGA Tour season. He’s recorded five top-10 finishes — including two second-place efforts — made the cut in eight of nine tournaments entered and stands 15th in FedExCup standings having won over US$1.6 million.
Last year, DeLaet earned over $2.8 million after recording seven top-10 finishes and making the cut in 21 of 26 events entered.
And on Tuesday, Weir, of Bright’s Grove, Ont., told reporters he felt DeLaet, 32, could contend at Augusta.
“I think Graham obviously has the type of game that can do very well there,” Weir said. “He hits it long, he hits it very high.
“He’s a powerful guy. He’s worked hard on his short game, which has gotten so much better.”
DeLaet said he and Weir were looking to play together at Augusta last week but family commitments prevented Weir from making the trip.
“Mike has been a great supporter of me and I can lean on him for advice from time to time,” DeLaet said.
“I would love to get out with Mike.
“Obviously to pick a past champion’s brain could be super valuable out there.”
DeLaet said he always has butterflies when he hits his first tee shot to officially open a tournament. But having played previously in the British Open as well as last year’s President’s Cup, DeLaet feels he knows what to expect heading into his first Masters.
“The most nerves I’ve ever felt on the first tee was at the President’s Cup,” he said. “I mean, my heart was racing for the first hole and a half there and I probably anticipate it (Masters) being something like that.
“At the same time I feel like because I’ve been through it once or twice with a couple of different majors and the President’s Cup, I kind of know what to expect. Going into the British Open last year I remember not really knowing what to expect and how I was going to feel on that first tee when they announced my name. Whether I’m going to be able to control it (at the Masters) as well as I’d like to, I kind of know how it’s probably going to feel.”
DeLaet said he’s also been working on fine-tuning his game to suit the conditions he expects to see at Augusta.
“I’ve been hitting off a lot more tight lies and trying to hit some higher, softer shots with my irons,” he said. “I’ve really been trying to work the ball on the range even moreso than I normally do because you can really use a lot of slopes and kind of kill balls into slopes and ride balls with the slope so I’ve been trying to do a lot of that on the driving range.”
However, DeLaet has also been told to embrace the experience that is playing the Masters, one of golf’s most prestigious and legendary championships.
“I got some good advice from a couple of guys to really just enjoy it and have fun,” he said. “The course will at times feel like it’s really beating you up.
“But you just have to look around and realize, especially your first time, you’re playing in the Masters. If you can’t have fun and enjoy it then you’re probably doing the wrong thing.
“That’s going to kind of be one of my main focuses going in.”