Smarter, wiser DeLaet nearly ready to return

IAN HUTCHINSON

, Last Updated: 6:29 PM ET

TORONTO - A medical exemption is likely in the cards to carry Graham DeLaet of Weyburn, Sask., into next season if he needs it, but it’s not a concept he wants to consider with his return to the PGA Tour on the horizon, although he hasn’t set the actual date just yet.

DeLaet, who underwent surgery to repair a herniated disk that was pinching a nerve, says he’d rather just make enough this calendar year to secure his status for 2012, but the medical exemption is a nice safety net to have at this point.

“When it comes down to it, as soon as I’m ready to go, I just want to play. We’ll cross that road when we get to it,” said DeLaet, 29, who has missed the first two months of the season thus far.

It’s an ambitious plan, but one he acknowledges can’t be allowed to take priority over his strategy to pace himself better that he did in his rookie year of 2009, when he finished 100th on the money list and had three top-10 finishes, including a tie for third at the Shell Houston Open, in 28 tournaments.

DeLaet admits that he fell into a common rookie trap of trying to play as much as he could to make enough money to keep his card. Even on weeks that he wasn’t playing, he would be on the range or playing in order to keep his game sharp, instead of taking time to chill.

“I just have to take a little bit more time off between weeks. Last year was, by far, the most golf I’ve ever played in a year without taking time off,” he said. “If I would have played five less events, I really 100% believe I would have made more money,” he said.

“The main thing for me is, first of all, to be healthy and secondly, just to be as fresh as I can mentally every week that I’m out there,” said DeLaet, adding that he should have reacted to his back problem last fall instead of undergoing surgery on Jan. 3.

“I had terrible pain down my leg,” said DeLaet. “It got to the point where I couldn’t sit down for more than 10 seconds without going into spasm or almost crying because of the pain.

“We tried everything throughout November and December to recover without the surgery. We sat down as a family, with my doctor and agent and we thought (surgery) was the best way to do it,” he added.

“Now, in hindsight, I wish I would have done it in the middle of November. I’d probably be back out there playing by now, but I’m feeling a lot better,” he said.

DeLaet says he still has good days and bad days in his recovery and that more work needs to be done in the gym to get him back into playing form, but overall, the outlook is good.

“I think I’m ahead of the curve with the majority of the people who have had my surgery, according to my surgeon and my physical therapist,” he said.

“I was pretty fit going into it, so I think that helped a little bit. I still have a little bit of work to do. I need to bulk up a little bit. I lost quite a bit of weight during the whole process. I’ve got about half of it back now.

“I need to rebuild in my legs from not using them, basically, for a month-and-a-half, two months,” he said.

“Because right now it’s so day-to-day, we can’t really set any kind of date for (a return) yet. I can definitely tell you that every week, it’s definitely getting better,” said DeLaet.


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