DeLaet's cautious approach

IAN HUTCHINSON, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 10:12 AM ET

We'll know how well Graham DeLaet does this week by what he chooses to do next week.

DeLaet is taking a cautious but confident approach to his first start of the season at the Nationwide Tour's Melwood Prince George's Open in Maryland this week after undergoing surgery in early January to fix a herniated disc that was pinching a nerve and causing pain in his legs.

That problem prematurely ended DeLaet's rookie year on the PGA Tour in 2010, one in which he finished 100th on the money list and earned three top-10 finishes, including a tie for third at the Shell Houston Open.

He says if he's firing on all cyclinders this week, then he'll play the following week on the PGA Tour at the FedEx St. Jude Classic in Memphis, but if he's not where he wants to be, he'll go to the Rex Hospital Open in Raleigh, N.C., one of five rehab starts available to him on the Nationwide Tour.

DeLaet's return could put a spark into an unspectacular PGA Tour season for Canadians in which David Hearn of Brantford is the leading money-winner in 111th place as of last week, with a tie for sixth in Houston accounting for most of Hearn's earnings this year.

DeLaet appears to be keeping a promise he made earlier this year to not hurry his recovery or his return despite the temptation.

"I'm feeling really good. I honestly don't even feel my back at all when I'm on the course. It took awhile to kind of trust it and go into the ground (on shots) because that's what was hurting in the fall and psychologically, that was the tough part to get over, but I'm past that now," said DeLaet.

As part of his recovery, DeLaet underwent physical therapy and conditioning in Phoenix and has been playing almost every day near his home in Boise.

"The weather hasn't been great, but it's like that everywhere. Because I've been doing so much stuff in the gym, my legs are so much stronger. It is a little bit different walking on soft, uneven surfaces, but I'm in really good shape right now. I don't feel it's going to be any kind of issue," he said.

So physically and mentally, DeLaet seems ready, but this week will show him a lot.

"Just gett ing used to playing with nerves -- I can't wait because that's what I miss the most out of the last seven months is just being under the gun and having to hit shots. That's what's fun about playing competitive golf and that's what I've really missed the most," he said.

"I don't know if I'm going to be shaky when I get under pressure or not, but I just want to get back into the rhythm of tournament golf," added DeLaet, who figures he will have 10 to 12 tournaments ments on a medical exemption into next year, but hopes he doesn't need to use them.

"I really hope to make enough money to be in the top 125 at season's end, so I don't have to worry about it. That's the ultimate goal," said DeLaet.

DO YOU CARE?

Most golf fans couldn't give a rat's rear end that Tiger Woods' agent Mark Steinberg is leaving IMG or about Tiger's business dealings, but Steinberg's exit became a media circus last week more because of the media's relationship with Steinberg and the fact that anything Tiger is news in their eyes.

Apparently, IMG is scaling back its golf division, which includes involvement in many tournaments and other events, That's where the effect could be held in Canada, with the Telus World Skins Game being an IMG production.

This year's Skins Game will be played this summer in Banff featuring Lucas Glover, Jhonattan Vegas, Anthony Kim, Paul Casey and Calgary's Stephen Ames. Conceivably, that could be the last one.

IMG also represents Mike Weir.


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