Just a day removed from the first anniversary of surgery to repair a bulging disc in his back, Graham DeLaet boarded a plane for paradise, looking to resume his mission of a year ago.
The first step forward he planned to take in his promising PGA Tour career that was postponed for a year. He’s now at the same point as fellow Canadian David Hearn, who is also playing this week’s Sony Open in Hawaii.
A year after DeLaet finished a strong rookie year 100th on the 2010 money list, Hearn finished 104th and it’s realistic for both to expect an elevation in their respective fortunes as they kick off 2012.
“It’s funny,” Hearn said. “Graham and I were having dinner in Phoenix last fall and we were kind of talking about that exact same thing, where we had very similar seasons (in different years), even down to the tournaments we played well,” he said.
DeLaet made a brief comeback last year, but was forced to back off due to pain.
“It’s amazing how fast a year can go by and how slow it can go by at the same time. There were times a year ago when I honestly didn’t know if I was ever going to play golf again,” said DeLaet, who has been playing around Southern California lately.
“Here, I am. I feel like I’m playing as good as I have in awhile and I’m ready to go,” he said.
“I can draw a lot of positives from last year. I realize how fortunate I am to be doing what I’m doing,” he said.
DeLaet has 26 events on a medical exemption in which he needs to make $657,694. While he’s feeling fine, he does need to be careful about his health. He plans to play four consecutive West Coast events to see how the back holds up.
“That will be the last test to see if my body can hold up for four weeks straight. I don’t ever plan on playing more than four weeks in a row and every time I do take time off, if it works out, I’m taking a two-week stint off instead of one,” DeLaet said.
“I want to try and qualify for all the invitationals and the majors that I can. I want to treat it as a regular season, but at the same time, I’ve got to be aware that I was injured,” he added.
For Hearn, the 2012 season is all about confidence in the principles he employed last season, his first since playing on tour in 2005.
“Going into the season, my goals are pretty consistent to where they were last year,” Hearn said.
“Anybody can just say: ‘Well yeah, I want to win a golf tournament,’ but it’s more important to have the proper attitude, go to the golf course and make sure I’m prepared the way we know best, be at the gym three to four days a week,” he said.
Hearn finished 2011 with three top tens, including a tie for sixth at the Shell Houston Open in April, which gave him the confidence his work ethic and preparations were on the right track.
“I’ve always felt like I had the game that I can compete at that level and it was just really nice to get that confirmation early in the year, so I’ll be looking to do it a little bit earlier this year,” Hearn said.
BUSY WEST COAST SWING
Hearn plans to play the next four events on the PGA Tour schedule which, after Sony, would put him into the Humana Challenge in La Quinta, Calif., the Farmers Insurance Open at Torrey Pines and the Waste Management Phoenix Open. He’ll make the call after that which events he’ll play into the Florida swing ... DeLaet will take the Humana off, then play the next four, which would take him into Pebble Beach in early February ... Calgary’s Stephen Ames is also in the Sony field ... Expect Glen Abbey to be named soon as the 2013 venue for the RBC Canadian Open and possibly the 2014 Open.
Dick Grimm, respectfully known as “Mr. Canadian Open” after his years of leading and building that PGA Tour event will receive the PGA of Canada’s inaugural George Cumming Distinguished Service Award at the end of this month in Orlando ... Mackenzie Hughes of Dundas and Toronto’s Rebecca Lee-Bentham have been named Canada’s top male and female amateur golfers, respectively by Golf Canada based on final standings on the 2011 National Order of Merit. Lee-Bentham recently turned pro and earned her LPGA Tour card at Q-school ... The way that many Canadians bitch about the lack of countrymen on the PGA Tour, but want nothing to do with them at the development stages makes one wonder if a deal with the struggling Canadian Tour will last beyond 2012. The PGA Tour will provide an operating loan and assistance in tournament development and sponsorship this year, but any involvement beyond that will depend on a season-long evaluation. The ideal situation from a Canadian Tour perspective is that it becomes a feeder circuit for both the Nationwide and PGA Tours.