DeLaet making name for himself

Graham Delaet drives off the 13th tee during the first round of the Sony Open at the Waialae...

Graham Delaet drives off the 13th tee during the first round of the Sony Open at the Waialae Country Club in Honolulu, Jan. 12, 2012. (HUGH GENTRY/Reuters)

TIM McKAY, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 7:40 PM ET

Far from an unknown in his home country, Graham DeLaet ventured into uncharted territory Sunday in New Orleans.

And standing on the tee in the final pairing for the first time in his PGA Tour career, it was clear the world was going to get a lesson on what he was all about, if not geography.

“From Sasaquan,” stumbled the announcer, “Graham DeLaet.”

A moment of levity, for sure, that wasn't lost on the 30-year-old from Weyburn, Sask.

“I was giggling inside,” DeLaet said. “Usually they’ll pronounce it wrong ... but that wasn’t even close.”

“I’m kind of used to it, though, because everyone always pronounces my name wrong."

DeLaet said he wasn’t nervous, but may have been a little tentative over a couple of putts early in the round. Still, he said, it’s the feeling that you play the game for.

“Walking down the fairway on No. 1, I said to my caddie, ‘This is it. This is what it’s all about.’ Final pairing on Sunday in a PGA Tour event? If you can’t get up for that, you better find something else to do.”

With a few more showings like his tie for fourth on Sunday at the Zurich Classic of New Orleans — the second best of his career following a tie for third at the 2010 Houston Open — DeLaet should become a more well known outside of Canada.

When told that Nationwide Tour player Rob Oppenheim, with whom he had played on the Canadian Tour, had told a TV announcer that DeLaet was the best player in the world that no one had heard of, DeLaet laughed off the suggestion.

“That’s a nice comment ... I guess.”

So, what did the soft-spoken DeLaet learn from his first foray into the pressure cooker atmosphere of being in the final group on a Sunday?

“The main thing is that I really realized that I have the game to win out there,” he said. “I didn’t let a couple of bad shots ruin my round. I kept it respectable.”

Very respectable indeed.

RORY VERY WARY

Rory McIlroy turns 23 Friday and the young man is facing a challenge most of his contemporaries don’t have to worry about: Burnout.

“I don’t want to be burned out by the time I’m 30,” McIlroy said during his news conference Wednesday at the Wells Fargo Championship. “I want to try and prolong my career as much as I can.”

That’s why, he said, he is looking to play about 23 times worldwide this season, compared with about 30 last year.

“I sometimes take a little bit too much out of myself, especially toward the end of the season,” said McIlroy. “The most important time for me in the golf season is the start of April until the end of August. That’s when all the big tournaments are and that’s when you want to play your best golf.”

The demands on the Northern Irishman’s time went up following his first major victory last year at the U.S. Open at Congressional but he says he now knows he has to rein it in.

“I know I’ve been criticized a little for maybe not playing as much as some other guys,” he said. “I’m trying to find a perfect balance between golf and having a normal life.

“There’s more to life than just golf. I don’t know if people are surprised to hear that. I’ve got a lot more going on in my life than just golf.”

But that’s not saying the fire isn’t there for the world No. 2.

“I want to be able to call myself a multiple major champion,” he said. “It’s the highest prize that we have in golf is to win one of the four majors and I was just happy to do that. Obviously I want to try to win some more.”

CAN-DO

Canadians are starved for the next great golfer from the Great White North.

It’s why we were so excited when Adam Hadwin came from seemingly nowhere for a dream season in 2011, why we are so buoyed by top-10 finishes by the likes of DeLaet and David Hearn on the PGA Tour, and by Andrew Parr on the European Tour.

And it’s why we still devotedly follow the exploits of fading greats Stephen Ames and Mike Weir, whose fans on his own website this week were debating whether he’d make the cut at the Wells Fargo Championship before it even began.

Judging by the media reaction to DeLaet’s performance last week — he was swamped with interview requests from Canadian news outlets — Canucks are hungry for a winner.

DeLaet bristled at the idea that we need a win on the PGA Tour for Canadian golf at the top level to be given its due and, while he’d love to be the guy who gets there, he says fans should realize it isn’t easy on a tour where parity has taken over.

“I think Canadian golf is in good shape,” he said. “I don’t think people realize how hard it is. What Weir and Ames have done is incredible.

“And with guys like Hadwin, Parr (among others), there’s a lot of good, talented Canadians.”

HOW TWEET IT IS

From the did-anyone-else-just-see-that? file after Jason Dufner’s victory celebration on Sunday comes this tweet from a colleague in Regina: “Jason Dufner — waaaaaay out over his skis in the fiancée department.”


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