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DeLaet joins golf's elite

Canadian star will play for International team at Presidents Cup

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Graham DeLaet has one second-place finish and two thirds this season while contending for the FedEx Cup title.

MICHAEL DWYER / THE ASSOCIATED PRESS ARCHIVES Enlarge Image

Graham DeLaet has one second-place finish and two thirds this season while contending for the FedEx Cup title.

He's been second once and third twice on the PGA Tour this season, clinched a spot in the Presidents Cup and is contending for the FedEx Cup title and a cool five-figure bonus.

But Graham DeLaet isn't actively looking to replace his idol as the new face of Canadian golf.

"None of us is trying to be the next Mike Weir, that's for sure, because he's one of a kind," DeLaet said during a conference call Thursday. "He carried the flag for this country for a long time and did it well, not only just in golf but for sport in Canada in general.

"He's a tremendous ambassador for our country and the game and if I can be half the ambassador he's been I'd be quite happy."

Weir, of Brights Grove, Ont., is tied with the late George Knudson for most career PGA Tour wins by a Canadian with eight, but is the only Canuck to have won a major after his victory at the 2003 Masters. The veteran left-hander turned pro in 1992 and is ranked No. 20 in career earnings with over $27 million.

'I've played team sports all my life... I feel like I'm a good leader. Obviously I'm going to be a rookie on that team so I probably won't assume a leadership role by any means but I feel I can help guys out'

-- Graham DeLaet

But the 43-year-old's last PGA Tour win came in 2007 and he didn't make the cut in the 14 events he entered last year. So far in 2013, Weir has made the cut in nine of 22 tournaments and earned $194,510.

DeLaet, 31, who battled back problems early in his career, is enjoying a breakthrough campaign. The native of Weyburn, Sask., who turned pro in 2006, finished tied for second -- a career best -- at The Barclays and his third-place finish Monday in the Deutsche Bank Championship earned him a spot on the international team for next month's Presidents Cup in Dublin, Ohio.

It will mark DeLaet's first appearance in the Presidents Cup, an event Weir has played in five times. The two spoke briefly about the tournament earlier this year, but DeLaet wants to speak with Weir again about what he can expect.

"I was actually planning on giving him a call and just picking his brain a little bit," DeLaet said. "We played a practice round in Hartford this year and at that time I was on the outside looking in for the Presidents Cup ... but it was on my radar and something I wanted to achieve.

"Pretty much everyone I've talked to says it's the most amazing tournament that you'll play in, the atmosphere is unbelievable. I haven't played a ton of match play and obviously he took down (Tiger Woods in 2007 Presidents Cup) so he knows something about it."

The Presidents Cup pits a team representing the U.S. against an international squad in a match-play format. Each game is worth a point with a maximum of 34 available so the side amassing 17.5 or more points wins.

The U.S. has dominated this event, winning seven of nine played since its inception in 1994. The International side's lone victory came in 1998, with the 2003 competition finishing tied.

DeLaet doesn't have much match-play experience but is embracing the format.

"I actually feel it suits my game pretty well," DeLaet said. "You can be a lot more aggressive when needed and also play smart when needed.

"It's obviously a totally different game, you're playing more against your competitor than you are the golf course ... it's exciting to think about right now. I can't wait to play it."

Although he'll be a Presidents Cup rookie, DeLaet is more than comfortable to take a leadership role on the International squad, if required.

"I've played team sports all my life ... I feel like I'm a good leader," he said. "Obviously I'm going to be a rookie on that team so I probably won't assume a leadership role by any means but I feel I can help guys out.

"We all know what's at stake and you don't want to let guys down. But at the same time if you can pump a guy up when he's a little bit down on himself or disappointed in a shot and let him know it's not a big deal, that we have a lot of golf to play and you believe in him, that's really the thing."

DeLaet has made the cut in 19 of 24 events this year and posted 12 top-25 finishes. He's currently ranked fifth in the FedEx Cup standings, 16th on the PGA Tour money list (over $2.6 million) and No. 35 in the world golf rankings.

"I was speaking with one of my buddies (Wednesday) and he was going through some things like the world rankings, money list and FedEx Cup and guys I'm ahead of," DeLaet said. "I kind of sat back and thought, 'Wow, this has just been an unbelievable year.' "

-- The Canadian Press

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition September 6, 2013 C6

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