Pacesetting DeLaet roars back into action in Hawaii

By Staff Reporter
Reuters US Online Report Sports News

Jan 12, 2012 20:11 EST

(Reuters) - A year after back surgery almost entirely wiped out his 2011 campaign, pain-free Canadian Graham DeLaet made a near-perfect start to his 2012 season in Thursday's opening round of the Sony Open in Hawaii.

DeLaet, 29, took advantage of surprisingly benign conditions at Waialae Country Club in Honolulu, firing a seven-under-par 63 to grab an early two-shot lead.

DeLaet, who competed in only four events last year, recorded six birdies, an eagle and a lone bogey to set a sizzling pace in the PGA Tour's first full-field event of the season.

South Korean KJ Choi, the 2008 Sony Open champion, opened with a 65 to end the day level with Swede Carl Pettersson and American Kyle Reifers.

"When we teed off ... it was cool and not a breath of wind for probably the first six holes so it was definitely a day you could take advantage of," DeLaet told reporters.

Asked to assess his all-round fitness, he replied: "I'm feeling great, better and better all the time. I feel probably as good right now as I have in the last two or three years."

DeLaet had surgery on his lower back on January 3 last year and returned to competition in June before lingering pain forced him to abort his season after playing just two events apiece on the PGA Tour and its feeder Nationwide Tour.

He is competing on the 2012 PGA Tour in the major medical extension category and has 26 events to earn a total of $657,694 to secure his card for 2013.

"That's basically a full year on tour," said DeLaet, a three-times winner on the Canadian Professional Golf Tour. "Hopefully I won't have to worry about that money line later in the season.

"I really think that if I can just go out and play my game here for the next five or six months, I can make it happen."

American world number five Steve Stricker, who clinched the PGA Tour's season-opening Tournament of Champions at Kapalua on Monday, was among Thursday's late starters at Waialae.

(Reporting by Mark Lamport-Stokes in Los Angeles; Editing by Frank Pingue)

Source: Reuters US Online Report Sports News


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