With the Presidents Cup set to start Thursday at Muirfield Village in Dublin, Ohio, interest in Canada has been piqued by the emergence of Graham DeLaet making the International team against a familiar backdrop of past American domination in the biennial event that takes place in opposite years to the Ryder Cup.
"An absolute dream come true," DeLaet told Canadian reporters soon after being named to captain Nick Price's squad.
"This is probably the most proud moment of my career."
Given the circumstances, we can take DeLaet at his word. But the plight of the Internationals has been pretty much a nightmare since the Presidents Cup was conceived two decades ago. Aside from delivering a beatdown of the Americans at Royal Melbourne 15 years ago, the International team (all countries outside of Europe) has not been the sum of its parts. That, despite fielding a lineup that tends to be top heavy with stars and thin on the back end with players largely unknown to the general public.
He qualified based on those two showings and now Canadian golf fans are feeling a similar affinity for DeLaet to what they felt for Mike Weir when he first made the International side in 2000.
Beyond the Canadian angle, it remains to be seen if DeLaet can help spark the Internationals and become a bigger story in much the same way Weir was able to do six years ago.
Weir provided the biggest individual highlight in the past decade for the Internationals when he beat Tiger Woods head-to-head on home soil at Royal Montreal in 2007. Though the Americans dominated that year as well, Weir created a buzz, something DeLaet will be looking to do from his spot on the bottom half of the Internationals pecking order.
DeLaet, who has five other Top 10 showings beyond the pair he had in the FedEx Cup playoffs, said the sense of belonging he felt from top-ranked Internationals, such as reigning Masters champion Adam Scott, helped his confidence and to wrap his head around the fact he is now part of their team.
"The awe factor is more [realizing], 'Wow, this is what I've accomplished,'" said DeLaet, citing Ernie Els as another player who has made him feel comfortable.
"I'm not intimated playing with or against Tiger or Phil [Mickelson] and all these great players."
The last Presidents Cup two years ago was the first since 1998 without Canadian representation, only notable because of the embarrassing result for the Internationals in general and captain Greg Norman in particular. Playing at home in Melbourne, Australia, and on the golf course where the Americans were beaten handily 13 years earlier, it was obvious that Norman didn't have the answers or horses to even make it respectable. That two of Norman's players, fellow Aussies Geoff Ogilvy and Robert Allenby, almost came to blows a few days later underscored how ineffectual the team was that Norman put together.
DeLaet will be one of seven International rookies at Muirfield. While a cynic could suggest that DeLaet, largely unknown outside of Canada and the hardcore golf crowd, is typical of much of the International roster, if he plays well and finds some chemistry with his yet-to-be-determined playing partners, it could dramatically increase his profile. Do that, and have the Internationals acquit themselves better overall, and DeLaet could be viewed as part of the solution to making the event more relevant.
Beyond talent and execution, the more expansive Presidents Cup format has likely been the biggest factor in helping the U.S. dominate. Whereas the Ryder Cup only contests 28 points over three days, the Presidents Cup has another six matches in play over an extra day, which means the depth of American team is more of a factor.
Another variable that makes the Internationals massive underdogs is the lack of connection from one player to another. Many have openly admitted over the years that they're more familiar with the American players than their own teammates, who are spread around the globe. For years now, the Internationals have had revolving door at the bottom of their lineup from one competition to the next, with few depth players making much of an impression. Need proof? When was the last time you heard from former Internationals Stephen Leaney, Peter Lonard, Mark Hensby or Nick O'Hern?
The hope for Price is that this year's dynamic will be different because half of his team is, like their captain, South African-born.
And starting Thursday, DeLaet will attempt to make a better and more lasting impression than many of those who came before him.
Follow Peter Robinson on Twitter @PRGolfWriter
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