By Mike McAllister, PGATOUR.COM
HONOLULU -- Canadian Graham DeLaet, playing on a Major Medical Exemption, needs to make $668,166 in 26 TOUR starts in order to keep his card.
First place at the Sony Open in Hawaii this week is $990,000. DeLaet opened Thursday's first round with a 7-under 63, which currently makes him the clubhouse leader.
Three more rounds and ... well, you do the math.
"That would be a nice way to start the year," DeLaet said.
He’ll get to apply the $10,472 he made at last year's St. Jude FedEx Classic toward that $668,166, which is what the 125th player on last year’s money list made. That means he actually only needs to make $657,694.
Of course, a win would give him a two-year exemption and eliminate the money side of things. But that's getting ahead of ourselves.
For now, DeLaet is just glad to be in competitive form after missing most of the 2011 season following microdiscectomy surgery on a herniated disc in his lower back a year ago. He made just two starts in the middle of the year before realizing he was not yet ready to play competitive golf.
"It's definitely exciting to be back on the golf course," said DeLaet, who made nearly a $1 million on the PGA TOUR in 2010 prior to having surgery. "Great way to start the year.
"You know, just being in Hawaii, period, is a great way to start the year. To come out and fire a nice round in the opening round was great."
DeLaet said he did not hit it well off the tee Thursday and was fortunate a couple of times. He chipped in for eagle at the par-5 ninth and rolled in two birdie putts of longer than 34 feet. Strong iron play also bailed him out – he hit 16 of 18 greens in regulation.
"It seemed like every time I hit it in the rough, I had a little gap through the trees or just kind of chased one one off to the front edge," DeLaet said.