Survival stories: DeLaet, Blixt moving on

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Graham DeLaet is one of six players to move inside the top 100 and advance to the Deutsche Bank Championship.
August 26, 2012
Helen Ross, PGATOUR.COM Chief of Correspondents

FARMINGDALE, N.Y. -- Graham DeLaet figured he needed to shoot even par or better on Sunday. If he did, the Canadian felt fairly certain he would be able to advance to the Deutsche Bank Championship -- no matter where he finished at The Barclays.


Back-to-back bogeys at Nos. 4 and 5, though, put DeLaet behind the eight -ball early during the final round on the Black Course at Bethpage State Park. But he answered the challenge in a big way -- playing his final 13 holes in 8 under to vault up the leaderboard as well as the FedExCup standings.

"I got off to kind of a rough start and ... and then I started hitting a lot of good shots and making some putts and before you know it I had a really good round going," said DeLaet, who fueled the surge with a 9-iron from 161 yards for an eagle at No. 15 before making birdie on the last two holes.

The resulting 65, which was the best round of the day, gave DeLaet a share of fifth place, his third top-10 finish of the year, and locked down No. 44 in the FedExCup, a jump of 62 spots. In the FedExCup Playoffs, points are awarded at five times the rate they were during the regular season.

DeLaet not only made the top 100 who advance to TPC Boston but he also put himself well within the top 70 who would make it to the BMW Championship -- with another good week, that is.

"A lot of people think there's too much volatility in it but it kind of worked in my favor," DeLaet said. "One good event and you can really catapult yourself up. Now I feel like I've got a chance to get in the TOUR Championship whereas this morning I was just hoping to play next week."

DeLaet is one of six who played their way into the second Playoffs event. Also moving on are Jonas Blixt (No. 101 to 97th), Tommy Gainey (102-91), Bob Estes (103-62), David Hearn (108-67) and Jason Day (113-88). In addition, rookie Roberto Castro, who was the "bubble boy" at the start of the week, moved from No. 100 to 80th when he tied for 27th.

The key, DeLaet said, was keeping focused on the task at hand.

"I guess you kind of think about (the FedExCup) when you're eating supper at night or when you're laying in bed. But once on golf course you're just focused on each shot and trying to battle this golf course," DeLaet said. "This is a hell of a golf course. It's a tough test."

As added insurance, both DeLaet and Hearn are sporting playoff beards like countryman Mike Weir did in 2008. "I'm Canadian," DeLaet said simply. "This is what we do in the Playoffs." Blixt, on the other hand, has been growing a moustache on a bet for the last 18 days that the Swede calls his "rally-stache."

When Blixt stood over a 5-footer for a successful sand save at the 18th hole, CBS flashed a graphic that told the story of the Playoffs. Make it for par and he finishes 97th. Make bogey and he clocks in at No. 101 while a double bogey would have put him two spots higher.

That's how fine the line is in the Playoffs -- and how quickly things can change.

"Great thing I didn't see that," Blixt said as he ran the gamut of TV, radio and print reporters outside the cedar-shingled clubhouse at Bethpage State Park. "That would have been terrible. I just wanted to make the putt."

Blixt actually had been more worried about making the cut on Friday than what would happen in the final two rounds. He thought that by surviving to play the weekend he would advance as long as he played "decent" golf.

"I thought by making the cut and (with) five times the points, I should be all right," the Florida State grad, who has a degree in international business, said. "Probably the last approach shot (to the 18th) I would have approached it a little different because I tried to make birdie. I probably would have hit it a little longer and just two-putted if I knew I had to make par on the last."

With the Friday start and Monday finish at the Deutsche Bank Championship, Blixt will now have some extra time to work on his game. The Barclays was only his second start since he missed the cut at the Memorial Tournament presented by Nationwide Insurance and was sidelined by a rib injury. Prior to going to Muirfield Village that week, Blixt was on a roll and had finished 13th or better in his previous four events.

"Next week I obviously have to play a lot better than I did today or this week -- at least top 10," Blixt said. "I've got to go out and try to make as many birdies as possible."

Castro said he knew The Barclays was going to be a different week when the rookie sat down in the player dining room and saw players like Rory McIlroy, Luke Donald, Tiger Woods and Lee Westwood, who rank Nos. 1-4 in the world, respectively, in there breaking bread, as well.

"I've only played one major, this summer's U.S. Open at Olympic, and I feel like there's at least as many people here and the excitement is at least as high," Castro said. "It's so condensed. It's only 125 players and feels like even more of a small club and I think next week is going to be even tighter. People who haven't been to a Playoffs event, it's worth making a trip for."

Turns out, an ace at the 14th hole on Friday made the trip worthwhile for Castro. Before he holed that 5-iron, he was projected at No. 102 in the FedExCup and flirting with an early exit after opening with a 76. Instead, he made the cut on the number after a second-round 67 and went on to seal his spot in Boston when he shot 2 under on the weekend.

"I'd seen enough that I knew that 40th, 50th or 60th place was not going to get me in the top 100," Castro said. "I knew that I nededed to move up. But I've been there a lot of times. I make things difficult for myself. I've made a bunch of cuts on the number and had a lot of experience making a weekend run at a good finish and I did that again this week. ...

"I think you put a little bit more into it when you know the alternative is a month off. It's definitely unique. I drew on some past experiences today -- q-school, Tour Championship when I was on the bubble. Those were big moments but more long-term rewards. This is more immediate."

Castro said he tried to remind himself that he had already accomplished a lot by making the Playoffs as a rookie. He'll take the same approach when he gets to TPC Boston on Monday.

"I was patting myself on the back this week and I think I should do the same next week," Castro said. "To be one of the best 100 players is a big accomplishment. This is my rookie year. You think about it your whole life whether you're going to be good enough to play out here. You wonder and it's fun to find out. This week, that's where a lot of my excitement came from. You shoot 69 out here and you can compare it to the best players on the planet, some of the best players who ever lived.

"So it's definitely rewarding."