Graham DeLaet was so nervous before taking his first shot in an international match-play event that he tried to take the shot even though his opponents had the honor.
“I kind of looked like an idiot out there by teeing it up first,” said DeLaet, a Presidents Cup rookie who said he received conflicting information in the tee box at the No. 1 hole yesterday at Muirfield Village Golf Club.
DeLaet made few mistakes thereafter, however, in part because of his willingness to tap the local knowledge of Jason Day, his playing partner on the International team and a member at Muirfield Village.
Day, an Australian, and DeLaet, a Canadian, were sent out first by International captain Nick Price, fell behind early and then rallied for a 1-up victory over Americans Brandt Snedeker and Hunter Mahan when Day rolled in a 191/2-foot birdie putt on the 18th hole.
It was a pivotal point for the Internationals, who trailed in all six four-ball matches at one point before ending the day with a less-imposing 31/2 -21/2 deficit. Day and DeLaet, in fact, were
3 down after six holes despite DeLaet’s winning birdie on the first hole — the only time the Internationals led on the front nine in any of the six matches.
“I’m pretty amped up right now,” DeLaet said after the match. “We just hung in there and stayed patient.”
DeLaet was practically paralyzed on the first hole — “I could barely feel my hands and my legs were shaking,” he said. But he settled down with the help of Day, whose age of 25belies his experience on the course.
Day, who lives with his wife, Ellie, and son near Westerville, estimated that he has played Muirfield Village between 30 and 50 times this year, often two or three times a week when he’s taking a break from the PGA Tour.
“You’re not too surprised by anything that happens because you’re used to the weather conditions and how the ball runs,” Day said. “Knowing that I (could) just relax and just let it go really helped me today.”
Day and DeLaet needed every advantage. Mahan was great with his irons before an 82-minute rain delay in the midafternoon, and Snedeker was typically sharp with the putter to help the Americans take the lead. But Day had birdies at the par-5 seventh, and then won the par-3 eighth with a par to help his team close its deficit to one hole at the turn.
DeLaet made a birdie at No. 15 to square the match, then followed with a tap-in birdie at the par-3 16th to give the Internationals the lead. But Snedeker won the 17th hole with a birdie to set up the final-hole drama.
Day found the fairway on the lengthened par-4 with a 4-wood, then hit his approach within 20 feet. Snedeker and Mahan missed the green but could have won a half-point with par putts if Day had missed his birdie. He didn’t.
“It was all about hitting the putts,” Day said. “Ever since I was a little kid, I always wanted to hit the big, clutch putts, and it was great to have that chance.”
DeLaet said, “It was a pretty awesome way to end it.”