One year after back surgery that made him wonder whether he could ever play golf again, DeLaet chipped in for eagle and twice holed 35-foot birdie putts for 7-under-par 63 that gave the Canadian a two-shot lead in the first full-field event of the season.
Carl Pettersson, former Sony Open champion K.J. Choi and Kyle Reifers are tied for second place at 65.
Webb Simpson was in the group at 66.
“I’m just so excited to be back out,” DeLaet said. “I had a good season my rookie campaign, and then it was all basically just taken away. And I realize now how fortunate we are to be playing golf for a living. My whole attitude is definitely better.”
EUROPEAN TOUR: In Johannesburg, Damien McGrane and former Augusta State standout Jamie Elson each shot 8-under-par 63 to share the lead in the rainy first round at the Joburg Open.
Nearly half the field, including defending champion and Masters Tournament champion Charl Schwartzel, failed to complete their rounds because of a four-hour rain delay at the Royal Johannesburg and Kensington Golf Club.
Desvonde Botes was part of a three-way tie for third after a 65 on the East Course.
He was tied with Reinier Saxton and Peter Karmis, who each shot 64 on the West Course.
Former Augusta State players Scott Jamieson and Oliver Wilson were among those who failed to complete their rounds. Jamieson is 1-under through 12 holes and Wilson is 1-over through 15.