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Player Blog: Thomas Pieters
Player Blog

Player Blog: Thomas Pieters

In this week’s Player Blog presented by Enterprise Rent-A-Car, Thomas Pieters talks about seeing first hand the growth of golf in Belgium, why he performs well after taking an extended break, his drive to make the European Ryder Cup team in 2023, his thoughts ahead of the US PGA Championship and the joy of becoming a father for the first time.

Thomas Pieters Black and White-1396996324

I can tell how much golf has grown in Belgium just by the attendance, the attention from the juniors, and how many of my friends took their friends to the Soudal Open. I practice at Rinkven International Golf Club when I am back home in Antwerp and a lot of the kids come up to me to ask questions and seek advice. I really enjoy being that player they look up to and can speak to because I didn’t really have anybody like that when I was growing up.

It's cool for children during that one week a year to have a big tournament in their home country, especially a national open. Being able to come out and cheer on professionals is massive in terms of providing inspiration for the next generation and it’s important for them to see that kids from a small country like Belgium can go on to achieve something special. A lot of people showed up over the weekend and it was all really well received on TV on our main sports channel in Belgium.

When I reflect on the Belgian Knockout, my main feeling is that of pride. My family and I started the journey to bring golf back to Belgian fans in 2018 with a new tournament and an innovative format in BKO and we are just happy that it is back now after covid and for it to stay on the schedule for many more years to come. We showed it was possible for our country to host a big golf tournament again and that there is interest for it from the Belgian fans.

I was pleased to get a top ten after a four-week break. I have been working on my swing, trying to eliminate the miss that was in there. It is not always easy to implement that in a tournament straight away, but I was confident in what I have done. I wasn’t as sharp as I would have liked but overall, my game is in a really good place now. 

I needed the break after The Masters. I had travelled back and forth from America four or five times, and I was just getting tired. I could tell with my golf swing that I was fatigued. It has served me well in the past to take long periods off and it leaves me hungry to get back, but of course it is a nervous moment when you tee it up again. You question whether you are going to be sharp enough, but every time I come back after a long stint away, I tend to perform well.

Thomas Pieters Abu Dhabi-1237927162

Winning in Abu Dhabi in January went by in a flash. I was not expecting to start the season with a Rolex Series title next to my name. I had arrived later than usual to the tournament that week and felt like I had zero preparation under my belt because I had just recovered from covid.  

Nothing felt good that week, but I sometimes perform well when I really need to manoeuvre the ball. I like having that feeling when coming back after an extended break and it has been almost two months since the DP World Tour Championship in Dubai at the end of last season. The thing I miss most is the competition aspect and that is what motivates me to do better every week.

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My victory a few months earlier at the Portugal Masters helped me feel confident when I was in and around the lead the week of Abu Dhabi. I hadn’t won for nearly two years before my victory in Portugal and it is not as if you doubt yourself, but I just hadn’t led that many tournaments in that two-year span since I won the Czech Masters in August 2019. It wasn’t so much that I was going through a low period, but I was maybe just not having the results that I wanted.

I think the win in Portugal was an important moment because I didn’t really have anything to lose. Now, every time that I get into the lead late on a Sunday, I have the belief and resolve to close out the victory. Same with Abu Dhabi, I felt comfortable, and I am just happy I got both titles over the line. 

Finishing the year as Europe’s Number One is not really on my mind, it is just nice to be up there. I am third at the moment but there is so much golf to be played this season. The 2023 Ryder Cup qualification starts later in the year, and I would love to be back playing for Team Europe at Marco Simone – that is the only thing on my mind. I get along well with Henrik so I will do my best when the process starts to give myself the best opportunity to qualify for his team.

Thomas Pieters Ryder Cup 2016-611799040

It seems so long ago but making my Ryder Cup debut in 2016 at Hazeltine was one of the best weeks of my life. It comes after the birth of my first child of course but walking to the first tee and experiencing that atmosphere while playing for Europe was special.

Of my six wins on the DP World Tour, the victory at the Made in Denmark before the 2016 Ryder Cup really stands out. I played with Darren Clarke in the opening two rounds and how I played was one of the biggest confidence boosters I have had, just to know that I could perform under pressure when I had the Captain playing alongside me watching my every shot. 

Despite going from playing in Europe one week to then playing at the US PGA Championship the next, my preparation does not change really. You go through the same drills that you did the week before. I have never played Southern Hills, so naturally you may need to adjust certain things on the range and having a good look at the course set up when you arrive is important in trying to give yourself the best chance of performing well. I have had good results in America before and I think the PGA Championships are a fairer test than U.S. Opens. I enjoy the toughness of the courses and I am really looking forward to the week.

We had Florence in July 2020 and the timing was surprisingly perfect. I guess we were fortunate to have our first child during the pandemic because that meant I could spend a lot of time with her when she was a new-born. I think all parents can relate to the fact that when you have a child it is not easy to get the work life balance in order. You do everything you can for your kid when you are at home because you are missing out on seeing them so much when you are on Tour and away for weeks on end, so it was one of the more memorable periods of my life to have those special moments with my family at a time when there was a lot of suffering in the world.

Since the birth of Florence, the only thing I find easier is to switch off from golf at night. Other than that, it hasn’t altered my game or my perspective. I have always been an intense competitor but when I get home, I tend to just leave that side of me at the golf course. It is just much easier when you have a child because they don’t care what Daddy shoots in his round or whether he wins or misses a cut, she is just always happy to see me at the end of the day.

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