Thomas Pieters is one of the best golfers in the world. When he was just twenty-four years old, he defeated every American during the Ryder Cup, which made him the first rookie ever to win all of his four matches. The world was talking about him. “I’ve found my teammate,” Rory McIlroy said. “Who is this boy? Where does he come from?” Tiger Woods said surprised.
As of today, he has won three European Tour tournaments. Two weeks ago, he made a miraculous comeback during the PGA Championship after a disastrous start of +6 on the first three holes. A similar situation occurred in Denmark where he recovered magnificently after a double par on the last hole on Saturday. But during the opening day of his own tournament, the Belgian Knockout in Rinkven, he gets himself in so much trouble, even a -6 on Friday couldn’t save him. We met with him for coffee after the prize ceremony.
WAMP: Thomas, let’s be frank, reactions from your fans varied from heavily disappointed to extremely furious.
THOMAS: Sure, but nobody will be more disappointed or furious than me.
WAMP: We talked to some of your colleagues, winners of tournaments this year. They all said: “A tournament organized by your family, in front of tens of thousands of fans who all want to see you win? Forget about it, not a single golfer will be able to pull that off, not even if your name is Thomas Pieters.”
THOMAS: Yep, I’ve underestimated it. I was in top form. During the Pro-Am tournament on Wednesday, I played -7 with basically one hand tied behind my back. Then I arrive on Thursday, an hour before tee time, got out of bed a little late and I was so nervous, I don’t think I’ve experienced something like that before. Up until hole 10, I’d just been shaking from the nerves. Everything failed. I was destroying everything my family had worked so hard for. You can be as well mentally prepared as you can be, but you get caught up in the heat of the moment and you can’t do anything about it. And yes, people are angry. So am I. But it’s not easy to be in my shoes. I’ve played all major tournaments, but I’ve never been under as much pressure as last Thursday.
WAMP: But there’s no reason for that at all because your family will always support you.
THOMAS: They don’t demand anything from me. If anything, they’d do anything to keep me relaxed. But I want to add to the success of their organization, but I failed. That makes me furious.
WAMP: People are obviously talking about that sloppy putt on the fourth hole.
THOMAS: Yeah, like things weren’t bad enough, that happened. But that putt didn’t cost me the playoffs. People are looking at the -6 from Friday, but on Friday, I was playing completely free of any worries. I was like, I’m not going to make the cut anymore, might as well put on a show for the fans. Then you’ll play differently. You take risks you otherwise wouldn’t take. And if things work out, as they did for me last Friday, your score will be six-under-par. Despite three missed birdie putts and a 3-putt on the tenth hole
WAMP: But you did hit a great shot on that hole. From out of the woods till almost on the green.
THOMAS: With a 3-wood. A flat fade. (laughs). After that bogey on hole 13, a fairway bunker from which you can’t land on the green with just one shot, I hit a drive on hole 14 over the water, towards the green. A birdie. At that point, if I had played three more birdies, I would’ve made the cut. But the putts on hole 15 and 16 are too long. I tried to play an eagle on hole 17 with the wind against me, but I play a birdie. These aren’t things you do when you still have a chance at making the cut. Take my friend Tom Lewis for example. He plays it safe the entire time because he still has a chance. He eventually gets knocked out as well. Golf is a curious little game, as much for us as for beginners. Sometimes you’re the windshield, sometimes you’re the bug (sighs).
And then the last birdie. If I’d missed that one, no one would’ve been talking about that sloppy putt on Thursday. I hit the putt it in the hole, but it didn’t matter anymore. Look, if that would’ve been a putt to determine if I would’ve gone through, it would’ve been a whole different putt than it was. People who know golf, know that. I understand that they’re disappointed. Someone who can golf like I can should not play +6, or +5 for that matter. A lot of people think it’s a mental problem. I’ve got mental coaches trying to give me advice everywhere. And I know, they all mean well, but I’ve got a very good mental coach who’s more patient with me than all the others from the outside. It’ll be fine, and I’ll be back next year if everything goes to plan, hopefully, a little less nervous. But I’ve got to move on. Tomorrow morning I have to play in London for the qualification for the US Open.
WAMP: No time to party. Do you think you’ll be able to qualify?
THOMAS: Who knows. Top 10 after 36 holes. Nobody’s expecting it after this busy weekend, not even me. So it might just happen (laughs).
WAMP: Thank you very much, Thomas. When our WAMP users read this, they’ll know the result of the qualification already. We wish you the best of luck, and if nothing changes, we’ll see you at the Irish Open.