Thomas Pieters is one of the best golfers in the world. When he was just twenty-four years old, he defeated every American in 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 Mcllroy said. “Who is this boy? Where does he come from?” Tiger woods wondered surprisingly. Last week he won the Czech Masters for the 2nd time in his career, his 4th European Tour title.
WAMP: Congratulations Thomas.
THOMAS: Thank you. Feels great.
WAMP: Like everybody said – including yourself: that took a while.
THOMAS: True. Good things come to those who wait. (laughs)
WAMP: Let’s get to the point immediately. In your post-round interview you said: “I’m especially proud of the way I handled 15. That I did the grown up thing.”. What we want to know, of course, what would have been “The childish thing” to do?
THOMAS: (thinks). I was hitting good drives the whole week. So I hit driver on 15 too. But Adam (Adam Marrow is TP’s caddy)forgot that there was a strong tailwind, so I though I was hitting a perfect tee-shot. But it ends up in knee-high grass. Way too far.
WAMP: Time to scold at the caddy?
THOMAS: No. Never. But I did say: bad decision. Happens to all of us. (laughs).But OK. I’m deep into the high grass, though not deep enough so that the ball touches the ground. A floating ball like that, is a really tough shot. And yes, talking about bad decisions – not so long ago I would have risked the shot.
WAMP: Could have worked.
THOMAS: Yes, but could also have gone very wrong. You can hit under the ball and find yourself in a worse position than before, whilst losing a shot.
WAMP: For the first time in a long time, you were leading the tournament on a Sunday. That puts you under pressure to try it anyway?
THOMAS: Well, this is exactly what I’m proud of. Not for one second did I consider playing that ball. You couldn’t even see me taking a stance trying the shot. I was a hundred meters away from the pin. With a good hit, I may have been fifty short, which is as hard as a hundred, so taking the drop was the smartest decision. Now, the fact that this shot lands next to the pin and I make par whilst Adri (Adri Arnaus ESP)misses his birdie, gave me such a well-needed confidence boost, since Adri played so well. He came back from four shots behind to one. He’s a fantastic player.
WAMP: But you won. Thomas, what you said about taking the drop shot seems so evident. Everybody must wonder, what made the click in your head? Let’s go back to The Open, when Nick Faldo and Sam Torrence were talking about you in the commentary box: “If this young man would believe a bit more in himself, he could win a lot.”
THOMAS: Yes. That made us laugh, Thomas who doesn’t believe in himself…
WAMP: But they did have a point. The drop on 15 in Prague showed a lot more self confidence than the mud shot in Denmark we mentioned in the previous interview. (Thomas was plugged in the mud on day 3, and tries to play the ball instead of taking a drop. That cost him a quadruple bogey and a steep fall on the leaderboard.)
THOMAS: Exactly. Look at those two situations and you see two Thomases.
WAMP: The Growing up vs. The Showing off?
THOMAS: (big laugh, then ironically) You surely don’t sugarcoat it. But yes, that is what it comes down to. I was too concentrated on showing everyone what I can, instead of playing wisely. But there was a reason for that.
WAMP: Now you’ve got our attention.
THOMAS: From the times I’ve won before, you know deep down that you were full of confidence. So when you don’t win, you go looking for stuff that boosts you confidence. And I was thinking that my confidence would come from good results. But I was wrong. If you get so obsessed by results, your focus on the game disappears. You start to miss easy shots, your confidence sinks further away, and the results get even worse. You bring yourself in a negative spiral. So, compare the shot at the last hole in round three in Denmark to the one on 15 in Prague. In Denmark, I absolutely wanted to make par. From the mud (!). I thought, well I should be able to pull that off. I had to believe in myself and show something heroic. Get it? That’s what plays in your head at the moment. And that’s what leads to disasters. Later that day, you find yourself alone in your room fighting demons in order to get ready for the last round. That is the click I made. And that is why hole 15 in Prague was so important. The self-confidence to take that drop, and make an up-and-down.
WAMP: So good results come from self-belief and not the other way around?
THOMAS: Yep. In Prague, everything helped my confidence. I liked the course. I won there before. Great crowds who knew me. My mum and my girlfriend were there. And I felt great. Good vibes. Bad decisions stayed away. Belief in myself grew, and results, well, you know.
WAMP: It’s that simple. Is the old Thomas Pieters back?
THOMAS: Hold your horses buddy. (smile)I was never away. I was looking how to get to the next level. I still am, and it takes time.
WAMP: This week, Crans Montana. What can we expect? Another victory? (In 2015 TP. won the KLM Open, right after the Czech Masters.)
THOMAS: OH Jeeez. Expectations. There we go again. Expect from me that my self confidence will be strong. That is my focus. Worrying at night about my upcoming results, I will leave that honor totally to you. Enjoy.
WAMP: Thank you Thomas. We keep our fingers crossed for a brilliant, erm…., self-confidence