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. In Denmark he recovered heavily after a double par on the last hole on Saturday. He had some time before the start of the BKO to sit down with WAMP for a coffee.
WAMP: Thomas, what a tournament that was in Denmark. What happened?
THOMAS: Five groups on one teeing ground, that’s what happened. Waiting for over half an hour. Meanwhile, you see all these players mess up, which causes you to doubt yourself as well. But that shouldn’t be an excuse.
WAMP: Your first drive ended up in the water
THOMAS: Yes, but that wasn’t horrible. The ball was playable, it had a plugged lie in mud, but playable. I hit the ball, but it only sinks deeper into the mud. Then the ball is unplayable and I hit towards the green with +4, but I miss. I’m near the flag with two putts and then I hit the ball with a stupid nonchalant hit and I miss. Just stupid.
WAMP: But, and we’ve seen this before, you’re back again on the next day.
THOMAS: Yes, and I start with a bogey.
WAMP: But you recover and play a magnificent round to eventually end up on the 33rd place.
THOMAS: I’m happy with that. I would’ve mentally given up in the past. During the PGA Championship I have +6 on the first three holes, which is horrible. It’s seven thirty in the morning on a Thursday and you know you can’t win anymore. In no-time you have to change your objectives. It’s suddenly your aim to make the cut.
WAMP: Isn’t that always your main objective, to make the cut?
THOMAS: Of course not, not on this level. You’re main objective is always to win. Or at least have a host at winning on day four. You can’t underestimate that change in your brain, but I did it.
WAMP: And that didn’t go unnoticed. The commentators praised you for your mental resilience. That used to be different, what changed?
THOMAS: I’m three years older, maybe I’ve matured a little? And my girlfriend. She was there with me in Denmark. Without her, I just would’ve been moping around. But I’ve also become less harsh on myself. Every golfer has their highs and lows, think of Garcia and Spieth. It took me a while to accept that. People may think it’s changed, but I’ve booked some major progress in the past couple of years. Physically, I’m as strong as anyone out there. Mentally, I could improve a lot and that’s what I’m focusing on right now. Everything will fall back in its place eventually.
WAMP: It’s a home game for you this weekend: The BKO. We assume this will be another mental challenge? There’s a lot of pressure on you again.
THOMAS: Way less than last year. Thomas and Nico will be there as well, along with seven other Belgian golfers. I would be very happy if even one Belgian player will make it to Sunday. And if that’s me, it’s going to be a party.
WAMP: We’ll be there celebrating along with you! Finally, what are your plans for after the BKO this weekend?
THOMAS: There’s a qualification game for the US Open on Monday. The top 10 qualify. That would be great.
WAMP: Are you going to play differently?
THOMAS: No, a -6 on 36 holes guarantees you a ticket, but you play to win. So I’ll be on the offensive side.
WAMP: Good luck, Thomas. Break a leg.