Belgian golfer Thomas Pieters became world-famous as the first rookie ever to win four of his matches in the 2016 Ryder Cup. After an average year, he was fighting his way back into the Top50, but was halted by a nasty virus and then by a broken finger. How does an elite golfer, who usually spends his weeks playing tournaments, gets himself back to the top? Thomas shares his thoughts face to Facetime, right when he’s boarding his flight to Puerto Rico at Schiphol Airport.
WAMP: Thomas, In the Middle East you made the cut every time, finishing it off with a Top10 in Saudi Arabia. Satisfied?
THOMAS: Looking back at it, yes. But in that moment, it was tough sometimes. During the second tournament in Dubai, I was up the leaderboard when I made a triple bogey on 17. Sickening. All by all, it wasn’t that bad. If this is what I can do with no training, whilst recovering from a broken finger, I’m OK with it. I started the Middle East run totally unprepared. Playing Abu Dhabi was a very last-minute decision. After I got the green light from my doctor, I flew out on Monday, to only play my first holes on Wednesday. With lots of pain killers in my system. Though five weeks without short game practice, cost me important shots.
WAMP: But yet, you make the cut every time. Are you better prepared now for the Puerto Rico Open?
THOMAS: Nope. The weather in Belgium didn’t allow me to practice properly. Apart from some indoor putting, I haven’t hit many shots.
WAMP: Then why do you go? It is a long trip out.
THOMAS: For starters, I want to play and am just excited to play golf. Secondly, the tournament likes me. I’m one of the favorites over there. Love it. But most importantly: It’s part of my long-term plan.
WAMP: You got our attention…
THOMAS: I’d like to play more in the US. And in order to secure my PGA Tour Card, I‘d have to get more FedExCup points at the end of the season than the number 150 ranked player on the FedEx Ranking. To do that, I’d need to play six or seven events on an invitation.
WAMP: How many points did last years’ No 150 have?
THOMAS: 300 something.
WAMP: A long way indeed.
THOMAS: It is. There are also other ways to get on the PGA Tour. Playing well at Majors for instance. It’s all plausible. Winning in Puerto Rico would grant me PGA Tour playing rights for a year.
WAMP: You’re unprepared and putting high expectations on yourself. Aren’t you putting yourself under too much pressure?
THOMAS: Maybe. But that’s part of the job. If you can’t deal with that kind of pressure, you shouldn’t aim to become a professional athlete. I go for the win. That’s it. As soon as I tee off, my head is clear. I want to win. I don’t have to, but I want to. Hard enough to stand a chance. But I’m afraid I will have to leave you now – I’m getting angry looks from the cabin crew.
WAMP: Have a safe journey, thanks for the talk and we’re happy that you’re playing this week. Good luck in Puerto Rico and good luck with your quest for that PGA Tour card.