Un­fazed by rookie sta­tus at Hazel­tine, the Bel­gian can also shine on his Au­gusta bow.

Golf World (UK) - - Contents -

Thomas Pi­eters, Tyrrell Hat­ton and Tommy Fleet­wood – three Masters debu­tants who could take Au­gusta by storm.

The rea­son for Thomas Pi­eters’ easy­go­ing con­fi­dence might not be clear, but its value in a game of neg­li­gi­ble mar­gins is con­spic­u­ous.

It’s wholly au­then­tic too, not a false mask for doubts and in­se­cu­ri­ties. Hard facts back the de­meanour up: a star am­a­teur in Bel­gium; a glit­ter­ing Amer­i­can col­lege stint; a seam­less Euro­pean Tour as­sim­i­la­tion; three wins within two years; then THAT Ry­der Cup de­but.

Aes­thet­ics do too; his dy­namic ac­tion stand­ing out even when viewed along­side a range of elite golfers. Pi­eters sounds the real deal, looks the real deal and has per­formed like the real deal.

He is ma­jor-lite so far though, with just two – The Open and US PGA – on his CV. In April, he’ll make his de­but at Au­gusta – “of course, it’s a dream for any­one” – to make it three.

He ad­mits the Masters is his favourite ma­jor, with both his idols hav­ing no­table his­tory there.

“The big­gest in­flu­ence on my golf? That’s easy: Tiger. You just wouldn’t watch any­one else when you were young. Just Tiger,” he says.

“His win in 2005 is one of my big mem­o­ries. But when I grew up a bit and started play­ing more I loved Adam Scott’s swing. When I got friends with him – which I got way too ex­cited about – it was pretty cool.”

While Pi­eters is as wide-eyed as Pi­eters ever gets about the prospect of fol­low­ing his idols to the Masters, it won’t be his first time at Au­gusta, hav­ing been when he was at col­lege in Amer­ica.

It was dur­ing his time at the Univer­sity of Illi­nois the young man from An­twerp felt he could make it. And an­other Au­gusta lu­mi­nary played a part in con­vinc­ing him.

“I al­ways thought I’d be able to be­come a tour pro, but I knew it would be hard. Then in my sec­ond col­lege year I won a cou­ple of big NCAAs at Riviera and Jor­dan (Spi­eth) was there. That’s when I thought I could be good at this.”

He’s one of the long­est hit­ters on tour and his putting can be streaky good. So while Spi­eth al­most won on his Masters de­but, don’t be sur­prised if, three years later, Pi­eters fol­lows suit.

June 2017

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