Pieters emerges as next European great with Hazeltine heroics


Thomas Pieters gave all of Europe reason to smile about the future, despite the Ryder Cup slipping from their grasp amid the Belgian's singles win over JB Holmes.

Pieters, a 22-year-old Belgian, won the NCAA Championships a couple years ago while attending Illinois and he has already won three tournaments on the European Tour. 

Despite that, few golf fans in the States knew who Pieters was entering the week, but he will no longer be overlooked after turning in the best performance by a European rookie in tournament history.

Playing in all five sessions, Pieters went 4-1 complete with a 3 and 2 victory against Holmes in Sunday's match. A bomber off the tee, he also went 3-0 with Rory McIlroy as his partner. The two were nearly untouchable while dispensing some of USA's best tandems.

After watching Pieters during his practice rounds, onlookers thought the towering Belgian might have a solid week. Still, it was shocking to see Darren Clarke trust him enough to play in every session.

"I didn't feel like a rookie, which is good," Pieters said his final match Sunday. "I didn't have any issues with the crowd. They were fantastic, and I received plenty of Illinois support, so thanks to them (for that)."

Pieters started the week with a nervy loss alongside Lee Westwood against Dustin Johnson and Matt Kuchar, but he quickly brushed off the disappointment and used the experience to fuel four straight wins.

Interestingly enough, Pieters never looked fazed by the pressure of the Ryder Cup. He never looked star-struck by having McIlroy as a partner, and he certainly wasn't distracted by the 50,000 screaming fans.

There was a funny moment during Friday's press conference when Pieters and McIlroy had given their opening statements on their round. The press conference was turned to members of the media for questions, and Pieters leaned over to McIlroy and said "well, I'm done", implying McIlroy would get all the attention.

For the most part, he was right. But things could change for Pieters very soon, and another young upstart might be waiting patiently for a question while Pieters does all the talking.