Belgian rookie Thomas Pieters confident he can handle Ryder Cup pressure

Belgium’s Thomas Pieters insists he will not get carried away by the hype surrounding his first appearance in the Ryder Cup, reports.

Pieters edged out Scotland’s Russell Knox for the final wild card after finishing f ourth in the Olympics, second in the defence of his Czech Masters title the following week and then winning the final qualifying event in Denmark.

The 24-year-old played the first two rounds of that win alongside European captain Darren Clarke, who was understandably impressed by an opening 62 and the three closing birdies with which Pieters sealed a third European Tour title.

“I’ve been on tour for a long time and I’ve seen massive talent come along,” Clarke said after naming Pieters, Lee Westwood and Martin Kaymer as his wild cards.

I played with Tiger when he was an amateur at the 1996 Open. I’ve seen Rory (McIlroy) up close since he’s been a very, very young kid. Thomas Pieters impresses me in the same league as those guys. He has that amount of talent.

Speaking on the final practice day at Hazeltine, Pieters said: “O f course it gives me a lot of confidence in my ability, if somebody like Darren says that about me.

“But I’m going to try to keep my feet on the ground and just get better every week, get better every year, and if he’s right, then we’ll see.

I think that was what Darren was looking for, somebody in form. I think I handled the pressure pretty good in delivering in those last two, three weeks, and it only gives me confidence going forward, as well.

Clarke admitted that telling Knox, who was ranked 20th in the world at the time, that he had not been selected was one of the hardest phone calls he ever had to make.

But the former Open champion did not exactly make it easy on Pieters either.

“He calls me and he says, ‘I have to make some really tough phone calls today,'” Pieters recalled. “So in my mind I was like, ‘Damn it, I didn’t make it’.

“And he waited two or three seconds, which was six seconds too long, and then he said, ‘You’re going to Hazeltine.’ There was a lot of emotions in those four seconds!”

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