Cape Town – Tournament host Thomas Pieters is relishing the opportunity to play a European Tour event in front of home crowds for the first time in his career at this week’s innovative Belgian Knockout, as the tour returns to the Ryder Cup star’s native country after an 18-year hiatus.
It will be another ground-breaking week for innovation on the European Tour too, as the tournament incorporates 36 holes of regular stroke play before 64 players progress to a weekend of nine-hole knockout matches, also with a stroke play format – meaning every match will go to the final hole.
“I’m extremely proud to host this event. To have played a Ryder Cup, my family and I thought after I played and Nico played in one, it’s time to have a tournament in Belgium again. To see it now after two years of preparation, it’s pretty cool,” said Pieters.
“I haven’t seen them in a couple of weeks now because they’ve been working non-stop – I don’t think they’ve slept in two weeks! And I walked through the caddie lounge and they are really appreciative of the food there, and it’s those small things that we wanted to get right. I wanted to get all of the things I like about other tournaments and implement them here.”
It was an event born of a conversation between Pieters and his family two years ago following his Ryder Cup debut, and the 26-year-old’s family and their production company – Pieters Productions – have organised and promoted the whole event.
“I’ve played this course my whole life and the last four years this has been my home club and I’ve played it plenty of times. So I know my way around there, it’s very tight so your ball-striking needs to be very good here,” said Pieters.
“Not a lot of drivers will be used here but the greens are quite tough at times with tricky pin positions, but having the match play format is going to make it very interesting.”
The three-time European Tour winner, however, has taken a back seat in order to work on his game and give himself the best chance of a glorious home victory.
Nicolas Colsaerts and Thomas Detry are among the other home favourites hoping to delight the Belgian crowds at Rinkven International Golf Clubs this week, while former European Tour No 1 Robert Karlsson is the closest thing to a defending champion having won the Belgian Open back in 1999.
There will be nine South Africans in the field including Haydn Porteous, Thomas Aiken, Erik van Rooyen, Zander Lombard, Jacques Kruyswijk, Trevor Fisher Jnr, Christiaan Bezuidenhout, Justin Walters and Brandon Stone.