Pieters: Clarke's praise motivates me


CHASKA, Minn. – Thomas Pieters is more than one pundit’s pick as golf’s next breakout star.

But nobody’s praise for the Ryder Cup rookie is higher than European captain Darren Clarke’s.

“I’ve been on Tour for a long time, and I’ve seen massive talent come along,” Clarke said when he named Pieters as one of his three Ryder Cup captain’s picks last month. “I played with Tiger Woods when he was an amateur in The Open. I’ve seen Rory McIlroy up close since he was a very young kid. Thomas Pieters impresses me in the same league as those guys. He has that amount of talent.”

The 24-year-old Belgian said Thursday that Clarke’s words motivate him as he prepares for Friday’s start of the Ryder Cup.

“It gives me a lot of confidence in my ability, if somebody like Darren says that about me,” Pieters said. “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.”

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Pieters surged his way into Clarke’s plans with a strong run leading up to the captain’s pick announcements. He won the European Tour’s Made in Denmark event a day before Clarke announced his captain’s picks. Pieters shot 62 playing alongside Clarke in the opening round. Pieters tied for fourth at the Olympics and second at the Czech Masters in the weeks leading up to his victory in Denmark.

Pieters rides a lot of momentum to Hazeltine.

“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 only gives me confidence going forward, as well.”