Team Europe Delivered Genuine Ryder Cup Setback

It was thought that Thomas Pieters had a relatively strong chance of making Luke Donald’s team in Rome in September but not any more.

As was widely rumoured the Belgian has now signed up to the LIV Golf revolution, joining an altogether different team – Bubba Watson’s Rangegoats GC.

With Hudson Swafford out of action for the season with a hip injury, Pieters is a late replacement and he will now team up with Watson, Harold Varner III and Talor Gooch. The latter represented 4 Aces GC in their four wins in 2022 as well as the team title.

For Europe’s Ryder Cup chances this seems like a genuine enough blow. Pieters was ranked 34th on the world rankings which would have seen him feature in all the big events though he did tweet last week his ranking wasn’t good enough to get him into the Riviera field.

“I had a call on Thursday not even a week ago, asking if I wanted Hudson’s spot,” Pieters told The Telegraph. “To be truthful, in my heart, I decided last summer that I wanted to join LIV. But it was not until a few days ago I got the opportunity.

“You don’t wish ill on anyone and I hope Hudson gets recovered soon, but as a professional you have to grasp chances when they arise. Of course, I have done this with my family and our daughters (Florence and June, aged two and three months) at the forefront of our thinking. It has been a whirlwind since then, really, sorting everything out and getting everything ready over the weekend. I had to tell everybody, for one thing.”

Otherwise Brendan Steele, Danny Lee, Dean Burmester have also signed up to join Greg Norman and co, following on the news that Mito Pereira and Sebastian Munoz are also part of the circuit that gets underway this week at Mayakoba.

Pieters, still only 31, has only played on one Ryder Cup team back in 2016. At Hazeltine, playing under Darren Clarke, he lost with Lee Westwood before Europe finally found someone who could play alongside Rory McIlroy. The pair won all three of their matches before Pieters, in the third single out, took down JB Holmes.

“I’m glad I had the full experience of playing five games. Hopefully I can take that experience into the next Ryder Cup,” explained Pieters seven years ago.

For now, it wouldn’t seem ridiculous to suggest that Pieters will never feature on another Ryder Cup team.

“I swapped texts with Luke, but he is in a tough position isn’t he,” Thomas added. “It was a difficult decision for me, for sure. The Ryder Cup has always been an ambition and it was a dream to play in 2016. I’ve been trying to get back ever since. I enjoyed the Hero Cup last month and naturally would love to be in Rome. But I accept the consequences of this choice, whatever they turn out to be.”

“I haven’t given up on playing in it again, including this year even. We will have to see. I could still qualify. I’m in all the majors this year."

For the record Pieters won six times on the DP World Tour, his most recent in Abu Dhabi a year ago, and it’s still to be determined whether he will be able to play in Europe going forward.

As for his place in this year’s Masters that remains intact.